ANTOLOGÍA DE LA ZARZUELA, a history
The Amadeo Vives Lyric Company was for many years the device through which José Tamayo joined staging modernity with the Spanish Zarzuela. The experience he achieved as Stage Director of great classic theatre plays, in managing movement of performers, scene and lighting, allowed him to treat Zarzuela like a musical. Antología de la Zarzuela was the result of a long production process.
The first idea behind this show was born between the end of 1964 and the beginning of 1965 in Geneva (Switzerland), where Tamayo was in repose treatment after a decade of strong work. There he thought through the idea of a show made up by the most brilliant passages of Spanish lyrical repertoire. José Herrera, a Spanish writer exiled in Switzerland, suggested him to start the Antología with a Loa (prologue) written by the XVII century Spanish theatre author Calderón de la Barca. That idea seemed interesting to Tamayo and he selected “El Laurel de Apolo”, one of the first Zarzuelas, written in the XVII century. There, one of its characters play the role of “La Zarzuela” and defines properly this genre: “It’s not comedy, but a little fable which, in imitation of Italy, is sung and performed at once”
During the last weeks in Switzerland Tamayo had designed his Antología perfectly. At his arrival in Spain he got down to work, and the show was premiered in Barcelona, in Parque de la Ciutadella. For15 days an audience of 30.000 were able to enjoy the Antología de la Zarzuela. After this premier the show was performed in Madrid (Plaza Mayor), Seville (Plaza de España) and many other cities around Spain and all over the world.
The pieces that were part of the repertoire were obviously a selection of composers that were key in the history of the Spanish lyrical genre: Barbieri, Fernández Caballero, Chueca, Chapí, Bretón, Giménez, Vives, Serrano, Luna, Guridi, Penella, Soutullo, Vert, Alonso, Guerrero, Moreno Torroba and Sorozábal.
Leading figures of Spanish lyrical theater have always participated in all the Antologías de la Zarzuela. Mentioning all of them would make a very long list, but we can name some of the unquestionable: Ángeles Chamorro, Mari Carmen Ramírez, Pedro Lavirgen and exceptionally in special performances Victoria de los Ángeles, Montserrat Caballé, Josep Carreras or Plácido Domingo.
Antología de la Zarzuela has been the Spanish stage show with the most extensive life, from 1965, a quarter of a century of continued presence in the marquees. Leaving Spain aside, we find tours throughout the main theatres in Amsterdam, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, La Habana, Las Vegas, Lisbon, London, Miami, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Mexico, Paris, Beijing, Sicilia, Singapore, Tokyo, Washington, and many other cities in the USA, Latin America and Europe.
Excluding Latin American capitals, the audience of other cities could see and enjoy Zarzuela for the first time. Music and theatre critics of the main newspapers have lavished great praise to Tamayo’s creation. They got to know opera and musicals, but not this Spanish genre. Here was a surprise, hundreds of natural and sincere opinions were written, without any kind of manipulation or publicity interest. One of them of a critic of Washington Post, brief and expressive, summarizes what this show caused: “It’s a show of captivating brilliance and stylish details”.
Nuevo Apolo Theatre (Madrid). Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras. 1991
Madison Square Garden (New York). Plácido Domingo. 1985
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (Madrid). 1979
In 1657 at the Royal Palace of El Pardo, King Philip IV of Spain, Queen Mariana and their court attended the first performance of a new comedy by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, with music by Juan de Hidalgo. El Laurel de Apolo traditionally symbolises the birth of a new musical genre which had become known as La Zarzuela —after one of the King's hunting lodges, situated in a remote countryside thick with zarzas or brambles.
La Zarzuela was often visited by clowns and actors from the city of Madrid, and perhaps the piece Calderón and Hidalgo provided, running the theatrical gamut from classical opera to low slapstick and popular song —a bit like Dryden's work with Purcell in England— reminded the courtiers of a typical La Zarzuela entertainment.
