SEVILLE’S FERIA DE ABRIL 50 YEARS AGO: ” The Corridas of Sevilla’s April Fair”




I read in the papers that the performance of El Cordobés was the highlight of the Feria de Abril. However, there were other bulls and other torreros. Some very beautiful bulls too, and some very bad”



By Bill Cemlyn-Jones

Reprinted from Guidepost, 1 May 1964


At half past seven on the evening of April 20 in the Maestranza (capacity 12,500 Manuel Benitez El Cordobés dispatched – with the descabello – a 471-kilo Carlos Nuñez bull. The thunder of applause was so tremendous that the Giralda was seen to quiver and 12,499 handkerchiefs wagged ferociously in the Sevilla air. One slightly grubby handkerchief remained in the pocket, mine, I fear, and I was lucky not to be lynched for my lack of enthusiasm.

I have seen El Cordobés at his worst (during the San Fermines in Pamplona last year, when he had to speed out of town fifteen minutes after the corrida to get away from the blood-thirsty mob of infuriated aficionados) and in Sevilla at his best. I don´t like him. Mark you, he is well worth going to see. He has very remarkable, very peculiar talents. With the right bull, right, that is, for him. He possesses dominio to a truly remarkable extent. He has an uncanny, possible telepathic rapport with his enemy, a rare quality with which few toreros are blessed.

1 May 1964 - April Fair reprintLuis Miguel Dominguin had the same strange power. But his style for me at least is singularly unlovely. He is not suave; he is slick. There is nothing pure, classic about this Beatle of the bullring; he substitutes tricks for temple. He has a West Side Story style. With the capote he is frankly vulgar, and very reticent, perhaps wisely so, in taking a quite; he twirls his muleta like a croupier spinning a roulette wheel. He uses his supple wrist rather than his arm. Yet, provided the bull is a suitably patient, he most certainly dominates, almost hypnotizes, it; and this hypnotic power works with the public too. It´s undeniably impressive, but a great torero must be able to demonstrate his art not only with the tranvias, but with the mansos, the difficult, the dangerous, the ilidiables.

Let us see what El Cordoés can do with the tough ones and then maybe iliddiables. Let us see what El Cordobés can do with the tough ones and then, maybe, I´ll be waving my handkerchief with the rest of the fans.

I read in the papers that the performance of El Cordobés was the highlight of the Feria de Abril. However, there were other bulls and other torreros. Some very beautiful bulls too, and some very bad, notably the Miuras, which were a positive disgrace to the memory of Manolete. Outstanding among the toreros was the valiant Diego Puerta; with his brave alegre and muy Sevillano style, he ignored two heart-stopping cogidas and cut four well-earned ears. The other triunfador, Emilio Oliva, who was so severely injured on the day of his alternative last year, showed that his corneado was only a brief interruption in a career which promises to be brilliant.

1 May 1964 GP coverJaime Ostos, without his former wonderful cuadrilla, fought on one day; it was the first time I had seen him since he nearly lost his life. With his first bull, despite the obvious, almost tangible, sympathy of the public – nothing; with his second, at first a little stiff, a little uncertain, but then –¡ole! – to those magnificent lances with the flannel. Not perhaps his best, but very very good; for me this was the most moving moment of the Feria.

Then, as a complete contrast to El Cordobés, there was el rey de temple Curro Romero; out of his four bulls we had one good one, and that´s a high average and well worth waiting for. Curro is obviously afraid of the bull that it is astonishing that he can force himself to risk the jeers of the public in order to produce those occasional superb, moving, exquisitely beautiful exhibitions of his Art. Just because he has this fear makes me wonder if he is not, perhaps, the bravest man in the ruedo today.

But now we are on the eve of San Isidro. The carteles make impressive reading. Litri will be making his – how many times is it? – reappearance and has already done well in various plazas this season. And EL Cordobés will be making his first appearance at Las Ventas to confirm his alternativa. This is the crucial moment in the career of the fenómeno de Palma del Rio. The Madrid public, the most critical – well, at least it used to be – with an inherent dislike of adornos, desplantes and gimmicks and a slight big capital city snobbishness towards the tastes of the “provinces “ –will form the jury which can sentence a torero to oblivion (remember what they did in Torremolinos, the idol of the tourists of Torremolinos?). If the bulls are adequately lidiables I predict that El Cordobés will hypnotize the madrileños just as he did the sevillanos. But I also predict that one grubby little handkerchief, mine, will still remain in the pocket.




Ed’s note: Our thanks to Deke Mills for his help in reprinting this Feria de Abril article.