Cristóbal Oudrid

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Cristobal Oudrid

Cristóbal Oudrid
(1825 - 77)

One of the more flamboyant figures involved in the resuscitation of zarzuela during the middle years of the 19th century was Cristóbal Oudrid. His grandfather, a soldier from Estremaduran gypsy stock, fought and was killed fighting for Napoleon at Waterloo. His father became in his turn a military bandmaster, based in Badajoz near the Portuguese border: he it was who was largely responsible for his son’s musical training. In 1844 Cristóbal arrived in Madrid, taking lessons from the teacher-composer Baltasar Saldoni, earning his living as a pianist whilst writing (according to the critic Antonio Peña y Goni) salon pieces for that instrument. He had his first, short stage piece, a zarzuela andaluza entitled La venta del puerto o Juanillo el contrabandista performed at Teatro del Príncipe in 1846. A second work, La pradera del canal – composed in collaboration with Luis Cepeda and Sebastián Iradier – succeeded at Teatro de la Cruz the following year.

Over the next few seasons he actively promoted zarzuela at Teatro del Circo, Teatro de Variedades, and eventually – despite some rivalry and ill-feeling from some of its leading lights – at the new Teatro de la Zarzuela, writing in collaboration with Barbieri, Gaztambide, Rafael Hernando and José Inzenga as well as alone. Amongst the most successful works he wrote alone included the one-act farce Buenas noches señor Don Simón (1852); the light comedy of aristocratic amours in the French style, where farcical complications stem from disguises and mistaken identities, El postillón de la Rioja (1856); El último mono (1859) and Memorias de un estudiante (1860) which featured a once-popular jota. He also had a hand (with all four of the above mentioned composers) in Olona’s Por seguir a una mujer, a major success at the Teatro del Circo in 1851; and in Estebanillo (1855, with Gaztambide).

Conducting – a discipline at which he excelled – gradually took up more of his time and attention, though the one-act Bazar de novias (1867) met with some success. His last great triumph was El molinero de Subiza (1870, to a text by Luis de Eguílaz) but after the failure of his magnum opus, the zarzuela grande in three-acts Ildara (1874), he largely gave up composing in favour of the podium. His final stage work was Blancos y azules (1876) jointly composed with the leading light of the “second generation”, Fernández Caballero.

His work is now almost forgotten, though the jota taken from his incidental music for the actor Juan Lombia’s play El sitio de Zaragoza (The Siege of Zaragoza) remains a staple of the wind band repertoire. What remains is the memory of a provocative, bohemian personality who cared more for pragmatic music making than theory or technique – a choice which may account for the fact that his once-popular body of work has sunk almost without trace. Yet the recent revival of Buenas noches señor Don Simón raised questions about the justice of this. The score proved to be uncomplicated without being trivial, melodically graceful and theatrically intelligent. Its musical personality came across as less Italianate than that of his better-known contemporaries, intriguingly closer in spirit to the work of the later género chico composers. Whether this is true of his larger-scale zarzuelas remains to be seen, but Oudrid’s music is certainly a prime candidate for modern revaluation.

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