• Around the World in Twelve Zarzuelas, and one Prologue

    This is an English translation of the original post published by member Loge in the Spanish Area.

    PROLOGUE

    Zarzuela is basically the Spanish brand of musical theater. There is singing, and there are spoken dialogues, nothing is predefined about the respective duration of each part. There are zarzuelas with a lot of dialogues, and little singing. But also some others where singing represents 80% or more of the total.
    Close relatives of Zarzuela are German Singspiel, French opera-comique or operetta, the defining elements of Zarzuela as Spanish are the language, of course, but also the melodies, the music style, the popular dances, the atmosphere…

    Three major differences between Zarzuela and Opera are:

    a) First, the spoken dialogues’s prominent role. In Zarzuela there are no recitatives, arioso is not really important and there is no attempt at reaching continuum.

    b) The length of the show, almost always below two hours. There are very few three act’s Zarzuelas. Most have only one (“género chico”), or two (“Zarzuela grande”).

    c) Drama is more contained, there is little tragedy. There are few deaths, and happy endings are the rule. Many Zarzuelas add some comical love affair, developed alongside the main story line, to make the audience laugh, and relax.

    The roots of the genre are in Spanish 17th century literature, the well known “Siglo de Oro” (The Golden Century). Some plays by Calderón de la Barca and Lope de Vega included incidental music. And tradition wants the first Zarzuela was Calderón’s “El golfo de las sirenas”, written in 1657, and defined by the author himself as: “It’s not a comedy, just a little fable at the manner of Italy, where there is singing and acting”.

    This reference to Italy is very representative of the situation in Spain at the time. Opera was already half a century old, and it was expanding. However, in Spain many people didn’t like recitative. It was considered something affected, unnatural: “if you speak, you speak, but if you sing, you sing”. This was at the roots of the incipient Zarzuela, and the clash in Spain with the Opera coming from Italy.

    In Spain the stage plays and Zarzuela were performed basically at:

    1.- Private theatres in aristocratic palaces. Here is the origin of the name Zarzuela, coming from the Zarzuela Palace, where there was a theatre sponsored by King Philipp the Fourth. This palace was in the outskirts of Madrid, at a place with an abundance of “zarzas” (blackberry bushes).

    2.- Inside the “corralas”, closed courtyards adapted to the performances by placing an stage in the middle, while the audience watched from the surrounding floors.

    This clash between Opera and Zarzuela was also present during the 18th century, and there were periods where Opera seemed about to get a conclusive victory, despite the high quality of Baroque Zarzuela. But the coronation of King Charles the Third, a supporter of Zarzuela, was a decisive impulse for the genre, with a very popular ‘buffa’ tradition, performing Ramón de la Cruz sainetes (a kind of farce), with music form Rodríguez de Hita, like the hugely successful “Las segadoras de Vallecas” (The harvesters from Vallecas).

    The most brilliant period for Zarzuela started in the 1840s, with composers Francisco Asenjo Barbieri and Emilio Arrieta, and was at its most popular by the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th. There is long list of composers, but perhaps the most successful were Francisco Alonso, Tomás Bretón, Ruperto Chapí, Federico Chueca, Manuel Fernández Caballero, Federico Moreno Torroba, José Serrano, Pablo Sorozábal and Amadeo Vives.

    Around the 1930s Zarzuela started to decline, with other genres receiving the favor of the audience, and after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) there were hardly any new Zarzuelas, and the old ones were less and less performed.

    However, little by little, the availability of recordings since the 1950s, together with performances offered in TV since the 1960s, restarted the interest in Zarzuela. In our days, though there are no longer new Zarzuelas, there is a Zarzuela season in Madrid, and some individual works being performed all across Spain. Also, Zarzuela has crossed the frontiers of Spain and Latin America, and is now being performed more and more in other countries, as part of Europe’s lyrical theatre cultural heritage.

