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The task of creating Spanish opera in a musical environment which was hostile and critical has been a consternation and challenge for almost every Spanish composer with a desire to create a Spanish national operatic identity. The opera El Gato Montés, by composer-librettist Manuel Penella Moreno (1880-1939) premiered in 1916. The work achieved great public success in and outside of Spain, including a 10 week sold-out performance run in New York City in 1920. Penella's talent for composing lovely melodies is manifest in the music for El Gato Montés. The libretto is dramatic and effective. Its appeal to the public at large was demonstrated with its triumphant premiere and following successful performances. Ultimately, this opera met the same fate as the great majority of Spanish operas. It was set aside and forgotten. The only exception to this pattern was Manuel de Falla's (1876-1946) La vida breve (1913). The purpose of this study is to present Penella's El Gato Montés as an exceptional example of Spanish opera and present a brief history of the development of this genre, from its birth with the opera La púrpura de la rosa by Juan Hidalgo de Polanca in 1660, through the premiere of El Gato Montés in 1916. An analysis of the work will identify and discuss the variety of characteristics of Spanish society, culture and music which are incorporated in the opera, and make the opera a distinctly Spanish work. These characteristics include: the representation of Catholic morality and customs, machismo, familial aspects of a matriarchal society, the gypsies of Southern Spain and their cante flamenco, and the bullfight with its associated musical form, the pasodoble. Several of the criticisms that appeared at the time of the opera's premiere will be discussed, including the accusation that the opera was nothing more than an "españolada," an artificial caricature of the true Spain. It is the author's opinion that El Gato Montés is a work worthy of consideration as an important contribution to Spanish music and the operatic repertoire.
Manuel Penella, Bull Fighting, Spanish Opera, Cante Flamenco
Date of Defense
Date of Defense: June 19, 2009.
A Treatise submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
Esquivel, K. (2009). El Gato Montés: A Victim in Spain's Struggle to Establish A National Operatic Identity. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_migr_etd-0506