“La Mujer y el Pelele” (“The Woman and The Puppet”) tells the story of a Parisian Don Juan (Don Mateo) who meets his match when he falls for Seville’s most beautiful, and notoriously elusive, flamenco dancer (Conchita). Isabel Bayón is Conchita, the femme fatale, and baile is her weapon of feminine seduction. Free, intelligent, and self-assured, Conchita uses sensuality and wit to draw Don Mateo irreversibly into her grasp, where she manipulates him like a puppet before devouring him like a praying mantis.
While based on an adaptation of “La Femme y le pantin” (1898), a French novel by Pierre Louÿs, the theme of the work is undeniably Spanish — inspired by Goya’s masterpiece, “El Pelele” (1792), which depicts four women amusing themselves by tossing a straw man high into the air using a blanket (“manteando”). Goya’s scene is likewise reminiscent of the fate suffered by Sancho Panza in Cervantes’ “Don Quijote”.
In the culminating scene of “La Mujer y el Pelele”, Don Mateo watches helplessly as Conchita enjoys the intimate embrace of another (and to his thinking, lesser) man. Frustrated, he observes the scene from behind a locked gate. He is unable to act, tossed about once again like Goya’s straw puppet. Don Mateo’s will has been annihilated by the magnetic power of a woman. His jealousy and desire for her is his own personal hell.
The passion of Conchita Pérez has been brought to cinema on numerous occasions, with the role of Conchita interpreted by such improbable flamencas as Marlene Dietrich and Brigitte Bardot. Fortunately, Luis Buñuel gave us a more modern and credible adaptation of “La Femme y le pantin” in his classic film, “That Obscure Object of Desire” (1977), where two actors, Angela Molina and Carole Bouquet, were simultaneously cast in the role of Conchita, capturing the complexity of the character.
Now it is Isabel Bayón’s turn to seduce us with her baile and trap us with her sensuality in Antonio Álamo’s dance adaptation of “La Mujer y el Pelele”.