The N.G.D.M devotes over eleven columns to this distinctive Spanish musical form, and a couple of postings on these blogs can do scant justice to it. There are many web-sites which give more detail than I can provide. The genre suffered from the Civil War and despite the new life given to zarzuelas by such composers as de Falla, Albeniz and Granados, it lapsed. People began to feel that this popular art was no longer viable. But revival was at hand, and we largely have one person to thank for this.
Ataulfo Argenta is a name familiar to me. He was conducting and recording in the U.K. in the fifties and some of his discs are still available on specialist web-sites. Carl Schuricht (who conducted one of the first performances of Mahler’s massive eighth symphony and was a much respected conductor in the first half of the twentieth century) was one of his teachers, and became a great friend. Sadly Argenta died at a comparatively early age, but not before he began to research many of the finest zarzuelas and as a consequence almost a hundred of them are now on disc.
The Teatro de la Zarzuela was refurbished in 1956 and is now the one subsidised house in Spain which regularly includes zarzuelas in its repertory.
How much zarzuelas are in the blood of Spanish culture I am not equipped to judge, but it feels that this popular art form – perhaps because of its directness of subject and its musical simplicity- belongs to the people in the way that in some countries folk music still does.
..music of the people? – clearly it is time to look at the Flamenco. Next time!