TOREROS AT THE VANGUARD FOR THE 2009 EUROPEAN
Last year in January I wrote the article TOREROS AT THE VANGUARD FOR THE 2008 EUROPEAN TAURINE SEASON, , the theme of which was the ongoing process of renewal of the top bullfighters, which I called “the changing of the guard”. I stated that after “El Juli” took his alternativa in 1998, and joined Ponce and José Tomás at the top, the process of change had almost stopped. Therefore, this trio of top matadors had continued being the leaders of bullfighting during the first six years of the new century without any meaningful opposition or competition.
On the other hand, the renewal process surged to life again in the middle of the of the 2006 European Taurine Season when of a few young matadors, who had taken the alternativa during this new century, started to have a strong impact with their repetitive successes in the bullrings. Then, the process of renewal accelerated during the 2007 season, when these new matadors continued to play important roles in bullfighting. Consequently, they unsettled the existing status quo among the established leaders, forcing them to compete to justify their status, or otherwise to play a supporting role or even to retire.
In that article last yearl concluded that at the end of the 2007 season the process of renewal was already a fact at the top due to the extraordinary successes of these new stars who, along with Ponce, José Tomas y “El Juli”, will be the stars of the 2008 season, while the remaining stars of the 90’s who are still active would just play supporting roles. At he same time, maybe with an excess of optimism, I guessed that the 2008 season would be, as interesting and successful or more so than 2007 one. It was certainly interesting, since the process of renewal continued, but, by comparison the results of the 2008 season were not as positive as those of the great 2007 season, since a few important matadors were not as successful as they had been the year before. Also, it was disappointing that no new promising matadors had succeeded in joining the stars at the top to continue renewing the process.
In the same article I discussed the ten matadors who, based on their successful campaigns in the 2007 season, I thought would be in the vanguard of the 2008 season with more or less importance. I predicted that the vanguard would be integrated by the three veteran matadors Ponce, José Tomás and “El Juli” as well as the newer stars “El Cid”, Sebastián Castella, Miguel Angel Perera, José María Manzanares, Alejandro Talavante and Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez plus the unpredictable artist “Morante de la Puebla”, a survivor of the 90’s, who was returning to bullfighting after a very brief retirement.
From here on, this article could be considered as a follow-up to TOREROS AT THE VANGUARD FOR THE 2008 EUROPEAN TAURINE SEASON, since I will be commenting about the quality of the 2008 campaign of each of these ten matadors, in order to anticipate the relevance that they might have in the upcoming season, which officially opens in Castellón, Spain, in March.
To provide an idea of the scope of the 2008 campaign of the ten mentioned matadors, I have included statistical data obtained from “Escalafón”, published by the press at the end of the 2008 European Season last November, which shows the number of corridas as well as the number of trophies obtained by each of those matadors. Note that after the name of each bullfighter there appear two rows of numbers enclosed in parentheses. The figures enclosed in the first parenthesis ( ) represent for the numbers of corridas fought, and the ears and tails obtained during the 2008 season: (x corridas; x ears; and x tails); and the set of numbers enclosed in the second parenthesis [ ], shows the distribution of the total number of ears by the category of the plaza in which they were granted to the matador [x ears obtained in 1st class plaza; x ears obtained in 2nd class plaza; and X ears obtained in 3rd class plaza]. This second set of data will help the readers to evaluate the respective importance of the trophies granted to the matador, since it is not an equal feat to cut an ear, for example, en Bilbao, a 1st class plaza, as it would be in Huelva, a 2nd class plaza, or in Mérida, a 3rd class plaza.
A View to the Accomplishments of the Ten Star Matadors of the 2008 European Season and Their Perspectives For the Upcoming One.
I will now comment about the 2008 campaign of the ten toreros of the vanguard at the same time than I will speculate as to what their perspectives may be for this season that will begin very soon.
I will start by dealing with José Tomás and Miguel Angel Perera, who have been the two matadors who, although following different paths, completed the campaigns of greater impact in the 2008 season. The veteran José Tomás, by finishing a short but exceptional campaign, increased his fame as an intriguing and legendary torero, while the younger Perera, completing an extensive and almost perfect campaign, was the first matador of the new wave to solidify his position at the top of bullfighting.
