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Ignasi Iglésias

Ignasi Iglésias Pujades
was a playwright and a poet. He commenced his career in the world of amateur dramatics. He joined the modernist movement and was one of the main introducers of Henrik Ibsen into the Catalan area. Joan Maragall referred to him as ‘the poet of the humble people’, and in his works he recreated the world of the Barcelonan working-class peripheries, and sought the dignification of the working-man, work and identity which were themes that were in perfect harmony with his republican and Catalanism militancy.

Ignasi Iglésias (Sant Andreu del Palomar, 1871 - Barcelona, 1928) was born in the popular barrio of Sant Andreu del Palomar, into a family of working-class ‘aristocracy’. He commenced his theatrical career in Lleida, where he had gone to live with his family, in an area known as El Celleret. When Iglésias returned to Sant Andreu he founded L’Avançada Company (1892), with which he debuted his first proper works. His consolidation as a playwright came when he became a member of modernist circles tied to ‘L’Avenç’. Parallel, a professional company, debuted one of his first works, ‘L’escurçó’ [The viper] (1893).

From these platforms, Iglésias theorized about the occurrence of Catalan theatre through articles in ‘Lo Teatro Regional’ and ‘Lo Teatro Català’. This playwright was in favour of a profound renovation of Catalan theatre, to overcome the tight margins of romantic and custom-inspired theatre. He took his models from European theatre, especially from the theatre of ideas of Henrik Ibsen, who was one of the greatest referents in the whole of his works, and whom he introduced into Catalonia.

In 1896, together with Pere Coromines and Jaume Brossa, he founded the Independent Theatre, where they débuted ‘Espectres’ [Specters] (1896) by Ibsen. However, his definitive consolidation came at the end of the century. At that time Iglésias wrote some of his most popular works like ‘La resclosa’ [The lock] (1899) and ‘El cor del poble’ [The heart of people] (1902), ‘Els vells’ [Old men] (1903) and ‘Les garses’ [The herons] (1906). This period coincided with an aesthetical change in his production which passed from a tinge of symbolism to naturalism.

In Iglésias’ theatrical production we find some thematic constants: the re-vindication of the role of the worker, the value of work, the triumph of love and sentiments over social conventions and the social and familiar role of the woman. The reality represented by Iglésias is that of an eighteenth century working-class world with the problems of the old Barcelonan artisan class. As a militant of federal republicanism, Iglésias took into consideration social injustices, yet did not accept the antagonism of classes. In his texts we find the moral supremacy of the worker which makes him triumph over the ambition and corruption of the bourgeoisie.

As the first decades of the twentieth century advanced, the crisis of modernism became accentuated and Iglésias evolved towards new approaches. He progressively moved his attention from the working-class world to a personal and interior world in an essay which led him closer to the custom-inspired themes in works like ‘En Joan dels Miracles’ [John of Miracles] (1908). Iglésias’ task to reform Catalan theatre was not limited to the role of a playwright. He led frontline initiatives like that of the Sindicat d’Autors Dramàtics Catalans [Syndicate of Dramatic Catalan Authors] (1911-1913).

He especially left his mark amongst the popular classes, for whom he was a true referent, repeatedly performed until 1939 in centres, societies and athenaeums.