A Spanish opera composed of instrument, voice and spoken dialogue

"Zarzuela" is a form of Spanish musical theater that combines elements of opera, operetta, and drama. It originated in Spain in the 17th century and has since become an integral part of Spanish and Latin American musical culture. Zarzuela typically features a mix of singing and spoken dialogue and often incorporates elements of dance and comedy.

Key characteristics and features of zarzuela include:

  • Mixed Genre: Zarzuela is a hybrid genre that incorporates both sung and spoken elements. Unlike traditional opera, which is primarily sung throughout, zarzuela includes spoken dialogue, making it more accessible to a broader audience.
  • Diverse Musical Styles: Zarzuela encompasses a wide range of musical styles, including arias, duets, choruses, and dance numbers. The music can be both lyrical and lively, and it often incorporates Spanish folk melodies and rhythms.
  • Spanish Themes: Many zarzuelas are set in Spain and explore Spanish themes, traditions, and culture. They may depict rural or urban life, historical events, or social issues relevant to Spanish society.
  • Characters: Zarzuelas typically feature a variety of characters, including lovers, royalty, comic figures, and common people. The characters often represent different social classes and backgrounds.
  • Spoken Dialogue: In addition to the sung portions, zarzuela includes spoken dialogue that advances the plot and provides context for the musical numbers. This makes zarzuela more akin to musical theater or operetta in terms of structure.
  • Dance: Dance is an integral part of many zarzuelas, and choreographed dance sequences often accompany the music. Spanish dance styles, such as flamenco and the seguidilla, are commonly featured.
  • Historical Development: Zarzuela has evolved over the centuries, with different periods characterized by changes in style and content. The genre experienced a resurgence in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Comedic Elements: Many zarzuelas include comedic elements and humorous situations, adding entertainment value to the performances.
  • Regional Variations: Zarzuela has regional variations within Spain and has also influenced musical theater in Latin American countries, resulting in distinct Latin American zarzuela traditions.
  • Notable Composers: Some notable composers of zarzuela include Francisco Barbieri, Federico Chueca, Amadeu Vives, and Manuel Penella, among others.
  • Popular Zarzuelas: There are numerous famous zarzuelas, including "La Verbena de la Paloma", "Luisa Fernanda", "La Revoltosa", and "Doña Francisquita", among others.

Zarzuela remains a vibrant and beloved form of musical theater in Spain and Latin America. It reflects the rich cultural heritage and diversity of the Spanish-speaking world and continues to be performed and enjoyed by audiences around the globe.

Example of Zarzuela

Luisa Fernanda.Zarzuela. Mazurca de las Sombrillas

Terminology Information

Vocabulary Category

Tutor's Video (Scarlett Ng)

Frankie Chan

Frankie Chan

California Baptist University (US), Hong Kong Baptist University
Violin, Western Music Theory
Cecilia Chan

Cecilia Chan

The Education University of Hong Kong
Bachelor (Current)
Noelle Lui

Noelle Lui

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts
Mr Kent

Kent Chan

Royal Northern College of Music (UK), Hong Kong Baptist University
Madeline Tsui

Madeline Tsui

The Education University of Hong Kong
Master (Current)
Guzheng, Chinese Music Theory
Charles Chau

Charles Chau

Hong Kong Baptist University
G Song

G Song by Terry Riley

As an iconic American composer, Terry Riley (born 1935) is always considered as a minimalist. However, this kind of thoughts would be ignoring part of his creativity. In fact, Riley added plenty elements in his compositions since 1970s, especially when he started collaborating with the Kronos Quartet. Riley’s composing style is very extensive, including improvisation, polyrhythm and jazz. He adopted classical elements, such as instrumentation, musical forms, structure and tonality. He also combined the elements from different periods to create unique musical textures. This research focuses on Terry Riley’s String Quartet, G Song. The research will be divided into two parts. The first part introduces Riley’s life and the background of G Song. The second part focuses on music analysis, including the musical structure “Two forms in one work”; The harmony “Unresolved Dissonance”; The rhythm “Metric Modulation”; The baroque “Canon”; The modern “Pointillism”. The purpose of this study is to discuss how Riley combined classicism and modernism into a work, and discuss why the statement “Terry Riley is considered as minimalist” would be ignoring part of his story.
Read the music carefully

Common Practice Guide

After many years of being a student first and a teacher after, we often noticed that in our every day practice we can make small mistakes that may slow us down or might not bring the best out of our music. With these short tips we tried to go through some of them, hoping it will help students (and not only!) in their daily practice.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven, German composer, the predominant musical figure during the transition between the Classical to Romantic eras. He occupies an unprecedented dominance in the history of Western music history, and has been widely regarded as the greatest, most influential and most popular musician who ever lived.

Beethoven's music inherited the artistic atmosphere of Haydn and Mozart, penetrated the desire for dignity, vented the anger tortured by fate, and demonstrated his determination to fight with fate.

Compared to other musicians, Beethoven is effectively to interact the philosophy of life with audience through music. Although he was not a romantic, he had become the object followed by other romantics.

As a musician, Beethoven suffered from ear diseases. However, he was unwilling to succumb to fate, vowing to take fate by the throat, and continue to complete his career. In the last ten years of his life, without hearing any sound, his compositions influenced the development of music for nearly two hundred years.

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