José Tomás (20-42-2) [19-23-0] Continues To Be the Most Exciting and Commercial Torero
By now any person who follows bullfighting very well knows what an exceptional type of torero José Tomás is. He possesses a classical and pure toreo that he practices with great courage, giving everything he has in each performance, often disregarding his personal well-being. He has always appealed to knowledgeable aficionados and taurine critics, as well as to the general public, but since he returned to bullfighting in Barcelona in June of 2007, after a five-year hiatus, José Tomás has added some indefinable personal characteristics to his intrinsic excellent taurine values, such as charisma, mystery, exoticism and and even a sense of tragedy, that have enhanced his attraction, converting him in the most popular of the existing bullfighting stars. In addition to that, he has limited his performances, and did not permit them to be televised. Consequently, wherever he fights the tickets are sold out far in advance of his appearance.
Since his comeback, during the 2007 and 2008 seasons José Tomás has fulfilled and surpassed all expectations, by succeeding in almost all the 36 corridas in which he participated, obtaining 76 trophies, and paying at times a high price in blood for some of those ears.
On his second short European campaign he triumphed in 17 corridas of the 20 in which he performed, obtaining a total of 44 trophies. He cut one ear in Valencia, Santander, Almería and Valladolid, while he cut two ears in Castellón, Cordoba, Salamanca, Murcia, Linares and Aranjuez. Furthermore, in two performances he was awarded six trophies in Malaga, and three in Granada, Pontevedra and Cuenca, and in Jerez he cut two ears and a tail. In America, he also scored in México and Bogotá. Only on three occasions did he leave the plaza without any trophies.
José Tomás three most impacting and historical successes took place in Madrid and in Barcelona. In his two performances in Madrid he cut seven ears. On June 15, after executing two exceptional faenas with two brave bulls, he was rewarded with three ears and left the ring by the Puerta Grande. Three weeks later he did not open the same door, in spite of having cut four ears, since he was in the infirmary being treated for the three gorings that he received. The other historical event took place in Barcelona in his last fight of the year, where he pardoned the life of a Cuvillo bull, and was granted the symbolic trophies of two ears and the tail.
The low points of his campaign were marked by his gray performance in the mano-a-mano with “Morante de la Puebla” at the Puerto de Santa Maria, where he was caught too many times. José Tomás was seriously gored three times during the season, in Jerez, Madrid and El Puerto.
In spite of such phenomenal accomplishments, José Tomás has again been much criticized for not having completed a campaign fighting from the beginning of the season to the end, and for not having faced the aficion at all the important plazas, such as those in Seville, Bilbao and Zaragoza. He has also been criticized for not competing regularly with the other top stars.
The aficionados were hoping that, like most big figures, José Tomás would complete a more traditional and demanding campaign this year, so they would have more opportunities to see him performing. Nevertheless, that will not be the case, since his manager Salvador Boix made public last month that his torero plans to follow a similar path during the 2009 season.
In any event, even if José Tomás follows the same path this year as he did last season, there cannot be any doubt that the charismatic diestro from Madrid is going to be more appealing than any other star matadors during the 2009 European Season, and if any aficionado plans to see him perform, he will have to travel to the limited places where this intriguing matador decides to fight.
Miguel Angel Perera, after completing two and a half lukewarm seasons as a full-fledged matador, started climbing to the top at the end of the 2006 season, then he continued ascending in 2007, and he finally reached the top and firmly secured his position among the star matadors during the last season.
After finishing a successful winter season in Latin America, Perera started his 2008 European campaign in Castellón on February 29 by cutting three ears, and he finished it in Madrid on October 3. That afternoon, he fought in alone in Las Ventas, facing five bulls, and obtaining four ears. He did not leave the plaza by the Puerta Grande because he was lying seriously injured on the operating table in the infirmary. Hi first bull had gored him, but he bravely remained in the arena to continue fighting four more bulls. Again, he was very badly gored by the fifth animal, but heroically barely managed to continue fighting until finishing off the bull. Not being physically able to confront the last bull, he retired to the infirmary. Later, as a consequence of the severity of his injuries, he had to undergo four more surgeries, from which he has been recovering until a few days ago, when he successfully reappeared in Colombia in January.
Between February 29 and October 3 Perera performed in 80 more corridas obtaining 157 trophies, many of them in first class bullrings. He failed to cut ears in only 13 corridas. The fact that after being seriously injured in Alicante on June 20, he fought three days later emphasizes his superhuman determination to be a commanding matador.
