Spanish Operetta, American Stage
The first book on this re-emerging Hispanic art-form, bridging classical and popular music, traces the Zarzuela from its beginnings in 17th century Spain to its burgeoning new awareness via the Internet and its role in defining American urban ethnicity.
Once the most popular form of Spanish entertainment short of the bullfight, the zarzuela boasts a long history of bridging the categories of classical and popular art. It is neither opera nor serious drama, yet it requires both trained singers and good actors. The content is neither purely folkloric nor high art; it is too popular for some and too classical for others. In Zarzuela, Janet L. Sturman assesses the political as well as the musical significance of this chameleon of music-drama.
Sturman traces the zarzuela's colorful history from its seventeenth-century origins as a Spanish court entertainment to its adaptation in Spain's colonial outposts in the New World. She examines Cuba's pivotal role in transmitting the zarzuela to Latin America and the Caribbean and draws distinctions among the ways in which various Spanish-speaking communities have reformulated zarzuela, combining elements of the Spanish model with local characters, music, dances, and political perspectives. The settings Sturman considers include Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the American cities of El Paso, Miami, and New York.
Sturman also demonstrates how the zarzuela plays a role in defining American urban ethnicity. She offers a glimpse into two longstanding theaters in New York, Repertorio Espaņol and the Thalia Spanish Theatre, that have fostered the tradition of zarzuela, mounting innovative productions and cultivating audiences. Sturman constructs a profile of the audience that supports modern zarzuela and examines the extensive personal network that sustains it financially.
Just as the zarzuela afforded an opportunity in the past for Spaniards to assert their individuality in the face of domination by Italian and central European musical standards, it continues to stand for a distinctive Hispanic legacy. Zarzuela provides a major advance in recognizing the enduring cultural and social significance of this resilient and adaptable genre.
"[Sturman's] narrative [is] based on solid inter-disciplinary historical research in Spanish and Latin American musical and stage traditions, long-term personal exposure to live zarzuela performances in New York City and El Paso, Texas, . . . and extensive fieldwork among the primary participants in this theatrical culture: zarzuela performers and audiences." -- John Koegel, Ethnomusicology
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