    This is a nice example, from one of the composers listed above, Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, sung by Teresa Berganza, herself a great supporter of Zarzuela:

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Around the World in Twelve Zarzuelas, and one Prologue started by Schigolch View original post
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    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      First Destination: Lisbon

      Zarzuela is not a foregone conclusion in Spain. There are many people that object their localism. And also some Opera fans are just not interested in Zarzuela. For them, the quality of the music is not high enough, and they claim that in order to properly enjoy Zarzuela, one needs to immerse in the Spanish culture, while this is not really necessary, at least into such depths, to fall in love with Don Carlo or Boris Godunov. However, the growing popularity outside Spain of Zarzuela scores like “Luisa Fernanda”, is actually refuting this opinion.

      While it’s true that the plot of many Zarzuelas takes place in Spain, this also could be said about France and the opéra comique, or the German Singspiels. But, on top of that, there are many Zarzuelas with the action passing outside Spain, and with subjects similar to Opera (love, political fights, maternity, justice, exile,…), but receiving a more realistic treatment.

      That’s the reason behind starting this trip around the World, at the manner of Phileas Fogg, the phlegmatic character from Julio Verne’s famous novel "Around the World in Eighty Days".

      Our first stop will be Lisbon. Taking the night train from Madrid, we will arrive early morning to the Portuguese capital.

      However, this is a special travel. We have covered not just six hundres kilometers to the West, but also moved back in time almost five hundred years. We can see soldiers armed with harquebuses commenting on a meeting that same evening of the Portuguese Parliament to choose a new King. The nobility wants to join Spain, and name the Spanish King, Philip the Second, also King of Portugal. The member of Parliament Alves Ferreira is opposing the bill of annexation. In a tavern, a singer, nicknamed ‘El pájaro azul' (The Blue Bird), is singing this romanza, part in Spanish, part in Portuguese, that sounds also like a kind of Fado:

      Rafael Millán. Fado from “El Pájaro Azul”, sung by Vicente Sardinero (Baritone)
      DivShare File - 01_ Millán_ El pajaro azul_ Fado.mp3

      This Zarzuela, El Pájaro Azul, is presenting Portuguese nobility as sold to the Spaniards, while the resistance to the invader is in the hands of the popular classes. As could be expected, there is also a love story between the tavern singer and the daughter of Ferreira, the member of the Parliament, as well as other pair of lovers that are really just spying for the two parties at war. At the end, the Spaniards are the victors, and the Portuguese rebels are pardoned by the King.

      Based on historical facts, this situation with Portugal missing a king after the death of Sebastian the First at the battle of Alcácer Quibir, in today’s Morocco, also inspired Donizetti’s opera Dom Sébastien.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Second Destination: La Habana

      All this annexation business is not going to win a popularity contest in Lisbon for any Spaniard, so we continue our trip departing to America. As we are living in the 16th century, we need to board a galleon or a caravel. After some months in the sea, several storms and feeling a little bit dizzy, we finally arrive to La Habana.

      Cuba is special, because there are not only some Spanish Zarzuelas taking place in the island, but also a very important Cuban Zarzuela repertoire, with Cuban composers, subjects and rhythms. This is also the case in other Latin American countries, and in the Philippines.

      Due to the strong ties between Cuba and Spain, with a very long period of Spanish sovereignty, there is a big influence of the mother country in the island. While most of Latin America was already independent in the first quarter of the 19th century, Cuba was not separated from Spain until 1898. The best years in terms of popularity for Zarzuela, overlap in part with the last years of the Spanish dominion, and the colonist from the peninsula were welcoming Zarzuela companies touring the island. This also generated a love for Zarzuela in the Cubans, that would bear fruit in the next generations.

      However, the Spanish influence was not the only one. Cuban Zarzuela inspired also in the African roots of some of the population, with its characteristic rhythms, and also in the music of the French refugees from Haiti, especially in the Eastern part of the island.

      As early as 1791, Zarzuela was already being performed in Cuba. But it’s not until the 1850s were there is a brilliant generation of composers that will create Cuban Zarzuela. People like José Mauri, Gaspar Villate and Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes, also the author of some operas and operettas.

      During the 19th century, there was a Zarzuela season in La Habana almost every year. Even during the Ten Years War, between 1868 and 1878, that confronted Spain and Cuban’s pro-independence movement. In 1891, there were in the city two Opera Houses and two Zarzuela theaters.