It would be easier to enumerate the few plazas where Perera did not have an outstanding performance than to list the many bullrings in which he cut multiple trophies, or left the ring by the Puerta Grande. These are some of his achievements: he opened the Puerta Grande in important plazas such as Madrid, Barcelona, Nimes, Bayona, Palencia, Castellón, Soria, León, Huelva, Vitoria, Linares, Murcia, Albacete and a few more. He was rewarded with two ears in Seville and Bilbao. He had almost flawless performances by cutting four ears in Santander, Olivenza, La Línea, Cuenca and Murcia; he obtained seven trophies in two corridas in Valladolid. He also cut a tail in Murcia and another in Nimes, and pardoned the life of a bull in Dax. In April Perera took a little break from the European season to brilliantly fight two corridas at the Mexican Feria of Aguascalientes.
We do not recall that in the last few years a torero had completed a campaign with such repeated successes as Perera did in 2008. This fact is very impressive, but it is more remarkable how this young man from Extremadura has done it, since he accomplished it by adding an exceptional classical quality to his emotional type of toreo, and executed it with great courage, apparent ease, great mastery and intelligence.At this writing Miguel Angel Perera, completely recovered, continues to perform with great success in Latin America, and he seems to be ready to continue doing the same thing during the approaching European season. In short, Miguel Angel is at the top of his game and, under the wise management of Fernando Cepeda, he will fight in 2009 wherever, whenever, how much and with whomever he desires. His challenge is to equal---because to surpass seems impossible---the brilliant results he achieved during last season.
Now I will comment on veteran stars Enrique Ponce and Julián López “El Juli” who in the 2008 season have continued still to be in commanding positions as they have been since they took their alternativas in the 90’s. What is different is their perspectives, since the ‘patriarch’ Ponce, who is contemplating a possible near retirement, has been performing at his own pace, sure of himself, without looking for or evading unnecessary confrontations. On the other hand, “El Juli”, on his tenth anniversary of his alternativa, with illusion of continuing active for a few more years and maintaining his privileged position, has been responding to the challenge of the new figures, who aspire either to unseat him or otherwise to join him on the taurine vanguard.
Enrique Ponce in 2008 has completed one more season, his 18th, fighting from the beginning to the end of the season, performing in all the important plazas, without refusing to appear with the new wave of stars, and obtaining enough significant successes to justify the reazon why he is firmly seated on the same throne that he has occupied since one year after he took his alternativa in1990.
Ponce no longer needs to compete with anybody or to reach new goals. So he directs his efforts to just constructing, from time to time, exceptional faenas, in which his brilliant elegant, majestic and dominant type of toreo comes alive; and when success in not possible, he solves any problem a difficult bull may present with great facility, using his cold, sober courage that permits him to think on his feet fast in front of the bulls.
After fighting a few corridas with great success in the Latin American winter season, Ponce started his 18th campaign as a matador by cutting three ears on March 1 in Olivenza, and he rapped it up in Jaén on October 18. Between these dates he participated in 60 additional corridas, obtaining a total of 3 tails and 64 ears, 22 of which were granted in first class rings. Enrique also opened the Puerta Grande of many plazas, among them the plazas of Linares, Iscar, Leon, Roquetas de Mar, Santander, Pontevedra, Malaga, Dax, Beziers, Bilbao, Antequera, Aracena, Daimiel, Nimes, Ubeda and Zaragoza. Also in other plazas, such as Granada, Huelva, Vitoria, Bayona, Pontevedra and Gijón he cut an ear. Furthermore, he pardoned the life of one bull in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and of another in Montoro. Also, he earned the “Most Successful Matador” trophy of the ferias of Las Fallas in Valencia and of the Feria del Pilar in Zaragoza. A month after finishing the European campaign, Ponce cut four ears in Lima, Peru, and for the third time in his career, he was given the “Escapulario del Señor de los Milagros”.
The low points of the season for Ponce were the few accomplishments he had during the months o May and June, and the lackluster performances he had at both the Seville and Madrid ferias.
The man from Valencia, from time to time has stated his intention to retire soon. For instance, he announced to the press that will not come back to fight any more in the plazas of Madrid, Pamplona or Logroño. On the other hand, I believe that as long as he continues performing in the ring as brilliantly as he has until now ---he just cut a tail in La Mexico in Mexico City on February 8--- he could be playing an important role in bullfighting as long as he whishes to do so. Therefore, Ponce, will face 2009 maintaining his privileged position as the patriarch of toreo.
