Having devoured rather than read this volume succinctly entitled Verdi y España, I went to my library, puzzled (if not exactly disturbed) as to which shelf I should place it upon. In the biographies, with the other Verdi books? Better alongside the opera histories? Perhaps with works on the history of opera in Spain? ... Or did I dare put it with the multitude of zarzuela books and anecdotal opuscules? In an anxious trance of postmodernism and New Narrativism, I chose to leave it (at least temporarily) on the nightstand, with the feeling that this book is like an old, intimate family story telling a story weve always known in pieces, but which we see today with its whole plot finally unveiled.
Musicologist Víctor Sánchez known to all zarzuela aficionados for his excellent work on Tomás Bretón publishes this Verdian volume after years of intense research, conference presentations and article publications in academic journals. Meditation, calm, years of reflection are evident in the books nine chapters, not only in its content and authorial conclusions. Perhaps one of the most positive values of this text is precisely how it is written, for Sánchezs prose is agile and enjoyable, without technical gobbledegook or academic bombast. A book that functions like an opera by Verdi: direct and effective.
The title of Verdi y España holds a double freight of meaning: Verdi in Spain / Spain in Verdi. The various sections of the book (arranged chronologically, according to Verdis catalogue) are developed in interesting games, back and forth between Italy and Spain, often via Paris. Thus we encounter fascinating characters authentic cameos in the plot such as the Marqués de Salamanca, the highly filmogenic Temistocle Solera, not to mention our grande friends Gaztambide, Arrieta and Barbieri and chico chum Manuel Nieto. Everything is grist for Sánchezs novelish mill; any object, gossip of the time, score or newspaper reference is likely to be considered as a cultural artefact of a story that transcends mere Reception theory or historical biography.
We can find a blemish there are always some in the absence of indices for names and titles, in a story with so many characters who roam in and out from page to page. Hopefully in subsequent editions this can be corrected. Otherwise the book is impeccably edited, as is the rule for Ediciones Akal; and compliments on the numerous, substantial musical examples.
© Enrique Mejías García