Ramos Carrión

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& Christopher Webber
Last updated August 3rd 2000

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Miguel Ramos Carrión
Ramos Carrión
(1845 - 1915)

A lawyer's son born at Zamora in 1845, Miguel Ramos Carrión initially embarked on a military career. Finding a soldier's life far from his taste, he simulated profound deafness and was discharged as "quite useless". After this happy release he worked as a newspaper editor and journalist, novelist, poet and prolific theatrical writer. So successful were his most popular plays, that they were translated into French - a reversal of the usual literary trade of the time - as well as Italian, German, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish and English.

His first zarzuela was Un sarao y una soiré, written in 1866 with Eduardo de Lustonó for the bufos madrileños at the Teatro de Variedades, nursery of the emerging chico style. The music was by Arrieta, who later asked Ramos Carrión to write texts for the operatic expansion of Marina (1871). This he did with the graceful fluency of Camprodón's original, a model for many of his later, original 3-act works.

Ramos Carrión wrote for many leading composers of the day, often collaborating with minor writers such as Tomás Luceño and Vital Aza, but two regular 'clients' stand out. For Manuel Fernández Caballero he wrote a group of zarzuelas including the egregious Los sobrinos del capitán Grant (1877), a high-spirited tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Jules Verne with plenty of opportunity for grand spectacle.

For Ruperto Chapí he provided masterly zarzuela grande plots in suave, rarefied Italianate verse. This, irrespective of the social standing of the characters, or milieu of the story, whether maritime melodrama (La tempestad, 1882) supernatural thriller (La bruja, 1887, with Vital Aza) or aristocratic comedy (El rey que rabió, 1891 - again with Aza). The work with Chapí ended on a flat note, with the unsuccessful opera Circe (1902).

Ramos Carrión's output was phenomenal, and one of his strengths was his chameleon ability to cut his stylistic coat according to his cloth. He moved easily between three-act zarzuela and the newer, realistic chico style, writing about thirty revistas (revues) and comedy sainetes. His three-act zarzuelas were very much in the poetic, Italianate style, prized by Madrid's literary lions; whilst for Chueca - in El chaleco blanco (1890) and Agua, azucarillos y aguardiente (1897) - he provided a pungent realism, sharp satire and broad comedy in sainetes that were a match for anyone. His last significant work was Pepe Botella (1908), written for the rising star of the younger generation, Amadeo Vives.

His work may be uneven, his structures sometimes ramshackle, but Ramos Carrión's bold characterisation and exuberant comedy remain models of their kind. His sons Antonio and José Ramos Martín (1892-1974) continued the family business, Antonio with modern sainetes very much in the spirit of Ramón de la Cruz and José with zarzuela texts very much in the style(s) of his father - who died much mourned in Madrid, on 10th August 1915.

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