"El Juli" Commemorated the 10th Anniversary of his Alternativa Completing Another Successful Campaign in 2008 (74-104-3) [20-35-32]
His performances in the middle of the season were not as successful as they had been during the season before, since he often was unlucky with the type of bulls he was assigned in the drawing and, also, because he failed with the sword on occasions, losing trophies that he should have earned for his good work with cape and muleta. On the other hand, in many other instances, he has overcame the problems presented by some of his difficult opponents to ending up putting together brilliant faenas. I witnessed one of these which took place in the corrida of April 5 at the Feria of Seville, where he surprised us by cutting an ear from a very dangerous bull.
Julian opened his campaign on February 29 in Castellón and fought 74 corridas, cutting 104 ears and three tails, 20 of these trophies were granted to him in 1st class plazas. He also left the arenas on the shoulders of his admirers on multiple occasions from plazas as important as Valencia, Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastián Arles, Dax, Nimes, Badajoz, Burgos, Avila, Alicante, Huelva, Almería, Palencia, El Puerto de Santa María and San Sebastián de los Reyes, among others. Furthermore, he cut one ear in many other locations such as Seville, Jerez, Valladolid, Cordoba, Burgos, Pamplona, Mont de Marsan, Zaragoza and Jaén.
The most negative occurrence in Julian's campaign was to pass silently through Las Ventas, without being able to duplicate the overwhelming success he had last year. On the other hand, the great successes he accomplished in Nimes, Barcelona, Zafra, Zaragoza and Jaén at the end of the season made up for his disappointing performances in Madrid in the spring.
On September 19 in Nimes “El Juli” commemorated the 10th anniversary of his alternativa, which he took in that plaza by facing six Daniel Ruiz bulls. That afternoon the young maestro demonstrated the range of his varied repertoire, sometimes fighting with the same enthusiasm and creativity with which he used to please the masses during the earlier stages of his career. Other times he fought with the mastery and classicism that he now possesses. He cut seven ears and a tail. The following day he had another overwhelming performance in Barcelona, cutting three ears and opening the Puerta Grande. In addition to that, in October at the Feria of Zafra in two performances he obtained six ears and pardoned the life of a bull, and in the ferias of Zaragoza and Jaén he was awarded one ear.
But his sensational closing of the European season was not the end for “El Juli’s” successes, since he continued collecting trophies at the ferias of the Latin American winter season. This probably is a prelude to what “El Juli” may accomplish in the 2009 European season, when this already mature maestro will continue to be featured as a brilliant star in all the important ferias.
Let’s lok at four more toreros who formed part of the taurine vanguard during the 2008 season. These matadors were important stars of the fiesta last season who, like Perera, took the alternativa some time during this decade. They are: "El Cid”, who completed the most successful campaign of his career, and now feels secure in his well-deserved high position; the classic and elegant matadors José María Manzanares Cayetano, who continued ascending to the top in 2008, in spite of both cutting short their campaigns because of illness and injury, respectively; Sebastián Castella , who underwent a campaign with some ups and downs; and Alejandro Talavante, who performed in 2008 with more downs than ups.
“El Cid”, after five rough years of having to confront dangerous bulls from the most difficult ganaderias, such as Victorino Martín, Miura, Cebada Gago and others, he started in 2006 to be part of the ferias as an important torero, and the following year he become a top matador. Finally, already secure in his well-deserved high position, he completed a successful season in 2008 as a star torero, without continually having to prove that he deserves to be a figura.
“El Cid” has had many significant triumphs, and he could have a few more, since in a few occasions, after completing phenomenal faenas, he lost trophies for not using the sword with efficiency. Therefore, his campaign, in spite of being very good, did not reach the high level of the of the 2007 one.
Some examples of these shortcomings happened in Seville where, after he executed a good faena to a difficult ‘victorino’, he was not rewarded with an ear for failing with the sword; a similar event occurred in Madrid, where he could have opened the Puerta Grande twice, but because of his failure to kill well he left the plaza on foot; and in Zaragoza after a fantastic faena which merited the awarding of a tail, he received only one ear.
Nevertheless, “El Cid” had many successes last season, since en 89 corridas he earned 100 ears and 3 tails, and 16 of these trophies were granted in first class bullrings. These were some of the places were he won these trophies: four ears in San Sebastián de los Reyes; three in Cáceres and Bayonne; two in Barcelona, Algeciras, Burgos, Huelva, San Sebastián, Gijón and Palencia; and two ears and a tail in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where he pardoned a bull’s life on May 24. Furthermore, he obtained an ear in important plazas, these being Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Pamplona, Zaragoza, Arles, Nimes, Dax, León, Castellón, Pontevedra, Vitoria, Salamanca, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Algeciras, Puerto de Santa María and Jaén.