Calderón —the greatest playwright of the day. Hidalgo —the best Spanish composer. They ushered in a new and swiftly developed form of Baroque entertainment in which witty, pithy libretti were to be matched by music of high quality and extraordinary diversity. A charming example (available on Auvidis Valois CD) is Viento es la Dicha de Amor ("Wind is the poetry of love" - 1743) with music by José de Nebra), a mixture of blank verse and prose, opera arias, short choruses with a flavour of Monteverdi, popular songs with castanets and delectably orchestrated instrumental interludes.
The coming of Italian opera composers made the native form increasingly unfashionable, though as late as 1786 Boccherini wrote a zarzuela for the palace of La Puerta de la Vega in Madrid: La Clementina is a scandalously neglected masterpiece of Spanish lyric theatre, to a libretto by the poet Don Ramón de la Cruz, the Spanish rival to Metastasio. Clearly, the zarzuela was still worthy of the highest talents Spain could muster.
THE GOLDEN AGE
After a fallow period —money was short and Spain reduced to a low ebb of prosperity, artistic creativity and morale— we reach the second half of the 19th Century, the Golden Age of the Zarzuela.
As at first, the essence of the new flowering was the exotic mixture of genres —zarzuela is not going to appeal to anyone who likes their theatre 'purely' one thing or the other. The classic pieces of the time are a potent brew of sophisticated musical ensembles and arias, mixed in with verse and prose dialogue, popular songs and lowlife comedy characters. Some are long and operatic in scope —the género grande. Others are short, often gently titillating one-act farces, mostly set in the less salubrious parts of Madrid —parts all too well known to many of the pleasure-seeking men in the audience, at least. These are the immensely popular sainete and género chico zarzuelas. In between, there are zarzuelas of all shapes and sizes, overflowing with every flavour of musical theatre.
Barbieri, properly regarded as the musical founding father of the 19th century movement, wrote zarzuelas which remind us of Rossini, Donizetti, Viennese operetta and even Gilbert and Sullivan (compare, for example, the troop of policemen in his masterpiece El Barberillo de Lavapiés with their roughly contemporary colleagues in The Pirates of Penzance).
With Barbieri, as with his great contemporaries such as Bretón, Chapí, Chueca and Caballero musical originality is not as high a priority as vitality, theatricality and sophisticated style. And, as with Sullivan in England, these composers are at their best when, paradoxically, they seem to be taking things easiest. Their individual flavour comes across more strongly in the zarzuelas than in their more "serious" concert, church and operatic works.
If there is a single reason for this, it lies in one fact —Madrid. The spirit, sights and sounds of the capital pervade nearly all the great zarzuelas, large or small, from this classic period —and of many from the 20th century. Even the composers who came from outside the city or the country, from Boccherini through to the basque Guridi, became steeped in its heady atmosphere, madrileños heart and soul just as much as the natives such as Chueca or the great writer Perez de Galdós. Many of the very best zarzuelas take their life from their madrileño setting,including Bretón's classic La Verbena de la Paloma and Chapí's equally beloved La Revoltosa.
THE 20th CENTURY
The first half of the new century saw the repertoire enriched by a huge quantity of work. Some of the composers —Vives, Sorozábal, Torroba— are at least a match technically and imaginatively for the previous generation. The 20th century sees a diversification of the range of the zarzuela, tragic verismo shockers like Las Golondrinas (by Usandizaga) jostling with exotic operetta (Luna's El Niño Judío) and small-town musical (Guerrero's Los Gavilanes).
Yet the most enduring works of the 1920's and 30's —Vives' Doña Francisquita and Torroba's Luisa Fernanda— are firmly rooted in the madrileño tradition, with its tonadillas, fandangos and habaneras. These composers, with others of at least equal popularity such as Serrano and Alonso, were well aware of contemporary trends in Italian, French and German music, without ever losing sight of the debt they owed to their great Spanish predecessors. This lends their zarzuelas a flavour unlike anything else in the operatic repertoire.
