Zarzuelas In Spanish Music

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Many would associate the music of Spain with the traditional song and dance known as Flamenco. However, there are many other traditional songs and dances that are a key aspect of Spanish music. For instance, a Zarzuela, which is a Spanish traditional form of musical comedy which alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance. Originating from Madrid, was very popular roughly around the 17th and 20th centuries.
There are zarzuelas during the Baroque period and zarzuelas during the Romantic period. For some background the Baroque period, taking place roughly around the 1600s to the 1750s, is characterized as ostentatious and grandeur. String instruments such as the lute or viola
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Art displayed deep emotional reflection. Certain composers and writers during the Romantic period are often branded as pessimistic. It wasn’t uncommon for instruments such as the guitar or castanets to be used. Like the Baroque Period, the Romantic Period Zarzuelas continued to feature the violin and trumpet. Although, this is not surprising because the string and brass families are prominent in many compositions.
The name Zarzuela, although unclear, is believed to have been derived from the Royal hunting lodge Palacio de la Zarzuela where zarzas grew heavily. Residence to King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, and their familia. Therefore, during the Baroque Period, Zarzuelas were primarily enjoyed by the Spanish court since this is where the work originated. The court would gather and hold lavish parties showcasing zarzuelas.
The first known performance for the court is titled The Laurels of Apollo or El Laurel de Apolo. This comedy set a tone of witty, yet deep, meaningful expression set to extravagant and diverse music. It was famously written by Pedro Calderon and the music was composed by Juan
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His plays showcase the struggles of love and the relationship between social classes. His compositions are over exaggerated as to insure the satisfaction of the audience. El Barberillo de Lavapies, known as his comic masterpiece, consist of superb music with a great use of irony. It is broken down into three acts.
In the first act character Lamparilla sings about his political distaste and his career as a dentist-barber. Paloma creates a stir of emotions because Lamparilla loves her but she continues to tease him. In the next acts other characters are introduced for a plot to overthrow the current prime minister; scenes in front of the barbershop and seamstresses sewing skirts also take place. The play is very dramatic and entertaining. The heightened emotions of the characters truly represent the Romantic Period as a whole.
Other notable composers of zarzuela music include Felipe Pedrell, Francisco Alonso, Amadeo vives, and Rafael Millan. In 1873 Felipe Pedrell went to Barcelona where he co-directed a zarzuela troupe. Shortly after, in 1875, he composed an opera piece for Quasimodo which contained four acts. The piece features expressive instrumentals that intensely accompany the libretto recited by a male tenor. It is personally one of my favorite pieces to listen

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