It is safe to predict that “El Cid, already fully recognized as an established star, with his classical, solid and all powerful style of bullfighting, which is highly appreciated be the critics and aficionados as well by the general public, will continue to play an important role in almost all the ferias of the 2009 European taurine season.
With Manzanares, the Art and the Elegance Will Continue to Be Present in the Arena (66-83-0) [20-6-42] in the 2009 Season
For the second time, José María Manzanares, who was regularly exhibiting the greatness of his pure and traditional manner of bullfighting in the European bullrings, was compelled to cut short his 2008 campaign in the middle of September, due to some type of sickness, which made him very weak.
This was a pity, since Manzanares was unable to finish his successful campaign by putting the icing on the cake, at a time when he was consolidating his fame as the torero who represents the most pure classicism. This young man from Alicante possesses the necessary courage and determination to fight with knowledge, mastery, elegance, harmony, art and purity. In addition, he also has other good bullfighting qualities, which cause some of his faenas to have a major impact on the aficionados that is not measurable by the traditional trophies of ears and tails.
During the 2008 season, José María appeared on the most select cartels of all the important ferias, competing with the best matadors, and facing only bulls of the most selected brands. Without participating in the Latin American winter season, because he was recovering from his debilitating tropical ilness, which made him stop fighting in August of the prior year; he opened his 2008 campaign at Castellón on February 29, and concluded it prematurely on September 20 in Murcia, when he still had several contracts left to fulfill. He did not score in either of these two corridas. Nevertheless, this fact did not mean much, since in the other intervening 64 performances he cut 83 ears, 20 of them in 1st class plazas.
The following are some of the achievements that this classic young matador obtained during the 2008 season: he cut four ears in two corridas in Alicante, and as many trophies in El Puerto de Santa Maria; he was awarded three ears in two corridas in Seville, and the same quantity of trophies in only one fight in Segovia, Olivenza, Puertollano, Plasencia, Segovia, Linares, Mérida and Ronda; also, he cut two ears in each of his performances in Santander, Mallorca, Albacete, Toledo, Gijón, Talavera de la Reina, Algeciras, Roquetas de Mar, San Lorenzo del Escorial, among other places; furthermore, he earned an ear in Mont de Marsan, Vitoria, Gijón, Almería, Bayona, Malaga, Valladolid, Salamanca and several more places. Later, in his comeback after recovering from his illness, in October in Lima, Peru, he performed very well, cutting ears, and later he also continued fighting with notable success in other ferias of Latin America.
Of special importance were his brilliant performances at the Maestranza in the Feria de Abril in Seville that earned him the trophy given to the most successful matador in that feria. Also, his unforgettable rounded and artistic faenas he put together in Ronda, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Alicante, Linares and Bilbao were exceptional.
One never would have imagined four years ago that the easygoing young man with little ambition to succeed in the fiesta brava, was going in 2008 to become one the most admired matadors of he bullfighting vanguard. Now it is not difficult to believe that, if Manzanares continues to be healthy and the bulls do not hurt him, in this coming season, he will top the many successes he had since he started his run to the top on the year 2006.
Cayetano (53-82-1) [9-29-44] Took a Step Forward in the 2008 Season
The dynastic matador Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez took an important step forward with his notable good performance in the 2008 European season, in spite of not having been able to finish it, due the injury that he suffered in Palencia.
Cayetano, like Manzanares, fights with a pure and classic style, which is highly appreciated by the good aficionados. On the other hand, different from Manzanares, he still has not completed a full campaign as a full-fledged matador, fighting in all the main plazas, to demonstrate the scope of his good toreo. This has happened, in part, because of his having been gored on different occasions, and also because Curro Vázquez, his manager, decided to measure or postpone his appearances in important plazas as Madrid or Seville. His intention was to give his matador more time to mature, since Cayetano started late in the profession, having very little experience either as an aficionado or a novillero. It is worthwhile to note that Cayetano was pursuing a life away from bullfighting, and when he was 28 years old he decided suddenly to become a torero.
Cayetano’s personal charisma plus his family’s public background has converted him into a popular person whose life is continually scrutinized by the media. This fact, added to his taurine qualities and his successful performances in the arena, means that his inclusion in any cartel would attract a non-taurine audience as well as the regular aficionados. Therefore, this torero from Madrid, since his alternativa, has fought in any place he has wanted to under the best conditions as if he were already a-super star of the fiesta brava.
