A Route Through the Seville of Don Juan Tenorio
23 October, 2015
There is one night in the year inevitably associated with witches, horror stories, pumpkins, bonfires and disguises and that it is 31 October, the eve of All Saints. One of the many traditions alive in Spain is the stage performance of Don Juan Tenorio, by the poet, José Zorrilla. The ritual has been performed continuously ever since it made its debut around 1844. While at first glance a romantic drama might seem out of place on a night more suited to The Munsters, there is a reason for it – much of the second act in the play takes place in a cemetery, and many of the protagonists are dead souls who come alive and interact with the lead figure. Chilling, isn’t it?
Don Juan Tenorio’s Seville
Having solved the first mystery, a second issue arises. What connection is there between one of the most popular Juanes in literature and the city of Seville? First, it was here in Seville that José Zorrilla wrote his stage play and where the story is set. Granted, Zorrilla was actually inspired by Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest, written in 1630, which is where the myth of Don Juan stems from. The work ended up seducing such artists as Molière, Mozart, Lord Byron and Espronceda, among others.
A different, entertaining way of touring Seville is to stroll along its streets in search of possible sites featured in that drama, and the spots where tributes to the work are located. Here are some of them:
The Hostería del Laurel (Plaza Venerables 5) is located in the heart of Santa Cruz, one of the most popular districts in Seville. This former boarding house is where José Zorrilla lodged when he wrote Don Juan Tenorio. This, the birthplace of the literary classic, also acted as a source of inspiration for some scenes. Despite the passage of time, it is still worth venturing inside, where some of its historical essence has survived intact.
A few yards from the Hostería del Laurel lies the Plaza de la Alianza, site of the home of Doña Ana de Pantoja, the future wife of Don Luis Mejía, who rivalled Don Juan Tenorio when it came to causing mischief. There is actually a scene in this square where Don Juan tries to wrest his beloved from the grasp of Don Luis.
It is more difficult to find the convent where Doña Inés – one of the main characters in this romantic drama – was confined. The convent belonged to the Order of Calatrava, which is why the habits she wears bear the emblematic red cross of Calatrava. Indeed, a convent once stood in the Calle de Calatrava, which was re-christened thus in honour of the literary work. Following the disentailment it was subsequently demolished, the sole surviving vestige being a chapel which was eventually turned into a warehouse. Easier to locate is the Plaza de Santa Marta, which everyone agrees was the spot where Doña Inés was abducted by our hero.
Still in the beautiful Santa Cruz quarter, we find the Plaza de Doña Elvira, site of the home of Don Gonzalo de Ulloa, the father of Doña Inés, who was staunchly against her alliance with Don Juan.
Concerning the location of Don Juan Tenorio’s house, literary sources cite it as being on the banks of the river Guadalquivir, where he ended up fleeing, although the exact spot is unknown. There is also the real site because, if you’ve done some reading on the subject, the Tenorio family actually existed and tradition places them in the Convent of San Leandro, situated in the square of the same name.
The scene of the final duel, in which Captain Centella kills Don Juan Tenorio, takes place in the present-day Calle Génova, now re-christened the Avenida de la Constitución.
To wind up this tour commemorating the literary classic, you can visit the Plaza de los Refinadores where a statue to Don Juan Tenorio, sculpted by Nicomedes Díaz Piquero, was erected in 1975.
By the way – if you’re in Seville any weekend from 31 October to 15 November, we recommend visiting the San Fernando Cemeterywhere Engranajes Culturales is staging a dramatised visit and performance of the third act of Don Juan Tenorio.
Ready to be a Don Juan in Seville? Secure your Vueling ticket here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Images by Víctor Fernández Salinas, Consuelo Ternero, Sandra Vallaure
23 October, 2015