Music – Domingo To Iglesias
Harry King retired from corporate life in Britain to live in Spain. He would do so all over again if faced with the same decision and now lives near Alicante. He is the author of a number of books on Spain.
MUSIC – DOMINGO TO IGLESIAS
The influence of the past has been particularly strong in the field of music. Composers such as Isaac Albeniz (1860–1909), Enrique Granados (1867–1916), Manuel de Falla (1876–1946), and Joaquin Rodrigo (b. 1901) drew heavily on popular and regional music for their inspiration. One by-product of this was the creation of a serious musical repertoire for the guitar. The instrument gained additional stature from the performances of the great guitarist Andres Segovia (1893–1987). A number of Spanish composers, however, worked in more modern idioms, the most important being Roberto Gerhard, Cristobal Halffter, and Luis de Pablo.
Spain has produced some of the world’s leading opera performers including Victoria de los Angeles, Teresa Berganza, Montserrat Caballe, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Alfredo Kraus. Regular performances are held in Madrid, Barcelona, Oviedo, Bilbao and other cities. Barcelona has a recognised opera house, the Gran Teatro del Liceu, considered second only to La Scala in Milan. An opera house was opened in Seville in 1992.
Spaniards hold a wealth of excellent music festivals including a festival of religious music in Cuenca; the international festival of music and dance in Granada which is Spain’s most important musical event; the Santander international festival of music, dance and drama; an international music festival in Barcelona and an autumn festival in Madrid. A wealth of traditional folk music is played on the classical guitar. An international festival of the guitar is held in Cordoba.
Placido Domingo was born on January 21, 1941 in Madrid, an operatic tenor whose resonant, powerful voice, imposing physical stature, good looks, and dramatic ability made him one of the most popular tenors of the second half of the 20th century. Domingo’s parents were noted performers in Zarzuela, a form of Spanish light opera. He grew up in Mexico, where he studied piano at the National Conservatory of Music. In 1961 he made his operatic debut in Mexico City and then went to Dallas, Texas, to perform in its opera company. From 1962 to 1965 he was a resident performer at Tel Aviv’s Hebrew National Opera. He made his debut at the New York City Opera in 1965, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1968 and at La Scala in Milan in 1969. A prolific and versatile performer, Domingo has made numerous recordings and several film versions of operas venturing into popular music as well.
Born in 1943, the popular Spanish singer has a huge international following. He has reputedly sold more records, in more languages than any other recording artist.
A possible career as a goalkeeper with Real Madrid was finished when a serious car crash injured the 18-year-old Iglesias so badly that he was in a wheelchair for almost two years. In hospital, a doctor’s assistant gave him a guitar and his interest in music began. He trained as a lawyer in Spain and at Cambridge University before winning the 1968 Spanish Song Festival in Benidorm with his own composition Life Goes on Just the Same. That success secured him his first recording contract. He represented Spain in the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Guendoline which he later recorded in English, French, and Italian.
Through the 1970s he toured and built an international following through hit songs such as Manuela (1975) and Hey (1979). In 1981 he broke into the English language charts with Begin the Beguine, following this up with the million selling album Julio. This featured duets with well-established American stars such as Willie Nelson and Diana Ross. My Love, recorded with Stevie Wonder, was a massive international hit in 1988, and he has also worked with singers such as Dolly Parton, Art Garfunkel, and Sting.
Iglesias’s style is relaxed and intimate; his phrasing conversational. He is a successful songwriter and thoughtful interpreter of other people’s music. Those qualities, combined with considerable charm, good looks, and shrewd management have made him one of the most popular recording artists in the world, with hundreds of gold and platinum recordings worldwide. In 1989 he was appointed Special Representative for the Performing Arts by UNICEF.
Zarzuela is a Spanish musical stage piece which mixes music, songs, and dialogue. The zarzuela derives from the 17th century when the Spanish court would visit the royal residence of La Zarzuela to see entertainment based on stories usually concentrating on myths and heroes. However, the form is constantly evolving and today a zarzuela might use jazz elements in the music, for example. This is in keeping with the general style of entertainment, which often deals with current issues.
There are two types of zarzuela: zarzuela grande, which has a number of acts, is dramatic in intention and the zarzuelita, which is shorter and comic. They are intended to have immediate impact and often play up the absurd, fantastic, or melodramatic aspects of a story. Adding to this immediacy is the easy style of singing, improvisation, and back-chat between stage and audience.
While many zarzuelas are performed only once, others go on to have long runs in theatres.
Spain has always imported its major cultural architecture: Moorish from North Africa, Romanesque and Gothic from France, Renaissance from Italy. Each style, however, has been interpreted in a Spanish way, with contrasts between light and shady areas, facades alternating between the austere and the extravagant, thick walls pierced by few windows to lessen the impact of the sunlight.
As well as its cathedrals and palaces, local craftsmen have met the needs of local communities. They take account of the climate, with little reference to formal architectural styles, and have constructed buildings of clay, stone or timber. A variety of distinctive buildings cover the countryside. Where the rock is soft, subterranean cave houses have been excavated. Granaries raised on stone stilts to prevent rats climbing up into the grain are a common sight in northern Spain.
Almost every town in Spain has its main square, the plaza mayor. It acts as a focus for local life. A church, the town hall, shops and bars usually overlook it. Seats are placed around the edges. In addition almost everywhere there exist white painted ermitas, isolated chapels or shrines dedicated to the local saint. In villages and towns they will be a focal point for religious events and processions throughout the year. They are situated on high ground overlooking the town, surrounded by tall elegant fir trees and are reached by a long winding path each having 12 religious stations.
Antonio Gaudi y Cornet (1852–1926) was the most famous, as well as the most unusual architect of the early 20th century. Through an eclectic approach he created a unique style reminiscent of the Mudejar, an architectural style blending Muslim and Christian design. During his life he had no influence outside of Spain as most of Gaudi’s work was done in Barcelona. His most famous building is the unfinished Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family. Spain’s leading architect of the late 20th century was Ricardo Bofill, who worked both in Spain and many other countries.