Cayetano started the 2008 season in March in Castellón and finished it in Palencia on September 3, where he was very seriously injured. He cut one ear that afternoon. He performed in 53 corridas, earning 82 ears and a tail. Nine of these trophies were cut in 1st class rings, 29 in 2nd class arenas, and 44 in 3rd class plazas.His performance of greater impact took place in Madrid on June 4 when, after confirming his alternativa, he completed an excellent faena, which was rewarded with one ear. Other 1st class arenas where Cayetano had notable performances were Barcelona, Malaga and Valencia, where he opened their Puerta Grande, ---twice in Valencia---. Additionally , he also achieved considerable successes in the plazas of León, Segovia, Badajoz, Toledo, Huelva, Alicante, Mallorca, Vitoria, Placencia, Linares, Jerez, and Puerto de Santa María by cutting multiple ears and opening the Puerta Grande of these plazas. Furthermore, he was granted four ears and a tail in Torrejón de Ardoz and as many ears in La Muela.
The recovery from the injury Cayetano received in Palencia has been long and painful, but he is already in top shape. He reappeared in the Feria de San Cristóbal, Venezuela, on January 22, where he fought in the rain in a muddy ring, which caused the president to cancel the corrida following his courageous performance.
Since this classic torero has already proven that his courage does not flee away because of his injuries, it can be expected that during the 2009 season he will continue climbing the steps to place himself on a taller pedestal. Because of his especial attraction, Cayetano will be featured in as many corridas as he and his manager please, but they have to realize that to solidify this torero’s status as super-star, this already mature matador would have to perform in and succeed in all the most important European ferias … but unfortunately for the aficionados, the Seville impresario has already announced that Cayetano will not appear at the next Feria de April in Seville, where he still has not performed as a full-fledged matador. We hope that the same thing does not apply to other important ferias.
Sebastián Castella (55-70-3) [17-24-29] Maintained his Status as a Top Matador in 2008
In the European 2008 season Sebastián Castella completed his eighth campaign as a full-fledged matador and, although his performances, in general, were not as successful as in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, in the end he has maintained his status as a top matador.
The Frenchman became a matador in his native Bezier, France, on August 12, 2000 at he early age of 19. During his first three years as a matador he played a meaningful role in the French and Latin America taurine ferias, but not in Spain. Then he started to fight more regularly in Spain, and then in 2006 he had such a phenomenal campaign there that he was recognized as a top matador everywhere in the taurine world. Nevertheless, his 2007 campaign in Europe was good but not as brilliant as that of 2006.
Castella, after finishing his 2007 European campaign, completed a long and successful campaign in Latin America before starting the 2008 European season. He initiated a series of performances in Europe on March 1 at Olivenza, Spain, and he ended it on October 18 at the Feria of Jaén. Then, without any rest, he continued to fight in Latin America with continued successes during the 2008-9 winter season. In Europe he participated in 55 corridas, earning 70 ears and three tails, obtaining 17 of the trophies in 1st class plazas, 24 en 2nd class and 29 en the 3rd class ones. He took a break in April to appear in several corridas in Mexico.
The beginnings of Castella’s 2008 season were not very promising, since he was omitted from the Castellón and Valencia ferias because of economic reasons, and his performances in the spring ferias of Seville and Madrid were unremarkable. But, things improved during the rest of the season when the Frenchman started to perform successfully in many corridas.
Here I will list some of Castella’s achievements during the season: he cut six trophies in an equal number of corridas in Nimes, in one he fought six bulls; he obtained the maximum trophies in Algeciras, and three ears in Granada, Cuenca, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Salamanca, Murcia and Pontevedra; he was awarded two ears in Beziers, Trujillo, Aranjuez and Baeza, and one in Valencia, Vitoria, Huesca, San Sebastián, Valladolid, Albacete and San Sebastián de los Reyes, among other places.
On the other hand, it is necessary to note three negative facts in the Castella’s campaign: he passed through the important plazas of Seville, Madrid, Bilbao, Malaga and Zaragoza without doing anything notable; he repeatedly failed with the swords, losing several ears that he almost certainly had in his hand; and, because he was gored in Algeciras and Pamplona, he missed performing in several corridas.
Castella is a torero who performs with a style that could be defined as a mixture of classic and dramatic, and he executes it with courage and determination, with a total disregard for the consequences, making the spectators react to his toreo with the heart as much with as with the brain. He is already situated in the safe zone among the top toreros, where the star matadors are more or less allowed to have a less than spectacular campaign without diminishing their status too much, therefore the Sebastian Castella name will be printed on many cartels of the 2009 important ferias, where the Frenchman could have the chance to duplicate the successful campaign that he had in 2006.