With the onset of the Civil War, the zarzuela is more or less played out as a vital form. Only the evergreen and chameleon Sorozábal kept the form alive into the 1950's, and his later productions, such as the civil war allegory Black, el Payaso and the urbane Don Manolito, increasingly come to resemble Broadway musicals as much as earlier zarzuelas. The legacy of nearly one hundred years and thousands of works remains incomparably rich.
WRITERS 17th CENTURY
Much has been written about the composers of zarzuela, very much less about the merits of the writers who put their plays at the musicians' service. Yet the text is the main vehicle for the comedy, the satire, the drama, the characters and their feelings at every period of the zarzuela. In most cases, at least half of the running time will be "straight" theatre without music. These texts vary from brilliant to anodyne or worse, but the finest writers created a body of high quality work which sets the Spanish lyric theatre apart from comparable forms.
Many of the playwrights of the Spanish Golden Age gave space to music within their theatrical work. This was a period where inertia in scientific studies was mirrored by brilliant innovation in literature and the arts, and Lope de Vega led the way in allowing music a new dynamism within the drama. During the career of his successor Pedro Calderón de la Barca we first see native works striving to strike a balance between words and music. With Calderon that the history of the zarzuela begins, a history dominated in the 17th century by verse texts on mythological and quasi-historical topics, but with that same admixture of popular elements that has characterised zarzuela throughout its existence
The onslaught of Italian opera gradually forced native opera into smaller compass, and the 18th century is the high water mark of the short tonadilla and sainete — the equivalents of the Italian intermezzi such as La Serva Padrona and Pimpinone. The outstanding writer of tonadillas was Don Ramón de la Cruz, whose texts broke the mythological mould of earlier times by reflecting popular life and speech. Short, with little plot, character was the mainstay of the tonadilla, the bud which was to blossom into the all—conquering género chico late in the following century.
The zarzuela itself went into temporary eclipse. Longer native examples, by de la Cruz and others, adopted Italian models as to versification, style and content.
EARLY 19th CENTURY
Not until the 1850’s do the full-length native drama resurface. The growth of nationalist consciousness brought about the birth of the modern or romantic zarzuela, a mighty movement
in which writers such as Ventura de la Vega, Luis de Olona, Luis Mariano de Larra and Francisco
Camprodón were at least as proactive as their better known musical colleagues.
French was the dominant cultural force of the time, and these playwrights drew their plots more or less from French romantic plays, mixing aristocratic courtiers with their servants in populist settings. Their chosen form was the three-act zarzuela grande. Their chosen literary means was elegant, formal verse.
LATER 19th CENTURY
A return to the aesthetic of Don Ramón de la Cruz, led by Ventura's son Ricardo de la Vega, brought about another shift in the literary course of zarzuela. The género chico is chico ("little") by virtue of length, not quality or potential complexity. Writers tended to write such pieces in one act, lasting about an hour. Originally they were text only, but music was soon incorporated. Subject matter is simple, clear and comedic, mixing sentimental and cynical, romantic and realistic, machismo with submission to the superior intelligence of women. The prime characteristic of género chico is its root in madrileño culture, the life of the people, presented for the people. Verse drama gives way to vernacular prose, rhyme and metre being reserved for the cantables, or sung parts. Certain words and expressions, otherwise without meaning, made their appearance in these cantable sections.
Inevitably, many texts from this period are superficial, implausible and slipshod, relying on cheap vulgarity and easy laughs. Still, many good writers emerged during this new Golden Age, admirable for their fluent dialogue, clear characterisation and wit —as well as their facility to dovetail "book and lyrics" seamlessly. Of these Carlos Arniches was the greatest, though the Alvarez Quintero brothers, Miguel Echegaray, Guillermo Perrín & Miguel de Palacios, and Miguel Ramos Carrión are almost equally noteworthy.
