Gilded Goldbergs

Nacho Duato

“Discovering Robin Holloway’s adaptation of the Goldberg Variations allowed me to get past what I had always considered as the untouchable character of Bach’s original. I finally managed to approach the written music, to work with it and thus create this performance. In any event, as I have made clear in this piece of work, adapting a masterpiece such as this might be taken as a synonym of murder, and yet it also could represent its rebirth. The work takes on a new life, a whole new dimension. What Holloway does so well is to show his courage by placing creative freedom above and beyond the burden of history”.

  • World premiere by: Compañía Nacional de Danza at Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid (Spain), November 15th 2006

Duato uses Robin Holloway’s furiously paced music to create a creative, imaginative discourse, based on an astonishing sense of musicality and the elegant performance of the Compañía Nacional de Danza’s dancers.
Robin Holloway says of his version of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations: “It seems both odd and foolish to take one of the acknowledged pinnacles of western music and recompose it. My excuses are, first, that Bach was himself an eager transcriber and transformer of other men’s music from wich he could learn; and second, that his own has been so very adaptation-friendly down the ages. There’s scarcely a subsequent composer who hasn’t imitated, arranged, orchestrated, parodied, or paid homage in one way or another. Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Bruckner, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Shönberg, Webern, Elgar, Respighi, Stravinsky, Kurtag and so on – the list is endless.”
“My own Goldberg adventure actually began with comparably modest aims. Frustrated as a single pianist by inability to clarify the close – weave canons or manage the more fiendish hand – crossing numbers so idiomatic on a two-manual harpsichord. I began to transcribe a few for the domestic medium of two pianos”. For the following five years this project took upall his time, until, by the time he had finished, he had come upwith 30 completely new Goldberg Variations.
Born in Leamington Spa, on the 19th of October 1943, the British composer Robin Holloway, studied with Goehr (from 1960) and at Cambridge, where in 1974 he was named professor. His extensive output covers a wide range of genres (including numerous songs) and is characterised by a remarkable command of diverse styles. Some of his works seek to reinterpret Romanticism (Scenes from Schumann, for orchestra, 1970), whilst others are decidedly modernist in their approach (The Rivers of Hell for chamber ensemble, 1977). His first opera, Clarissa, a study of rape, was performed by the ENO in London in 1990.


  • Choreography:
    Nacho Duato
  • Music:
    Robin Holloway (for two pianos basen on BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach; performed by Jennifer Micallef and Glen Inanga)
  • Set and Costume Design :
    Nacho Duato
  • Lighting Design:
    Brad Fields
  • Costumes made by:
    CND wardrobe
  • Length:
    27 minutes
  • Premiere cast:
    Ana Tereza Gonzaga, Yolanda Martín, Marina Jiménez, África Guzmán, Liu Balocchi, Isaac Montllor, Antonio Ruz, José Carlos Blanco, Héctor Torres, Joel Toledo