      With the independence, there is also another bright generation of Cuban composers, that were at their peak in the 1920s and 1930s, and used the radio to spread their works. We can mention here Jorge Ankerman, Rodrigo Prats, Eliseo Grenet, and the two best known: Gonzalo Roig and Ernesto Lecuona.

      Lecuona is the more popular outside Cuba, and very appreciated in Spain, due to his three major Zarzuelas: “El cafetal”, “Rosa la china”, and “María la O”. His famous song, ‘Siboney’, is part of another Zarzuela, “La tierra de Venus”.

      But perhaps is Roig the composer of the most important Cuban Zarzuela, “Cecilia Valdés”. The plot takes place around the middle of the 19th century, in the estate of a rich Spanish colonist, whose son, Leonardo, is the lover of the mixed race girl Cecilia Valdés, but marries a damsel from Spain. In a rage of jealousy, Cecilia murders Leonardo, and intern herself at the ‘Hospital de Paula’. We can hear the touching lullaby she sings to her baby, Leonardo’s daughter:


      Gonzalo Roig. Ending of “Cecilia Valdés”, performed by Alina Sánchez (Soprano)
      DivShare File - 02_ Cecilia Valdes.mp3
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Third Destination: Veracruz


      From Cuba, we sail the dangerous Caribbean Sea, avoiding the pirates swarming there, in a beautiful ship named ‘Madrid’ (later she will be called ‘Moctezuma’). Finally we arrive to México, then still known as Nueva España (New Spain).

      In México, Zarzuela was not as succesful like in Cuba, though in the second half of the 19th century there were some composers writing works for the genre, especially after the first Zarzuela season, started by Manuel Moreno in 1858. The better known are Rafael Tello, Luis Jordá, Pedro Valdés Fraga and Trinidad Moreno. However, the quality of their pieces (titles like “San Crisóforo y anexas”, “Mariposa”, “Los de abajo”, “Soledad”, “Crisantema”) is not high, and they are rarely performed today.

      That’s why we will use a Spanish Zarzuela for our stay in México. Manuel Penella, the composer, lived in Latin America as a young man, working in many trades like soldier, taylor, bullfighter, painter, clown and sailor. After his return to Spain, he premiered in Barcelona, in 1932, “Don Gil de Alcalá”, a Zarzuela with a reduced orchestration (only strings). Penella will die some years later, in México of all places.

      “Don Gil de Alcalá” is the story of a love affair taking place in the city of Veracruz, southern México, at the end of the 19th century. The female leading role, Niña Estrella, is a mixed raced orphan. After the death of her mother, her bringing up was entrusted to the Governor of Veracruz, that wants to marry her to an old aristocrat, Don Diego. However, as one could imagine, Niña Estrella is already in love with a young and handsome soldier, Don Gil de Alcalá, which she met during a trip to Yucatán, another southern México province.

      While the Governor and Don Diego are travelling, their coach is assaulted by some bandits, but they are saved by Don Gil and his friend, Sergeant Carrasquilla. To celebrate the rescue, the Governor organizes a party, where Don Gil continues to woo Niña Estrella, and Carrasquilla fleeces don Diego while playing cards.

      Don Diego, understandably upset about his lost money, is afraid he can lost her fiancée too. He starts some investigations and soon discovers that Don Gil is an impostor and the assault was simulated. He even produces the false bandits, also very angry with Don Gil, that had conveniently forgot about paying them. The Governor is indignant, and he sent Don Gil to fight the Zacatecas Indians, that have started a rebellion.

      When all seemed to be lost for the young lovers, a servant overheads the Governor confession to a priest that he once fathered the child of a washerwoman, in Madrid. He is aware the mother died, but he lost track of the child. This information is sold to Don Gil, that uses it with great cunning in his farewell conversation with the Governor before going to war. The tricked Governor falls for this ruse, and embraces Don Gil as his lost son, and asks him to stay and marry Niña Estrella.

      We can hear the confession of the Governor to the confused priest. This number is for a bass duet. Both basses are buffo, and we can find traces of Don Bartolo and Don Basilio, from Il Barbiere.

