Ignacio Jassa Haro

20th March 2007)

Emilio Casares Rodicio
Emilio Casares Rodicio

In the Sala Joaquín Rodrigo of the Longoria Palace – a beautiful modernist building built by José Grases Riera, Madrid’s own authentic unconventional architect, I am kindly received by Emilio Casares Rodicio, Professor of Musicology in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and Director of the Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales (ICCMU). This building, acquired in 1950 by composer Jacinto Guerrero as headquarters for the Sociedad General of Autores – one of the four institutions which in 1991 created the Institute – houses the Society’s impressive lyric archive, to the scientific study of which ICCMU dedicates a great part of its efforts.

Are you able to evaluate the musicological work in the field of zarzuela developed by yourself and the Institute you lead?

Well possibly I am not the person best placed to value a task, not only mine, but of the Institute that I direct. What we have done in all these years in relation to zarzuela has been, from nothing, to take a look at this artistic body of work with a new scientific approach; until about fifteen years ago everything that had been written about zarzuela had a popular character (short biographies or histories of the genre) and staged productions were almost always in the hands of amateur companies. Through a range of doctoral theses such as Encina Cortizo’s on the origins of the early romantic zarzuela, Luis G. Iberni’s on Chapí, Víctor Sánchez’s on Bretón and my own biography of Barbieri, a modern bibliographical foundation on the subject began to be built. The 1995 Congress, the proceedings of which were published shortly afterwards, continued in that line. On the other hand the cataloguing of the stock of scores of the lyric archive of the SGAE of Madrid nears completion, and in the near future we will publish the catalogue that even now is at the proof-reading stage; the stored archives of Barcelona and Valencia will be next to be examined. So we will know precisely which works we have.

We have also made available through our publishing work the most important orchestral scores of repertory zarzuelas, something that until recently was a nightmare because the materials were full of cuts, changes of orchestration and other alterations – and lacking even a conductor’s score, relying on vocal score reductions to do the job. In addition we have fixed our attention on lesser-known works such as El juramento by Joaquín Gaztambide, which positively surprised us by its extraordinary quality; or Las bribonas which is going to be staged this year in the Teatro de la Zarzuela. This second task has the intention of extending the panorama of work programmed by the theatres; because it’s more or less the same in the world of zarzuela as in opera - where we have the “scandal” by which the theatres only present 100 titles of the more than 45,000 that are preserved. Nowadays it is possible to establish by scientific criteria – studying the score and the libretto – whether a work has interest enough to be revived, so there’s no reason to be scared to present new things, something that theatres such as the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid have still not made up their mind to do.

A final important task of this Institute has been the editing of the Diccionario de la Zarzuela. España e Hispanoamérica, printed in a run of 4500 which was sold out in less than a year, for which reason we have been forced to bring out a new, corrected and enlarged edition. In conclusion, though we’ve very much more work still to do, we can evaluate positively the task that’s been managed so far.

What lines of work is ICCMU pursuing at the moment?

The Institute publishes between 15 and 20 scores per year. We work in three fields. First there’s the edition of classics still lacking a conductor’s score (right now, for example, we are doing La legió d’honor by Martínez Valls, a work very often done in Barcelona). Secondly we dedicate ourselves to publishing unknown works; at the moment we’re working for example on Bretón’s Covadonga, Chueca’s De Madrid a París for the occasion of its centenary in 2008 (this at the request of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, which also urges from time to time such revivals); and on a very important work by Fernández Caballero, El salto del pasiego. All these are works which nobody nowadays has heard. Finally, in the last three years we have worked hard on the edition of unknown operas that at the same time are viewed from one perspective as classics. Just now we’re working on La guerra de los gigantes by Sebastián Durón, Cristoforo Colombo by Ramón Carnicer (an impressive work), La mort du Tasse which Manuel García wrote for the Paris Grand Opéra (probably to be done in Seville’s Teatro de la Maestranza); and on Pompeo Magno in Armenia by Francisco Javier García Fajer. We have nine or ten operas for definite premieres, either staged or in concert. At the same time we produce a revised vocal score edition for singers, as much for these works published complete as for others.

And at the margins of the Institute’s editorial work what fields of investigation are underway just now?

At the moment we are preparing a scientific biography of Federico Chueca – at last a long and serious work! – in time for his centenary. We also have in development a work of larger scope relating to another centenary, in this case not zarzuelistic – that of Sarasate. Next year we will launch a biography of Martín y Soler, of whom again a serious scientific monograph does not exist, done by Dr Waisman. In addition we are about to have presented a doctoral thesis written in the last four years on Rafael Hernando, which will give rise to a corresponding monograph; it is a most important subject, since he one is one of the fathers of romantic zarzuela about whom up until now we’ve known next to nothing.

Palacio de Longoria - home of SGAE and  ICCMU
Palacio de Longoria - home of SGAE and ICCMU

And what new projects do you hope to plan in the near future?

For me each day’s work suffices. Yet for instance in 2009 the centenaries of Chapí and Albéniz will be celebrated, and the Institute will try to have an important congress on Chapí, or on both. We have a very necessary biography of Fernández Caballero in the pipeline and another very important one on Oudrid, another unknown. In addition there are one long list of zarzuelas and pending operas to recover: Elena e Malvina by Carnicer (probably his best opera), Odio ed amore by Marià Obiols – an opera premiered at La Scala Milan in 1837 and whose score, which we have been seeking for more than twenty years and finally found, is very good – and at least twenty other classic zarzuelas of which critical editions do not exist. I insist on the importance of these editions, as they guard the repertoire and assure it is done in a way corresponding to the intentions of the creators; in addition to which they are an essential tool for stage and musical directors. So you see we’ve got enough work for many years.

