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date: 22 January 2020

Zarzuela (Sp from zarza: ‘bramble’, ‘bramble bush’)locked

  • Louise K. Stein
  •  and Roger Alier


(Sp from zarza: ‘bramble’, ‘bramble bush’)

A Spanish genre of musical theatre characterized by a mixture of sung and spoken dialogue. Covarrubias's Tesoro de la lengua castellana (1611) defines zarza as ‘a spiny mat … a thing that is all linked together and intertwined in itself’. ‘Zarzuela’ is also used generally to describe a mixture or jumble.

Louise K. Stein

The first use of the word ‘zarzuela’ in a theatrical and musical context is found in the auto sacramental De los cantares by Lope de Vega. In a scene that includes rustic dances, one called ‘zarzuela’ carries as its text an adaptation of an older popular peasant song or seranilla.

In the late 1650s ‘zarzuela’ was used to refer to short musical plays of a lightly burlesque nature organized by Gaspar de Haro, the Marquis of Heliche, to entertain the king and his guests at the renovated Palacio Real de la Zarzuela, a royal hunting-lodge in the wooded outskirts of Madrid. The first such plays, with texts by ...

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