      Manuel Penella. Bass duet from “Don Gil de Alcalá”, performed by Rafael Campos and Carlos Luque
      DivShare File - 03_ Penella_ Don Gil de Alcalá_ Venid_ p.mp3
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Fourth Destination: Valparaíso


      The Governor of Veracruz is happy after finding his false son, and he rent us some horses, that we are going to mount across Central America, Colombia and Perú, until arriving to Chile. In this country we will meet a bizarre group of people: Mochila, Soledad, Escolástico, Sir Clayron, Miss Ketty and doctor Mirabel, that are looking for Captain Grant and his treasure. Those are the characters created by Miguel Ramos Carrión for Manuel Fernández Caballero's zarzuela "Los sobrinos del capitán Grant", based of course in Jules Verne.

      After Mochila figures out the content of a fragmentary message found in the stomach of a sea bream, the group arrives to the Chilean city of Talcahuano, where people is celebrating Chile’s independence, and a chorus of female smokers is singing “If smoking is a vice in a man, in a female is such a grace”. After the chorus, the Chileans start dancing a ‘zamacueca’, a typical dance:

      Manuel Fernández-Caballero. Female smokers chorus and zamacueca from “Los sobrinos del Capitán Grant”, performed by Coro Cantores de Madrid
      DivShare File - 04_ Fdez-Caballero_ Sobrinos Capitán Gra.mp3

      About Chilean's Zarzuela, it’s a case similar to México. That means, there was a solid appreciation for the genre, but not any brilliant local composers or works. The Chilean Manuel Peña Muñoz, explains:

      In Chile, Zarzuela was popular, but the audience preferred Spanish music, and Spanish singers. At first there were seasons in cities like Copiapó and Iquique, or the Victoria Theater in Valparaíso. The best Chilean works were “El pasaporte” by Alberto Blest Gana, premiered in 1865, and others with historical backgrounds and creole characters, like “Una victoria a tiempo”, “Ir por lana” or “La redención de Chile”.

      There were also comic Zarzuela seasons at Teatro Romea, in Santiago, with titles like “La Gran Vía Mapocho” (1895) and “La Gran Avenida” (1897), mimicking the popular Spanish Zarzuela, “La Gran Vía”, placed in Madrid.

      This was important for Chile, encouraging the birth of a National Theater for the masses
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Fifth destination: Manila

      From Chile, instead of boarding the “Escocia”, destination Australia, we will sail with the “Irlanda” to the Philippines, where there is a very interesting Zarzuela tradition.

      Like in any other country, Zarzuela arrived to the Philippines by the visit of some Spanish travelling companies that performed the pieces more popular at the mother country. The first ones were “Jugar con fuego” and “El barberillo de Lavapiés”, by maestro Francisco Asenjo Barbieri. The local population just loved Zarzuela, and very soon there were Filipinos writing librettos and music. Those Zarzuelas are not in Spanish, but rather in the vernacular languages, especially tagalo. Some were even recorded later for the cinema.

      So popular were there, that some were also used by the Independent Filipino Party to advance its cause. That is the case of the first Zarzuelas written by people like Severino Reyes, from 1878 onwards, that were anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic. After the islands were put under an American protectorate since 1898, the genre evolved to anti-American, supporting independence and socialism. Pieces like “Pobres y ricos” by Isabelo de los Reyes, about the living conditions of the working class, or “Bagong Cristo” by Aurelio Tolentino, that end in a demonstration of workers and peasants celebrating the First of May. This is very far from traditional Spanish Zarzuela.

      Sarswuela (the Filipino name for Zarzuela) was then a kind of revolutionary genre, and there were frequent police raids in the theaters. An early example is “Walang Sugat” (I’m not injured), by Fulgencio Tolentino (music) and Severino Reyes (libretto), that were imprisoned by the Spanish autorities. The plot involves a young guy, Tenyong (tenor), that abandones her fiancée, Julia, to join the Filipino fighters for the independence. Julia’s mother wants her to marry the rich Miguel, and she finally agrees. As could be expected, Tenyong appears the day of the wedding and rescue Julia. A parallel line criticizes the Spaniards and the opression of the local population.

