La vida breve
(Life is Short
, also: The Brief Life
) is an opera
in two acts by Manuel de Falla
to an original Spanish libretto
by Carlos Fernández-Shaw
. The first performance was given at the Casino Municipale
The complete opera, only an hour in length, is seldom performed today, but its dances are, especially the famous Interlude and Dance, played often at orchestral concerts of Spanish music. Also, the Danse Espagnole, part of the wedding celebrations, is well-known among the violin-playing world as a violin showpiece arranged by Fritz Kreisler. The opera is unusual for having as much purely instrumental as vocal music. Its opening scene effectively portrays a typical morning in the village, with a male chorus of anvil workers plying their trade in the local forge.
The sopranos Victoria de los Angeles and Teresa Berganza have each sung the role of Salud in recorded versions of the opera.
The story concerns a beautiful young gypsy, Salud, who is passionately in love with a young man named Paco. She does not know, and Paco does not tell her, that he is already engaged to "una de su clase
" (a woman from his own, supposedly more elevated, class). However, her uncle and her grandmother have discovered this, and they unsuccessfully try to prevent her from crashing her lover's wedding after she learns the truth. When Salud confronts Paco before the astonished bride and the wedding guests, he denies knowing her and, her heart broken, Salud literally drops dead at his feet - in what is said to be the ultimate gesture of contempt for a former lover.