Alejandro Talavante (66-49-0) [4-20-25] Takes a Step Backward in the 2008 season
Alejandro Talavante appeared in 66 corridas, obtaining 49 trophies during the 2008 season. Of these trophies 25 were granted in 3rd class bullrings, 20 in 2nd class plazas, and only four in 1st class arenas. These statistical data compare negatively with the results of his performances in the 2007 season, when fighting in only seven additional corridas, and despite of his lack of consistency when using the sword, he cut 72 ears, 12 of them in 1st class bullrings.
Last year, without campaigning in the 2007-8 winter season in Latin America, Alejandro started the European season in Castellón on March 1st, to continue the following day in Olivenza, where he was granted an ear. He finished his campaign on a high note in Jaén on October 19, where he was awarded two ears and left the plaza by the Puerta Grande. He had other noteworthy performances in the Feria of Olivenza, where he cut three ears, and also in the ferias of Granada, Cáceres, León, Huelva and Marbella, where he obtained two ears and also opened the Puerta Grande. Furthermore, he won one ear in the bullrings of Valencia, Jerez, Nimes, Avila, Dax, Linares and Murcia.
Talavante had his most relevant triumph at the Feria de la Comunidad of Madrid in May by cutting an ear. Otherwise, the young torero disappointed many aficionados by having two uninspired fights in the plazas of Madrid and Seville, as well as one mediocre performance in each of the 1st class plazas of Barcelona, Cordoba and Malaga. This is in great contract to the important successes he had last year, when he left the plazas of Valencia Madrid and Seville, among others, on the shoulders of the aficionados.
Last year I ended my references to Talavante’s 2007 campaign and prospects for the 2008 season in an article similar to this one by saying:
Lets hope that [he] continues on the same path the next season, and that he progresses by maturing professionally, and also that he finds the right spots with the sword. If he does we are going to have a figura who may give us pleasure for a long time.
Obviously, the young matador from Extemadura put the lie to my predictions, since during the past season he has not matured nor progressed as a torero, or improved when using the sword. His problem with killing was not surprising, since this has always been his downfall. On the other hand, it was strange to see how this courageous artist, who in 2007, with only a few passes, produced a spark that lighted passions on the stand, in many instances last year, seemed to be fighting without soul, and at times he acted as if he were lost when facing the bulls, seemingly without a plan for action.
Talavante, by pure inertia, will appears on the cartels of the important ferias of the first part of the 2009 season, but in order to continue being a top matador he needs to recover that rare ability that he displayed in the past. Then, he captivated the audiences almost instantaneously with his tremendismo-classic style of bullfighting that made him a star in 2006 almost overnight.
His three first important tests in the new season will take place en Las Ventas in Madrid, where Talavante will face six bulls by himself on Easter Sunday, and in La Maestranza of Seville in the Feria de Abril, where he will fight twice. The results of these three performances will have a strong impact on the rest of his 2009 campaign.
Finally, “Morante de la Puebla” is the last torero of the ten that I had highlighted in this article. He belongs to the last decade’s generation of toreros, and one of the few who still, in his own way, forms a part of the taurine vanguard. His is a special case, and his privileged position at the top is difficult to rationally explain.
“Morante de la Puebla” (28-21-1) [4-2-15], the Artist-torero, After a Hiatus, is Again Active in the Bullrings
Before I address the results of José Antonio Morante ‘s 2008 campaign I will briefly comment about his bullfighting style and his recent professional path.
The genial and gifted José Antonio Morante is now the best representative of the so called ‘toreros de arte’, artistic bullfighters. They are matadors in whom the aficionados appreciate the purity, classicism, special grace and singularity of their toreo, tending to disregard their failures in the rings and their little competitive attitudes. These artists count on unconditional fans ready to condone or excuse their lack of competitiveness, bad performances and even the completion of mediocre campaigns, while they wait for the muses to inspire their toreros.
Since “Morante de la Puebla” is that type of bullfighter, it is difficult to judge the importance of his campaigns based in his statistics, as I have done with the other nine toreros of the vanguard. The cause is that a resounding triumph of Morante in a 3rd class arena could erase any bad taste left by a mediocre or bad performance in an important plaza, as long as, from time to time, during the season, he creates same of his unique artistic performances. This is the principal reason that Morante year after year continues occupying a position as a top torero in a disproportioned relation to the qualities of any specific campaign he completed.
