The publication of José Máximo Leza’s critical edition of Viento es la dicha de Amor [“Wind is the poetry of love”] is the culmination of a research project which began many years ago. Articles and conferences in 1996 and 1997 show today’s Professor of Musicology at the University of Salamanca already engaged with this music that had by then been staged – both in 1992, in the season organised by Teatro de Madrid when the city was European capital of culture; and in 1995, prior to its recording under the direction of Christophe Coin.
Leza demonstrates in his work as thorough a knowledge of de Nebra’s music as of the dramaturgy and theatrical practice of the period. This is absolutely essential, because Viento es la dicha de Amor is one of a group of more or less mythological, more or less classical, but undoubtedly fantastic and spectacular zarzuelas, which went out from the court to the people; and which were refurbished time and again with amended text, music and scenic designs, even weathering the theatrical reforms of the Conde de Aranda in the 1760s.
To quote the editor’s Preface, “stagings more than half a century on from the presumed premiere show the validity of the dramaturgical models nurtured by Calderón, focused on mythological plots” but we should take into account the progressive distance from mythological sources (the Phaedra and Tiresias who appear here have little or nothing to do with the Greek originals beyond the name) as well as the intermediary presence of other playwrights as yet little researched, such as Melchor Fernández de León, who seem to have left more trace on Zamora’s text that might be explained by a few years of performance at the court of Carlos II.
Professor Leza’s work on the verbal and musical texts shows him to be a careful and scrupulous researcher: transcription and annotation of the libretto plus its variants has been given the same care as the score. In both cases he shows the different stages – we might almost speak of layers, as in the restoration of paintings – of theatrical work, a work in progress that was (and in fact continues to be) adapted as a theatrical piece, with or without the music.
So we are given both an edition of the complete text of Antonio de Zamora with de Nebra’s music, and also an Appendix, appropriately chosen, of music prior to Nebra’s (a tono by Juan Navas which could belong to the first version of the zarzuela) as well as verses and arias added later for a revival, under the supervision of their “author” Manuel Guerrero (a term which referred to the director of the company and not the dramatist, who was called the “poet”) and the composer Antonio Corvi Moroti.
As Professor Leza points out, with the origins of the text of Viento es la dicha de Amor we are dealing with “one of the least studied periods of Spanish theatre”. In fact we don’t even know the date of the premiere, or whether the initial performances of the work were at the court theatre, although this could well account both for the inclusion of music by Navas and the characteristics of the libretto. If this was indeed the fact, we would be faced with one of those cases mentioned above, in which late 17th and early 18th century works written for the Coliseo del Buen Retiro, were then transferred to the repertoire of the public theatres of Madrid (de la Cruz and Príncipe) following the reforms imposed on the court theatre after the arrival in 1714 of Elisabetta Farnese, second wife of Philip V. These reforms promoted the Italian style in music and relegated Spanish composers (Nebra first of all) to the public theatres, at the time under municipal ownership.
Following which, this form of court theatre with more than seventy years of interpretative tradition behind it took refuge in the public theatres, where it enjoyed public applause for nearly another century; and where, necessarily, it was transformed. Indeed, these performances in the public theatres necessitated musical adjustments for the demands of singers, as well as of fashion: reasons no doubt that lay behind the inclusion of new arias in the 1752 staging by the Italian composer Corvi Moroti, despite the fact that de Nebra was still living. These set new texts by Manuel Guerrero, a singer who was (as Professor Leza highlights in his Preface) the first male performer of serious roles, which had until then been reserved – in the Court fashion – for women.
All this is presented in a clear and careful analysis, without excessive detail or so briefly as to give the feeling that the Editor is dealing with second hand information; and by demonstrating the successive transformations of the piece in a way which will allow performers and scholars to have an understanding of the history of such works - something really necessary for really complete and coherent revivals of Spanish Lyric Theatre of the 17th and 18th centuries.
© Gerardo Fernández San Emeterio