      This is a fragment, where the Filipino people are joining the uprising one by one, in a similar manner to the end of the First Act of the musical “Les Misérables”:

      Fulgencio Tolentino. Scene and Chorus from “Walang Sugat”. Ateneo de la Universidad de Manila
      DivShare File - 05a_ Tolentino_ Walang Sugat 1_ Coro.mp3


      Another example, when the tenor praying for the triumph of the insurrection and the love of Julia;


      Fulgencio Tolentino. Romanza of “Walang Sugat”. Ateneo de la Universidad de Manila
      DivShare File - 05b_ Tolentino_ Walang Sugat 2_ Romanza d.mp3
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Sixth Destination: Delhi

      After the Philippines, we board again a ship, destination India. We are in the times of the British Raj, and we can even meet Mr. Fogg himself, immersed in his Around the World in Eighty Days project.

      Leaving Mr. Fogg aside, there are two groups of Spaniards in India, with strange objectives of their own. First, the characters of “El niño judío” are searching for a particular Raja, that they believe is the father of one of them.

      Second, there are the people from “El trust de los tenorios”, a Zarzuela with airs of Revue, written by José Serrano. The ‘trust’ is a Madrilenian club with only male members, whose social purpose is simply to seduce as many women as possible. One of the associates, Saboya, is going to be expelled, unless he is able to win over the fist woman passing under the club’s balcony. By ill chance, this woman is Isabel, the wife of the club’s President, Mr. Cabrera. To protect his wife, Cabrera invites the surprised Isabel to a ‘Grand Voyage’ visiting Paris, Venice and India, but they are followed by Saboya. In Paris, they meet an old family friend, Arturo, a painter, that share with them the rest of the journey. When Isabel notices she is the prize of a competition between her husband and Saboya, she escapes with Arturo.

      This was not a frequently staged Zarzuela, but in a very recent performance in Madrid, the genre’s aficionados were able to watch numbers like this oriental dance, when Saboya is asking for the help of an Indian priestess to find Isabel:


      José Serrano. Oriental dance from “El trust de los tenorios”, performed by Graciela Moncloa and Teatro de la Zarzuela Chorus
      DivShare File - 06_ Serrano_ El trust de los tenorios_ In.mp3
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Seventh destination: Damascus

      After crossing India riding an elephant, à la Fogg, we finally arrive under a hot sun to Delhi and take a train to Damascus, the splendid capital of the Umayyad Caliphate.

      And we reach the city just in time to learn about the heroic efforts of the beautiful Zobeida to get paid a debt and overcome poverty. But the debtor, an evil doctor, don’t want to pay, and neither the Qadi nor the Grand Vizier will make him pay, unless Zobeida will grant them sexual favors, what she refuses, being faithful to her husband. Fortunately, the Caliph is travelling the country in disguise, and having witnessed the depravity of the doctor and the two high-ranking officials, he dispossess them at pay the debt to Zobeida’s husband.

      This is the plot of maestro Pablo Luna’s zarzuela “El asombro de Damasco”, that was enthusiastically received by the audience, with more than one hundred performances in the first three months, and was even translated to English. A good part of the success is due to this wonderful duet between Zobeida and the Grand Vizier Nuredhin, that is trying to seduce her, but after his failure dismiss the unfortunate woman with a terrible, “Let’s Allah do justice to you, there is nothing I can do”:

      Pablo Luna. Nuredhin and Zobeida's Duet from “El asombro de Damasco”, performed by Manuel Ausensi and Toñy Rosado:
      DivShare File - 07_ El asombro de Damasco.mp3
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Eight destination: Kiev


      At Damascus we join a caravan of merchants that is going North. We get around the Eastern Black Sea, and stop to rest already in Southern Ukraine (then still part of the Russian Empire), at a nice inn.

