How Camilo Sesto worked hard and managed to release 'Jesus Christ Superstar' in Spain

On November 6, 1975, the Spanish version of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar premiered at the Teatro Alcalá Palace in Madrid, with Camilo Sesto.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
17 November 2023 Friday 09:24
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How Camilo Sesto worked hard and managed to release 'Jesus Christ Superstar' in Spain

On November 6, 1975, the Spanish version of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar premiered at the Teatro Alcalá Palace in Madrid, with Camilo Sesto. The dictator Francisco Franco was dying (he died two weeks later) and there was great political and social tension in the streets. How had a modern, revolutionary, transgressive and vindictive musical managed to premiere even in the midst of the dictatorship and also managed to make history?

The series Camilo Susperstar, of which tomorrow Atresplayer premieres the first of its four chapters, tries to answer that question through Camilo Sesto who was already then an established artist and who risked his assets and career to have this successful musical premiere on Broadway. In 1971 he arrived in Spain. The artist from Alcoi had seen him in London and was so fascinated that there he already decided that he would be the Spanish Jesus Christ.

“He really fell in love with the work and the goal of bringing the musical to Spain and also doing it himself became a reason for living,” explains Tatiana Rodríguez, the person in charge of the script for the series. In addition to the fact that he wanted to stop being just a youth idol to show that he had the capacity to make other records, “Camilo was a very passionate person and when he set his mind to something he took it to the ultimate consequences.”

It was not an easy undertaking. As Camilo Superstar reflects, the artist had problems with his representative, with his record company, censorship and there were even threats and sabotage from ultra-Catholic movements. The premiere of the work “caught the end of the Franco regime and the death of Franco; It was a complicated time in some ways but also on the other hand it was a Spain under construction that promised to be a different country.”

Camilo Sesto had everyone against him: “No one believed that this musical could be performed in Spain or that he would have to do it because he had an image of a melodic singer and it was not believed that he had the record to face a rock opera. His career, they said, was going to sink,” Rodríguez continues. The record company was convinced that he was going to make “the mistake of his life because it is more difficult than reaching number one to stay.”

The singer of hits like Algo de mi not only put his career at risk but also risked his entire assets. Although the series talks about 10 million pesetas, a fortune for the time, Rodríguez explains that it could be a higher figure and reach 17 million.

After the opening night, “the work had a lot of success and impact, some very good reviews, but then, the first weeks they had no audience.” Various factors added up "such as the ultra sectors putting pressure on people not to go and there was fear and, on the other hand, that it was a very delicate moment because Franco was dying."

But after the dictator's death, the theater sold out every night. “In some way it was entering Spain in color,” Rodríguez defines it. “It was a great milestone because, in some aspects, the musical surpassed the London and New York productions, and for Camilo it was his brightest period where he demonstrated his worth in an incredible way.”

After four months, the singer left the show in full success. He had foreseen it this way and he did it this way because he had agreed to tour Latin America. “I also think that, once this goal was achieved, he felt the need to go for the next challenge,” he notes. “Jesus Christ Superstar was a before and after in his career that further boosted his popularity outside of Spain. For a long time he continued singing Gethsemane in his live shows and it was the apotheosis of the concerts.

Camilo Sesto, who died in 2019 at the age of 72, is played in the series by actor Alejandro Jato in a work that Tatiana Rodríguez praises because “he has created his own Camilo without resorting to imitation and in that way he has reached the real essence.” of the person". In the series the real voice of Camilo Sesto is used “but since Jato sings very well sometimes he is the one who does it too,” he discovers.

Based on the story of how Camilo Sesto brought Jesus Christ Superstar to Spain, “we also wanted to reflect how the country was changing and how young people already wanted other things and found an outlet and a new language in music,” concludes the head of scripts. .