Anything you’d like to say about what could make your work more effective: more money? more knowledge and understanding of the task on the part of the authorities or of society?

Well I do not complain, I have never complained. And I need little. I do not need more money because I have what I need to carry out my work. At this time the Institute is not directly reliant on state aid but generates its own resources, which is for me the ideal of any enterprise. Certainly the support of ICCMU’s four wonderful partners – the Ministry of Culture, the Comunidad de Madrid, the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores and my University [Complutense de Madrid] – is welcome, but the Institute pays in good part for itself.

I am content with the support I have; not only for the monetary, but also for the moral aid which I value more, on the part of the Institute’s partners. But I believe that society must make more of zarzuela that it does. To me it seems that there is too little investment in zarzuela. It is necessary to export it to Europe and to America, as one would do with art or drama. We have an impressive cultural asset that needs support from business community, the autonomous regional governments, Spanish society in general, to improve and extend it.

Emilio Casares Rodicio

Emilio Casares digresses to talk about the “zarzuela public versus the opera public”, estimating that the first is five times the size of the second, which leads him to re-emphasise the cultural importance that zarzuela has at the moment in our country. In this sense he values as specially positive the work done by the Teatro de la Zarzuela since the first directorial regime of José Antonio Campos Borrego (initiator of a programming model followed by Emilio Sagi, Javier Casal, Campos Borrego once again and finally Luis Olmos) generated a new standard of artistic excellence in zarzuela performance.

How does the presence of a critical edition affect a zarzuela? Do you notice an increase in demand for a work when such an edition appears?

Well in relation to the classics where demand already existed, it is difficult to calculate the immediate effect; let’s hope for that after we’ve given in at least ten years. Still, in the case of the “unknown” works demand changes from zero to infinity, as these become authentic “cultural products”. In fact many of these works (for example Carnicer’s Don Giovanni Tenorio) have generated a recording following the edition. But even with classics we may certainly note an effect: when La Scala Milan programmed Luisa Fernanda, they wavered between that work and Doña Francisquita; what made them decide on the former was the simple fact that a conductor’s score existed, something the latter didn’t get for another year.

At this point Professor Casares digressed to stress the importance of the editing process, true corner stone of the Institute’s musicological work. On a table in his office he pointed to the recently completed score of García’s Il califfo di Bagdad, ready to be sent to the harpsichordist Christophe Rousset in Paris, who is going to direct its modern premiere at the start of the next Granada International Festival of Music and Dance. Emilio Casares stresses the enormous work involved in publishing a score. For example, La conquista di Granata by Arrieta, revived last year by the Teatro Real, runs to more than 700 pages – to give us an idea, that’s a little longer than La traviata.

Can you say what else is about to be published?

In 2008 or 2009 we hope to be able to publish the doctoral thesis of María Encina Cortizo on the origins of the romantic zarzuela, from 1830 to the opening of the Teatro de la Zarzuela. In addition in our collection of “reprints” we are going to re-edit one of great classic histories of Spanish music, the legendary work by Soriano Fuertes.

Cuadernos de Música Iberoamericana , ICCMU’s journal, has been revived. How does zarzuela fit into its new regime?

Each number of this bi-annual publication dedicates space to work on zarzuela. In the next one an article appears on the origin of zarzuela in Uruguay, a subject on which nothing has been written; this comes from work that has been going on for some time, the study of unpublished documentation that will allow us to answer a very important question – how zarzuela travelled from this country.

Since you allude to America, how can ICCMU study and help promulgate the non-Spanish zarzuela repertory of Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico, Argentina…?

Well that is slightly complicated. We have already collaborated in that task through our two great reference works, the Diccionario de la Música Española e Hispanoamericana and the Diccionario de la Zarzuela. España e Hispanoamérica. In them we uncover the composers, librettists and singers of America. Sure, it would prove very difficult to revive even one zarzuela done, for example, in Argentina, when we have so many wonderful products here that need bringing to light.

But to put the question another way, I ask myself why we do not exploit the great love for zarzuela that exists in America, as great or greater than here in Spain. It would be desirable for the Teatro de la Zarzuela to have two companies, one fixed in Madrid and one travelling as everyone used to, visiting Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Mexico City… Two years ago, for the fifth centenary of the Quijote, the Zarzuela’s company went to Mexico and it was a real occasion, something tremendous…

Professor Casares thinks that the export model of Luisa Fernanda, triumphantly toured by several forward-looking international opera houses, could be successfully repeated with works such as El barberillo de Lavapiés, in his opinion a brilliant model of Hispanic music, or with any combination of two jewels of género chico, for example La revoltosa and La Gran Vía.

Finally, anything else to say about what we’ve touched upon?

Well then, yes: what I would like recognized, is that the Institute I direct – though I insist that I am not alone, since many people work there – has contributed during the last 15 years towards the creation of genuine dignity for the zarzuela.

Congratulations on your magnificent work on behalf of the zarzuela, and thank you very much for dedicating your time to us.

© Ignacio Jassa Haro 2007
tr. Christopher Webber

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