      We have arrived just after the stormy days of the October Revolution. Prince Sergio, the only member of the Imperial family not captured by the soviets, arrives also at the inn. All the guests are Zarists and they offer to help, but the Prince declines, because of the danger they will get into. But he does want their assistance for the young girl Katiuska, that is travelling with him. The Prince leaves, and then appears the political commissar of the Kiev’s soviet, Pedro Stakoff. He pretends to arrest the Prince and claim the taxes from the peasants. Stakoff is leading a platoon of soldiers, that try to rape Katiuska, but Stakoff himself saves her. After this event, it’s the turn of Katiuska to save Stakoff hiding him in her room, as he was about to be lynched by the peasants refusing to pay any taxes.

      Once the danger is over, everyone just relax, at the end of the First Act, that will be our hearing today. It starts with a sextet of some guests planning to escape to Paris, while others are teasing Katiuska about the man she is hiding in her room. When finally they retire, Stakoff flees while the lonely Katiuska prays to the Moon and the stars not to bright that night, so the commissar’s escape will be successful, because she is in love with him.

      Pablo Sorozábal. Ending of “Katiuska” First Act, performed by Pilar Lorengar and Renato Cesari
      DivShare File - 07 El reloj de las diez ya dio.mp3

      In the Second Act we discover that Katiuska is the Czarina’s daughter. On the other hand, Stakoff has arrested the Prince and some of his followers and should deliver them to the soviet’s custody, or rather to yield to Katiuska’s request for mercy. Finally the People High Commissar releases the followers, but retains the Prince that will undergo trial, and gives Katiuska the choice between leaving Russia as a member of the Imperial Family, or stay as a regular citizen. Katiuska decides to live in Russia with his beloved Stakoff.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Ninth destination: the Great Hungarian Plain

      Once in Europe, there are many possibilities open. We could go to Norway (“El anillo de hierro”), England (“La generala”), Holland (“Molinos de viento”), Brittany (“La tempestad”), Naples (“La canción del olvido”),… But we travel out of Revolutionary Russia in the car of a rich landowner from Ukraine, a De Dion-Bouton fresh from the factory, and we are entering Hungary and there is also a Zarzuela taking place that country.

      The name of the zarzuela is “Romanza húngara”, and his composer is Joan Dotrás Vila. The plot is about some difficult love story between Marielsa, a young Hungarian, and Istvan, a breeder of colts that travels from one village to another. The place is the puzsta, the Great Hungarian Plain. The time, beginnings of the 20th century.

      The romanza of Istvan is well known, but here we are going to present a duet, “No esperes, no”, with Marielsa reproaching Istvan his flirting with another woman, while the young man refuses to give any explanation on the incident.

      Joan Dotrás Vila. Duet from “Romanza húngara”, performed by Marcos Redondo and María Teresa Planas.
      DivShare File - 09_ Dotrás Vila_ Romanza hungara_ Dúo _.mp3
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Tenth destination: Venice


      We are relatively close to Venice, so we are heading now to the lagoon city, and we arrive in style, in a balloon. There are many zarzuelas (and operas) taking place in Venice, with its canals, its gondolas, its gondoliers, ist mischievous Dux… Let’s select “La Dogaresa”, a zarzuela by Rafael Millán in which the love affair between the beautiful Marietta and the gondolier Paolo is menaced by the Dux, that also aspires to the young lady’s favours, and send his henchmen to take her to the palace, and get married the day after.

      In the Second Act, Paolo is going to rescue his lover before this marriage with the Dux. During the night he crept up stealthily with his gondola to the palace’s steps. Well, perhaps not too stealthily as he is singing a Barcarole, that is the fragment we are going to hear from this zarzuela:


      Rafael Millán. “Ya duerme Venecia tranquila”, from “La dogaresa”, performed by Carlos Munguía.
      DivShare File - 10_ Millán_ La dogaresa_ Barcarola _Ya d.mp3


      Paolo’s plan is discovered and he is arrested and sentenced to die. In desperation, Marietta recruits the help of the sinister buffoon Miccone, at the very reasonable price of a caress. While Paolo is carried to the scaffold, he meets the Holy Viaticum, and the local custom is that in those cases, the criminal is pardoned. The zarzuela ends with Miccone announcing that the Viaticum is for the Dux, that has been murdered (by Miccone himself, incidentally). This is one of the few deaths we can find in a zarzuela.
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      Schigolch -
      Eleventh destination: Paris

      There is a bankers’s mission parting from medieval Venice to Paris, and we just follow them. We arrive to the French capital in the 1850s. This is the time for ambitious story-lines, flamboyant stagings, ballets, Five Acts,… in short, this is the time for Grand Opéra, that was at its zenith, with composers like Meyerbeer or Auber, and a librettist like Eugène Scribe.