After the first decade of the new century, the focus of zarzuela again changes. The three-act zarzuela grande reappears. The influence of Viennese operetta, with its exotic settings and situations, pervades the madrileño género chico. Sophisticated literary content becomes the norm, as zarzuela comes to be more carefully planned —in contrast to the revistas ("revues") which were quickly written and performed to popular audiences without much thought as to artistic longevity.
Figures such as Federico Romero & Guillermo Fernández Shaw, Anselmo C. Carreño, and Luis Fernández de Sevilla carried on the work of the best zarzuela playwrights, employing scrupulous and varied theatrical craft, sophisticated versification and structure, plus an awareness of the great tradition from which they had emerged. If these later writers occasionally lack the fresh, vital originality of the earlier generation, they make up for it in solid technique and consistency.
© Christopher Webber.
Our gratitude to Christopher Webber and his wonderful web www.zarzuela.net.
Director: ANTONIO RAMALLO
Conductor: JOSÉ ANTONIO IRASTORZA
Choreography: MARÍA DEL SOL and MARIO LAVEGA (recreating original choreography by ALBERTO LORCA)
- 4 soloist sopranos
- 2 soloist tenors
- 2 soloist baritones
- 12 dancers
- 20 choir singers
- 7 first violins
- 2 second violins
- 2 violas
- 2 cellos
- 1 double bass
- 2 flutes
- 2 oboes
- 2 clarinets
- 2 horns
- 2 trumpets
- 1 trombones
- 1 bassoon
- 2 percussion
Loa, El Laurel de Apolo, Calderón de la Barca.
Soloists and Orchestra.
El Barberillo de Lavapies, F. A. Barbieri.
(Selection). Orchestra, soloists, chorus, ballet, actors
Los Diamantes de la Corona, F. A. Barbieri.
Bolero “Niñas que a vender flores”. Soprano-mezzo duet.
La Revoltosa, R. Chapí.
(Selection). Soloists, chorus, ballet.
La Verbena de la Paloma, T. Bretón.
El Barbero de Sevilla, G. Giménez y M. Nieto.
“Me llaman la Primorosa”. Soloist.
La Tempranica, G. Giménez.
(Selection). Soloists, chorus and ballet.
La Reina Mora, J. Serrano.
(Selection). Soloists and ballet.
La Tabernera del Puerto, P. Sorozabal.
Leandro aria: “¡No puede ser! Esa mujer es buena”
Mariola aria: “En un país de fábula”. Soloists.
La Calesera, F. Alonso.
Passacaglia “Los Chisperos”. Soloists, chorus, ballet, actors.
Carmen, G. Bizet.
(Selection). Soloists, chorus, ballet, actors.
Emigrantes, R. Calleja y T. Barrera.
Tenor aria: “Adiós Granada, Granada mía”.
La Boda de Luis Alonso, G. Giménez.
La Parranda, F. Alonso.
Tribute to Murcia: “En la huerta del Segura”. Tenor, chorus.
El Dúo de La Africana, M. Fernández Caballero.
Duet: “No cantes más La Africana, vente conmigo a Aragón”. Soprano and tenor.
La Bruja, R. Chapí.
Jota (End act one): “No extrañéis, no, que se escapan”. Tenor, chorus, ballet.
Las Hijas de Zebedeo, R. Chapí.
Carceleras: “Al pensar en el dueño de mis amores”. Soprano.
Gigantes y Cabezudos, M. Fernández Caballero.
(Selection). Soloists, chorus, ballet, actors and all the company.
ANTONIO RAMALLO (Director)
Born in Badajoz (Spain) where he started his musical training before studying at a drama school in Madrid. He made his first professional appearance together with the actress Mari Carrillo and later extended his activity to musical comedy, radio and television. He later joined the Escuela Superior de Canto in Madrid and makes his debut as baritone in Teatro de la Zarzuela (Madrid) where he remained 8 years as part of the Compañía Lírica Nacional. Throughout the last years he has toured all over the world with the Antología de la Zarzuela under the great director José Tamayo, working as lead baritone and assistant director. As director he has specialized in zarzuela and opera in Spain, France, Romania and Poland.
