The House of Bernarda Alba Summary

  • Last updated on March 25, 2021
The House of Bernarda Alba (La casa de Bernarda Alba) is a play by the Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca. Along with Blood Wedding and Yerma it forms Lorca's 'Rural Trilogy'. Lorca's last play, it was completed on June 19, 1936, several months before Lorca's execution, and first performed in 1945. The play centers on the events of an Andalusian house during a period of mourning, in which the title character (age 60) wields total control over her five daughters Angustias (39 years old), Magdalena (30), Amelia (27), Martirio, (24), and Adela (20). The housekeeper (La Poncia) and Bernarda's mother (María Josefa) also live there. The deliberate exclusion of any male character from the action is highly significant as it helps to build up the high level of sexual tension that is present throughout the play. Pepe "el Romano", the love interest of Bernarda's daughters and suitor of Angustias, never actually appears on stage.

The play explores themes of repression, passion, and conformity, and inspects the effects of men upon women. Bernarda's cruel tyranny over her daughters foreshadows the stifling nature of Franco's fascist regime, which was to arrive just a few weeks after Lorca finished writing his play. Lorca's association with a number of intellectuals who belonged to the Communist Party of Spain such as Rafael Alberti was to result in his assassination shortly after the outbreak of Civil War in July 1936.

Two adaptations to film are worth mentioning: "La casa de Bernarda Alba" (1987) and its English made-for-TV movie counterpart, "The House of Bernarda Alba" (1991).

In 2006, the play was adapted into musical form by Michael John LaChiusa. Under the title Bernarda Alba, it opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse theatre on March 6, 2006, starring Phylicia Rashad in the title role, with a cast that also included Daphne Rubin-Vega. The play was also adapted into an Indian movie Rukmavati ki Haveli by Govind Nihlani in 1991.

Categories: Plays