      In this joyful atmosphere brought about by the Second Empire, two young artists: Roberto and Víctor, a composer and a librettist, are trying to get along. They suffer from material deprivations but they are good natured and full of life. In the same building, Cosette is a girl that would like to be an opera singer. Roberto has never met her, and he is angry when she starts to sing and distracts him from his work, a new opera he is writing. However, Cosette is secretly in love with Roberto, and she likes to spy on his progress with the opera with the help of the concierge, that opens the door to let her peek the score.

      Cosette feels some little remorse about acting this way, even when encouraged by the concierge, Pelagia, because everything is fair in love and war. In her dream, she would like to be succesful as a singer, and then Roberto will love her:

      Amadeo Vives. Cosette's Romanza from “Bohemios”, performed by María Bayo.
      DivShare File - Vives_ Bohemios_ Pensar sólo en él.mp3


      In the streets of a snow-covered Paris, while the bohemians are singing praise to their freedom, Roberto and Cosette finally meet. As could be expected, Roberto falls for the girl instantly and Cosette convinces him to attend her next audition at the Opera House, awarded through the patronage of Monsieur Girard. Roberto and Víctor arrive together at the audition, and hear Cosette singing the love aria written by them. Roberto realizes Cosette is indeed his annoying neighbour, while the three of them are cheered by the audience. Before them there is a promising professional life, and a forthcoming wedding.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Twelfth destination: Madrid


      The last stage of our journey, by stagecoach this time, will take us back to Madrid, During the few days that we will be travelling across France and Spain, let’s think about what we have seen and heard, to reach some conclusions.

      First, we have verified there was Zarzuela out of Spain. In the Spanish overseas dominions, Latin America and the Philippines, there were many composers producing zarzuelas, and in Cuba or Philippines, of a great quality, and playing an important role in politics and society.

      Of Spanish Zarzuela proper, we have found three exotic pieces: “Los sobrinos del capitán Grant”, “El trust de los tenorios” and “El niño judío”. This unusual background was used to present comical, funny situations, at the manner of an “L’italiana in Algeri” or “Die Entführung aus dem Serail”, rather than in other operas were Orientalism is shrouded in mistery, legend, tragedy… like “Lakmé”, ‘Les pêcheurs de perles” or “Aida”.

      However, in other Zarzuelas taking place out of Spain, but in much closer geographies, there is usually a more sober treatment, more tender love affairs, more lyricism. Let’s think on “La dogaresa” or “Bohemios”. Also, the composers liked to introduce some musical quotes easily recognizable by the audience, such as a ‘fado’, a ‘barcarole’ or even the telltale signature of the ¾ rhythm of an Austrian waltz.

      We can also note that many Zarzuelas are not only far away in space, but in time, too: Philipp the Second's reign, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Venice of the Dux,.. The most modern subject we have found is from ‘Katiuska’, back in the 1930s. This remoteness was sometimes used by composers and librettists to introduce some social and politics undertones, that were rarely present in Zarzuelas located in Spain.

      Once in Madrid, we come down the stagecoach just in the center of the old town, in the Plaza Mayor, and start to sing, with Plácido Domingo:

      Moreno Torroba: 'De este apacible rincón de Madrid', from “Luisa Fernanda”. Plácido Domingo.
      DivShare File - 12_ Moreno Torroba_ Luisa Fernanda_ De es.mp3
    1. Loge's Avatar
      Loge -
      Now, when we have finished our trip around the world, I wish to thank to Schigolch his splendid translation labour. He has done a great work, and I'm very pleased about the result. And I hope this have served to interest to you in this beautiful genre that is zarzuela!


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