Cuban Zarzuela
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Cuban Zarzuela : Performing Race and Gender on Havana's Lyric Stage

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On September 29, 1927, Cuban soprano Rita Montaner walked onto the stage of Havana's Teatro Regina, her features obscured under a mask of blackened glycerin and her body clad in the tight pants, boots, and riding jacket of a coachman. Standing alongside a gilded carriage and a live horse, the blackfaced, cross-dressed actress sang the premiere of Eliseo Grenet's tango-congo, \u0022Ay Mam\u00e1 In\u00e9s.\u0022 The crowd went wild. Montaner's performance cemented \u0022Ay Mam\u00e1 In\u00e9s\u0022 as one of the classics in the Cuban repertoire, but more importantly, the premiere heralded the birth of the Cuban zarzuela, a new genre of music theater that over the next fifteen years transformed popular entertainment on the island. Cuban Zarzuela: Performing Race and Gender on Havana's Lyric Stage marks the first comprehensive study of the Cuban zarzuela, a Spanish-language light opera with spoken dialogue that originated in Spain but flourished in Havana during the early twentieth century. Created by musicians and managers to fill a growing demand for family entertainment, the zarzuela evidenced the emerging economic and cultural power of Cuba's white female bourgeoisie to influence the entertainment industry. Susan Thomas explores zarzuela's function as a pedagogical tool, through which composers, librettists, and business managers hoped to control their troupes and audiences by presenting desirable and problematic images of both feminine and masculine identities. Zarzuela was, Thomas explains, \u0022anti-feminist but pro-feminine, its plots focusing on female protagonists and its musical scores showcasing the female voice.\u0022 Focusing on character types such as the mulata, the negrito, and the ingenue, Thomas uncovers the zarzuela's richly textured relationship to social constructs of race, class, and especially gender.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 264 pages
  • 157.48 x 231.14 x 27.94mm | 544.31g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 0252033310
  • 9780252033315
  • 1,300,438

Review quote

"No other author addresses the Cuban zarzuela in such a distinctive manner. Susan Thomas offers revelatory musical and cultural analyses in a captivating narrative replete with unexpected twists and illuminating conclusions. Her interviews with performers are invaluable to the historical record and her methodology provides a model for others to follow. What a powerful contribution to the fields of musicology, ethnomusicology, gender studies, theater studies, and Latin American studies!"--Janet Sturman, author of Zarzuela: Spanish Operetta, American Stage "Thomas provides both an informative treatment of this allegoric play and a well-written sociocultural discourse on the relationship between gender, race, music and dance in 19th-century Havana. . . . A useful volume for students of Cuban history (particularly as it pertains to women) as well as musicology and ethnomusicology."--Choice "A fascinating interpretation and tightly focused look at the vernacular zarzuela ... as created in Cuba in the 1920s and 1930s."--The Bulletin of the Society for American Musicshow more

About Susan Thomas

Susan Thomas is an assistant professor of music and women's studies at the University of Georgia.show more