The Zarzuela has been described as the best-guarded secret in the history of music. This unique form of musical theater is outstanding in the field of entertainment but rarely presented in fully staged productions in the United States. To take the mystery out of the Zarzuela and to make it more available to both English and Spanish speaking patrons, we present the spoken parts in English and provide English subtitles for the music.
There are two distinct types of Zarzuelas, both of which are performed at the Jarvis Conservatory; the short, one-act Zazuelas which have some aspects of comic operas, and the longer more serious three-act Zarzuelas. Both the short and long works have a lot in common, in that they both incorporate the delightful Spanish regional dance music, and they both tell sincere, believable stories.
The Zarzuela, as we know it today, emerged about 1850 and reached its peak at about 1900 (almost the same time frame as that of Verdi's opera compositions). Some delightful Zarzuelas however, date as recently as the 1920's. The Spanish Civil War in the 1930's pretty well marked the end of the classic era of Zarzuela composition.
During the European era of composing grand operas, the Spanish composers were actually more prolific than their European counterparts, having composed almost 10,000 Zarzuelas. Of this large number, about three hundred of the most enduring Zarzuelas exist in today's repertory. Three hundred is still a considerable number, considering that 90% of the operatic repertory performed today consists of fewer than 20 different operas, mainly Italian.
History of the Zarzuela