Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Zarzuela- a guide

A zarzuela performance

is a type of opera which orginates in Spain and has been performed since the 17th century. It sometimes includes elements of dance and other types of song and is accompanied by an orchestra. The genre can be divided into two distinct periods; baroque (the earliest form) and romantic which dates from the mid 19th centry up to modern times. The name zarzuela comes from the Palacio de Zarzuela, a residence of the King of Spain and where it was first perfomed in the 1650s.

A poster for Vives's Doña Francisquita

Early pieces were influenced greatly by classical mythology and religion, whilst in the 18th century it became more influenced by Italian operatic styles and more traditional styles fell out of fashion. By the 19th century, zarzuelas became rather like costume dramas and told the tale of every day life as well as containing lots of popular slang and colloquialisms. As many people could not afford the cost of the theatre, smaller variety theatres sprang up so working class people too could enjoy perfomances. The popularity of zarzuela continued into the 20th centry, with significant figures such as Catalan born Amadeo Vives emerging. However with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil war in 1936, the genre began to decline rapidly and very little has been composed since then. It was perhaps the emergence of recordings by international opera stars such as Placido Domingo which saved zarzuela from extinction. The genre has also been exported to other Spanish speaking countries, notably Cuba and Mexico where performance styles have been mixed with local culture. Likewise the Basque Country and Catalonia have their own versions. Zarzuela is still popularly enjoyed today amongst Spanish people and tourists will find plenty of places to see a show. We recommend:

El Teatro de la Zarzuela (dedicated to the genre)
Teatros del Canal (they include various performances in their varied programme of productios)
Zarzuela.net (contains zarzuela listings)

Famous zarzuela pieces:

El Golfo de la Sirenas- Calderón de la Barca (one of the earliest pieces)
Pan y Toros- Francisco Barbieri
El Juramento- Joaquín Gaztambide
La Gran Vía- Federico Chueca
El Barberillo de Lavapiés- Francisco Barbier
Los Claveles- José Serrano
Bohemios- Amadeo Vives
Doña Francisquita- Amadeo Vives
El Huesped del Sevillano- Jacinto Guerrero

If you are still interested in the genre, we have written up the story and history of El Barberillo de Lavapiés. Click to visit.
Here's a video of Spanish soprano star Mayca Teba, who has perfomed globally and alongside greats such as Plácido Domingo, singing Dúo Pero Capitan from the zarzuela La Canción del Olvido. To hear more of Mayca's music, visit www.maycateba.com

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