Francisco Arderius

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Francisco Arderius
Francisco Arderius
(1835 - 1886)

Francisco Arderius Bardan was baptised on 27th September 1835* in Evora, Portugal, the son of Spanish parents. His aunt was the famous singer María Bardan. Francisco studied in Madrid's Universidad Central before commencing his energetic career in the capital as a performer and entrepreneur. Although he was not a writer of note, his importance to the development of zarzuela merits his inclusion in these short biographical sketches.

From modest beginnings as a café pianist and chorister at the Teatro de la Zarzuela Arderius' theatre career blossomed. Once the composer Gaztambide pointed out his vocal limitations, he became a successful comic actor, taking leading roles in many early successes at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, including Gaztambide's own Una vieja (1860). One of his later acting triumphs was as the scatty and endearing Doctor Mirabel in Caballero's Los sobrinos del capitán Grant (1877).

A visit to Paris, where Arderius saw at first hand the immense popularity of Offenbach's light, satirical operettas on classic themes, changed the emphasis of his work. He saw that the recipe could work equally well in Madrid; and his promotion of the Compañía de los Bufos Madrileños at the Teatro Variedades from September 1866 proved highly influential in changing the direction of popular and - later - creative taste. The first and most important production he mounted was El joven Telémaco, with a libretto by Eusebio Blasco and music by José Rogel. With its light, frothy tone, satirical Ancient Greek milieu, and catchy melodies it proved a huge if short-lived hit throughout the Hispanic world.

Although subsequent shows did not quite match the success of El joven Telémaco, Arderius was able the following year to move to the larger Teatro Circo where he attracted writers such as Carrión, and composers of the quality of Arrieta and Barbieri to the lighter, remunerative world of Los bufos. The latter's Robinsón - based on a translation of the French text of Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe - was particularly successful, with Arderius himself enjoying immense applause in the title role; recent revivals have demonstrated its enjoyable effectiveness.

The craze passed quickly, but Arderius' later ventures as a theatrical manager were far from unsuccessful, including seasons installed at the Teatro de la Zarzuela (1871-2 and 1882) and Teatro Apolo (1877). He continued to mount zarzuelas in the established three-act género grande form as well as the short, one-act género chico style which had been partially formed by his experiments with Los bufos. Married in 1866, Arderius died on 15th May 1886, greatly mourned by his Madrid public, and was buried in the Cemetary of San Lorenzo.

* Note: Arderius' birth date is given as 1836 in many reference works. 1835 is established with reference to family records, provided kindly by Alfredo Arderius Martin, to whom I am indebted for several details in this brief biography.

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