Reveriano Soutullo Otero

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Reveriano Soutullo

Soutullo Otero
(1880 - 1932)

Soutullo was born in Puenteáreas, Pontevedra on 11th July 1880 - into a musical family, for his father was director of the local Municipal Band of Arena. Soutullo senior gave his son a thorough musical grounding, before handling him on to local pedagogue Fernández Cid for more advanced tuition. By the age of fourteen the youngster was already competent enough to be directing the chorus in the nearby Tuy, and two years later he obtained the posting of cornet soloist with the 37th Murcia Infantry Regiment. Here he received further harmony lessons from the Bandmaster, Cetina, before moving on to the Madrid Conservatory.

Starting part time in 1900 (full time two years later) Soutullo won First Prizes for harmony and composition, studied under Pedro Fontanilla and Tomás Fernández Grajal respectively. After graduating in 1906, he was able to take up scholarships to study in Italy, France with Ravel and Saint-Saens, Switzerland and Germany before returning to Madrid in order to make his way as a composer - a prospect all the more promising, as his compositions (over one hundred in all forms) had attracted the favourable notice of Ruperto Chapí. He soon began to make his mark with collaborative zarzuelas such as La paloma del barrio (1911, with Andreu), Amores de aldea (1915, Luna), Rosa de Flandes and Piso 5° Letra C (both with Enrique Estela).

In 1919 he began the famous musical partnership with Juan Vert, which continued until the latter's early death in 1931. El capricho de una reina (1919) was their first joint work, but - like their first great success, Guitarras y bandurrias (1920) - it is now all but forgotten. Not so La leyenda del beso (1924), nor La del soto del Parral (1927, to a libretto by Carreño and de Sevilla), both of which maintain their hold in the repertoire. Other popular successes, such as Encarna, la misterio (1925) and the revue Las maravillosas (1928) have dimmed with time, but their final theatre triumph together, El último romántico (1927) is still held in great affection for its gently lilting, Viennese-style melodies and easy charm.

Soutullo did not long survive his younger collaborator, dying of bronchial pneumonia in Madrid on 28th October 1932¹, as a complication of an ear operation intended to improve his increasing deafness. The widely circulated story of his death consequent to a car accident appears to have no foundation.² Aside from the works with Vert, he was solely responsible for an opera La devoción de la Cruz, and the symphonic suite Vigo, both of which are marked by fastidious orchestral craftsmanship and Gallic shifts of harmony. It is difficult to say which of the two composers was responsible for the various strengths of their work together. Well-defined in musical atmosphere, rich in melodic succulence, sophisticated in harmonic and orchestral resource - all three of the major zarzuelas (perhaps pre-eminently La leyenda del beso with its strong verismo passions) seem guaranteed a place in the hearts of zarzuela aficionados for many years to come.

¹ Jaime Estévez Vila: Reveriano Soutullo Otero (Alpuerto, Madrid, 1995). Other sources, such as Espasa Enciclopedia give the 29th, which was the date of his burial (verified by Andrew Lamb).
² The circumstances of Soutullo's death are documented in Jaime Estévez Vila's biography, detailed as above.

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