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Subject: Re: Spanish opera
From: "ls111553 ." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:ls111553 .
Date:Sat, 23 Dec 2017 17:16:02 +0000

text/plain (162 lines)

Although I'm not big a zarzuela enthusiast, I do enjoy many wonderful
tunes, like the prelude to Bretón's La Dolores, which to me has always been
"the mother of all jotas". But there is a handful of works that I love but
which seldom "export" well, as they rely on a more than passing familiarity
with their regional context and performers to whom this comes naturally in
order to "speak" to their audiences. The same can be said of Viennese
operettas and such. We may enjoy what we hear, but some key elements of
style and background not always go beyond passport check. It is a joy to
experience El rey que rabió, Gigantes y cabezudos, the very tongue-in-cheek
Las Leandras (is there a "catchier" tune than Los nardos?) in Madrid, with
a cast that "gets" it right. That said, whenever a "Domingoish" tenor
breaks into "No puede ser" as an encore, I head straight to the parking
lot, muttering exactly those words with a couple of "regional"
embellishments added.

Ah, the WNO upper-crusty set! Recently, at Kennedy Center, I was introduced
to someone who turned out to be a very agreeable person, but whose first
line of conversation (right after "pleased to meet you") was "I grew up in
Ecuador, but my father did not allow us to learn any Spanish. Only French
and German". I suppose he didn't mean anything unpleasant, but the opening
statement was kind of a shaker. Anyway, a quick look at the names listed as
main donors on the WNO program, may have given the lady you mention an idea
of how many "maids" make it possible for her to listen to opera in
"civilized" languages... while reading surtitles!

On Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 4:36 PM Alain Letort <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Idia and List:
> I don’t know whether Idia’s definition of “Spanish opera” includes
> “zarzuelas.”  I am
> assuming that it does, because the vast majority of of Spanish musical
> theatre pieces
> consists of “zarzuelas,” which, like French “opéra-comiques,” include
> quite a bit of spoken
> dialogue.  As Wikipedia puts it, “early [Spanish] operas, however, failed
> to catch the
> imagination of the Spanish public. It was not until the increasing
> popularity of such genres
> as ballad opera and opéra-comique that opera in Spain started to gain
> momentum, since
> the use of speech in the vernacular inevitably encouraged Spanish
> composers to develop
> their own national style of opera: zarzuela.”
> Some twenty years ago, at the urging of Plácido Domingo, who was its
> Artistic Director at
> the time, The Washington Opera staged a couple of zarzuelas, in which I
> was privileged to
> be a super : “El Gato Montés” by Manuel Penella and “Doña Francisquita” by
> Amedeo Vives.
> Wikipedia actually classifies a“El Gato Montés” as an opera, but Domingo
> and TWO referrred
> to it as a zarzuela, so who knows. A few years ago I saw a performance of
> the zarzuela
> “Luisa Fernanda” by Federico Moreno Torroba at the beautiful Palacio de
> Bellas Artes in
> Mexico City (the opera house boasts a terrific stained-glass stage curtain
> by Louis Comfort
> Tiffany, which I believe is the only one of its kind in the world.)
> “El Gato Montés” includes the world-famous “paso doble” which in the
> popular imagination
> is always invariably linked to bullfights.  It can be heard at
> .  A full performance of “Doña
> Francisquita” (Gran Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona, 1987, with Alfredo Kraus)
> can be seen at
> I enjoyed all three of these zarzuelas/opera tremendously.  Of the three,
> I liked “Doña
> Francisquita” best on account of the smashing tunes and gay (as in merry)
> and colorful
> dancing numbers it was filled with.  I actually was given a couple of
> spoken lines in it on
> account of my skill in foreign languages, so I was actually paid as an
> artist (as opposed to
> super) and had to join AGMA (the American Guild of Musical Artists) in
> order to be allowed
> to fill the position.  I am still a paid-up member of AGMA and that
> membership card is one
> of my proudest possessions.
> In my view, all three of these works provide a far more enjoyable evening
> of musical
> theatre than all the “Dead Man Walkings” and “Death of Klinghoffers” that
> opera managers
> insist on shoving down our throats.
> This view, unfortunately, was not shared by most TWO (Washington Opera)
> subscribers,
> many of whom bitterly complained to TWO management (I understand some
> people actually
> cancelled their subscriptions).  “Doña Francisquita,” in particular, came
> in for particular
> invective and abuse  because many people felt there was far too much
> Spanish dialogue
> (even though there were surtitles).
> I also feel there was an undercurrent of racism underpinning some of the
> criticism.  As one
> bejeweled and becoiffed matron told me at a social function, “I don’t pay
> all that money to
> listen to a third-class opera in my maid’s language.”  I heard other
> similar comments from
> subscribers.
> Why is it that so many English speakers have such a negative view of
> Spain, a beautiful
> country of warm, artistic people with a great culture ?  The Spanish
> Inquisition was
> centuries ago, and Spain has been a democracy for 50 years now.
> I guess the TWO Board listened to the criticism because I do not recall
> that any zarzuela
> was ever performed by TWO/WNO after “Doña Francisquita.”
> I hope the above is responsive to Idia’s question.
> Cheers and all the best,
> Alain
> Alain Letort
> Washington, D.C.
> Des Ungeheuers Höhle
> =====================================================
> On Wed, 20 Dec 2017 12:18:11 -0500, Idia Legray <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> >I know there are some wonderful Spanish composers and a few fine operas
> >as well but why is there such a dearth of  top 10 popular operas by
> Spanish
> >composers and performances in major venues?
> **********************************************
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