José Padilla

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Josť Padilla
José Padilla
(1889 - 1960)

José Padilla Sánchez (b. Almería, 28 May 1889) trained in his home town, at the Madrid Conservatory and in Italy, before commencing his musical career.

He rapidly became immersed in Madrid theatre life, and the first of his large output of zarzuelas was La Mala hembra (1906), a one-act sainete to a libretto by Ventura de la Vega, grandson of the well-known writer of the same name, who was to be a regular collaborator in his early years. A string of one-act sainetes and revistas (revues) followed, amongst which Juan Miguel (1909); Los viejos verdes (1909, with Quinito Valverde) and Luzbel (1917, with Miguel Nieto) should be mentioned. There was also an opera - La Faraona, to a text by Mantilla de los Rios.

He later spend much time in Paris, where he wrote the scores for two opérettes, Pépète (1924) and Symphonie Portugaise (1949), as well as the many popular songs which were incorporated in revues at the Moulin Rouge and elsewhere. These songs, which include El relicario, La violetera and the pasodoble Valencia, brought him international celebrity and keep his memory green today. Another of them, My Spanish Rose, was later to be interpolated in Jerome Kern's score for The Night Boat on Broadway.

Despite his success abroad, Padilla continued to write for the Spanish stage. Many of his best known songs were in fact adapted from zarzuela numbers - Valencia comes straight from the enjoyable La bien amada (1924), which enjoyed a notable success in Barcelona. Later Spanish works include the cheeky revista Mucho ciudado con la Lola (1935); La giralda (1939, to a libretto by the Quintero brothers); and La violetera de la prada (1941). Perhaps the best received of the longer works was La hechichera en Palacio (1950). He died in Madrid, on 25th October 1960.

Many people who'd claim never to have heard of Padilla will certainly know his tunes, the best of which retain their freshness despite years of hackneyed maltreatment at the hands of tea-room quartets and suburban dance orchestras. The graceful, sun-drenched, lilting El relicario, for example, obstinately refuses to lie down and die. The irresistible Valencia has even become a sort of unofficial national anthem. His skill as a sweet melodist and orchestrator is to communicate a delightful air of relaxed enjoyment, and although his complete zarzuelas are unlikely to regain a foothold in the active repertoire, the songs will be with us for many years to come.

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