JOSÉ ANTONIO IRASTORZA (Conductor)
Born in Irún, José Antonio Irastorza received his musical upbringing between Spain and Paris, side by side to great masters like François Adoff and Jean Clement Jollet. From 1995 he has conducted in a long list of Spanish theatres, among them Euskalduna (Bilbao), Colón (A Coruña), Gayarre (Pamplona), Calderón (Valladolid); Gran Vía, Nuevo Teatro Alcalá, Teatro Príncipe, Teatro Reina Victoria and Calderón (Madrid) and Palau de la Música in Valencia. He has conducted orchestras like the Sinfónica de Valencia, National of México, BIOS of Bilbao or José Tamayo's Antología de la Zarzuela Orchestra among others. He has been invited to the most important Spanish and international festivals. He has conducted more than 20 operas, 23 musical comedies and 50 zarzuelas. José Antonio Irastorza was the last conductor under José Tamayo.
ALBERTO LORCA (Original choreographer)
Alberto Lorca, whose original name was Albrecht van Aerssen Nicols is a leading figure of the twentieth century Spanish dance who first worked as dancer, choreographer and director and has left behind his steps a large footprint. He began learning this discipline while in Madrid, next to Luisa Pericet, El Estampío and Karen Taft. His first public appearance as a dancer in 1945 took place in the Teatro Español in Madrid. Two years later, he entered the great teacher Pilar López's Company of dance, where he remained until 1954. It was not until 1960 when Alberto Lorca founded his own group, the Lorquiana Company, which preceded the 1975 one that would give more notoriety to his career: the Ballet Festivales de España. As creator, Alberto Lorca leaves behind a wide range of creations that began in 1956, when he was appointed choreographer at Teatro de la Zarzuela, and ended a little less than a decade ago. His work for the Ballet Nacional de España and Ritmos (1984) Antología de la Zarzuela and Doña Francisquita (1985) stand out among his work. Other creations for the company headed by Felipe Sánchez are Fandango del Candil (1999) and Zapateado (1999).
MARIO LAVEGA (Choreographic review)
Born in Cordoba (Spain), he started his artistic career as a guitarist, and later studied dance with some of the most important Spanish dancers at the time: Alberto Lorca, José Granero, Pedro Azorín and Victoria Eugenia. In 1968 he creates together with María del Sol and Ángel García the Ballet Español Antología company that performed in Barcelona’s opera house Gran Teatre del Liceu and in Bari (Italia) the operas Carmen and La Dolores. In 1973 Lavega and María del Sol are invited to participate in the germ of what would later become the current Ballet Nacional de España, at the time named Ballet Folklórico Festivales de España and Ballet Nacional Festivales de España. In 1976 he leaves this company and starts a tour around Europe and America with the Antología Ballet. In 1981 together with María del Sol he starts working with the director José Tamayo and becomes a member of the Antología de la Zarzuela that tours all over the world. In 1988 Mario Lavega retired permanently as lead dancer and focused his professional life into choreography in USA and Spain.
MARÍA DEL SOL (Choreographic review)
Born in Santander, María del Sol studied dance and ballet from the age of seven with the Spanish dance stars Karen Taft, José Granero, Pilarín Muñoz, Alberto Lorca, Ángel García and Luisa Pericet. She worked as lead dancer with Rafael de Córdoba and Carmen Mora. In 1968 she created the Ballet Español Antología company together with Mario Lavega, Ángel García and Alberto Lorca. Two years later she joined the Compañía Lírica Nacional and later danced in the Ballet Español Antología until the creation of the Ballet Folklórico Festivales de España, curently named Ballet Nacional de España. She leaves this company in 1976 to start an international tour around Europe and America. In 1981 she starts her collaboration with José Tamayo and becomes a part the Antología de la Zarzuela.