The unpredictable Morante was having a rather successful campaign during the 2007 season when, a few days after fighting in Granada, his 16th corrida of that season, without much explanation he announced on June 20 that he was retiring from bullfighting.
The reality would be different, since his “adiós” became merely an “hasta la vista”, because a few months after his retirement, also without much explanation, he announced that he would reappear in Mexico City on January 6. 2008, and that, after performing a few times in Latin America, he would l fight about 25 corridas in Europe.
Morante’s campaign in Europe, his 12th as a matador, by design was brief. He performed in only 28 corridas, obtaining a total of 23 ears and a tail, of which he cut only four in 1st class plazas, and two in 2nd rate plazas, and the remaining in plazas of minor category.
José Antonio initiated the 2008 season on February 19, fighting in a mano-a-mano corrida with Mexican matador “El Pana” in the Palacio Vistalegre of Madrid. Since he was unable to succeed with either of his two bulls, he fought and cut one ear of an extra bull. Later he appeared in Madrid on Easter Sunday, and in Seville on April 6, where his performances were unremarkable. On the other hand, he merited an ear in each of his two performance in the spring fairs of Madrid. Furthermore, he had one inspired performance in Ecija in September, where he cut four ears and a tail, and another in Zafra in October, where he obtained three ears. In addition to, he cut an ear in León and Dax as well as in some plazas of minor category. On the other hand, he did not make any noise in his appearances in the important ferias of Bilbao, Salamanca, Murcia, Nimes, Albacete and Logroño.
Maybe the low point of his short season took place at the Feria del Pilar in Zaragoza on October 12th, where he faced six bulls alone, but at the end he had to leave the plaza to the accompaniment of booing by the aficionados, since most of his six performances were disappointing.
As I have already pointed out, the good or mediocre results of the performances of Morante in any given season are not good indicators for the future of this torero, as long he continues, from time to time, to impress the aficionados with some stellar faenas. Since he has already impressed them, it is a given that this matador from la Puebla will continue to be a star of the fiesta brava during the upcoming season by appearing on selected cartels of some of most of the important ferias. He is already announced to participate in three of the best corridas of the prestigious Feria de Abril in Seville.
In this report I have summarized and analyzed the 2008 campaigns in the European season of Ponce, “Morante de la Puebla”, José Tomás, “El Juli”, “El Cid”, Castella, Perera, Manzanares, Talavante and Cayetano, the ten matadors who in different degree were the main stars of the 2008 season. Also, based in their accomplishments I have predicted, with a great percentage of probability, what type of role they might play in the upcoming season.
Nevertheless, if the reader would consult the statistics which appeared at the end of the season in several publications---el escalafón---, he would observe that several toreros that I have not mentioned in this report appear prominently placed high in the rankings with impressive statistics. The reason for my no mentioning them is that it was not within the scope of this article to discuss the accomplishments and the career possibilities of all the toreros who had notable campaigns in the 2008 season, even if they played a notable role in bullfighting. My goal, as stated before, was limited to just dealing with the ten most prominent stars of the 2008 season.
If one would analyze the campaigns of the other important matadors not included in this article, one would note that, in general, a great proportion of the many corridas they fought, and the impressive amount of trophies they obtained took place in plazas of lesser category. Not did their successes, although of merit, seem to have the necessary impact in the impresarios, the critics and the so-called knowledgeable aficionados to produce a change on the status of these good and otherwise successful toreros. As an example, I mention the case of the popular and good matador “El Fandi” (111-263-22) [11-70-182], the leader of the escalafón, that of the 285 trophies he earned in 111 corridas, only 11 were granted in 1st class plazas, 70 in 2nd class and the rest in arenas of lesser category.
I conclude by bringing up a fact that in the long run may affect the on-going and lively process of renewal of the taurine vanguard. Although for the time being the top bullfighters are in a very competitive mood, it is alarming that since the triumphant appearance of Talavante on the taurine scene in the 2006 season, no new novillero has taken the alternativa with the sufficient strength to climb to the top. Nor has any good established or struggling matador succeeded enough to compete and pressure those at the vanguard. The danger of this is that the lack of pressure can create complacency among the toreros enthroned at the top, diminishing or extinguishing their competitive fire. This might again delay the renewal process that surged to life during the 2006 European Taurine Season.
*Cuadros por el pintor Pedro Escacena y fotos de archivo por Muriel Feiner and Génaro Berumen