The Zarzuela is a music genre that may be unfamiliar to those from countries north of the Pyrenees and south of the Mediterranean (with some exceptions). It is often classified as Spanish operetta and has as many followers as Gilbert & Sullivan. A good explanation comes from Wikipedia: Zarzuela (pronounced tharthuela), is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance. The name derives from a Royal hunting lodge, the Palacio de la Zarzuela near Madrid, the official royal residence and where this type of entertainment was first presented to the court.
There are two main forms of zarzuela: Baroque zarzuela (c.1630–1750), the earliest style, and Romantic zarzuela (c.1850–1950), which can be further divided into two main sub-genres of género grande and género chico although other sub-divisions exist.
Zarzuela spread to the Spanish colonies, and many Hispanic countries – notably Cuba – developed their own traditions. There is also a strong tradition in the Philippines where it is also known as zarzuelta. Other regional and linguistic variants in Iberia include the Basque variation and the Catalan ‘sarsuela’.
A masque-like musical theatre had existed in Spain since the time of Juan de la Encina. The zarzuela genre was innovative in giving a dramatic function to the musical numbers, which were integrated into the argument of the work. Dances and choruses were incorporated as well as solo and ensemble numbers, all to orchestral accompaniment.
For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zarzuela
This article was first published in JimenaPulse (now defunct but still in the ether) in 2008.
Alberto Bullrich 2016