Los hermanos
Álvarez Quintero

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& Christopher Webber
Last updated August 7th 2000

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Serafin and Joaquin Alvarez Quintero

Serafín & Joaquín Álvarez Quintero
(1871 - 1938)
(1873 - 1944)

Serafín was born on 26th March 1871, his brother Joaquín on 20th January 1873. Both were born in Utrera, South East of Seville. The family was wealthy enough to allow the brothers to choose a theatrical career, in which they swiftly achieved fame. From their very first stage piece - Gilito in 1889 - Los hermanos Quinteros were the Golden Boys of Madrid theatre. They always wrote as a partnership. Even after his brother's death, in the midst of the Civil War on 12th April 1938, Joaquín continued to write in both their names, until his own death just over six years later on 14th June 1944.

Like their contemporary Carlos Arniches, they favoured the one-act sainete, with or without music. Unlike him, they did not usually base their work on realistic sketches of Madrid, but on scenes of picturesque, costumbrista (popular life) taken from their native Andalucia or its capital, Seville. Still, they weren't afraid on occasion to tackle contemporary political themes, as in El buena sombra (1898, music by Quinito Valverde), a serious reflection on the disastrous tragedy of the Cuban war against the United States.

Not surprisingly, with upwards of two hundred stage works to their credit over a period of 50 years, they worked with many of the leading composers over three generations. More unusually, one of these was a woman - María Rodrigo, who left Spain for South America during the Civil War years. She and the brothers wrote two successful zarzuelas, Becquerina and Diana cazadora (both 1915). For Caballero they wrote El traje de luces (1899); for Giménez, Los Borrachos (1899) and El patinillo (1909); for Chapí many works including the still-popular La patria chica (1907). Vives, Guerrero, Luna and Torroba were also numbered amongst their select clientele.

The brothers enjoyed a particularly fruitful working partnership with Serrano, the young composer catapulted to fame with their El motete in 1900. For Serrano, they wrote in a passionate, romantic style much closer to Italian verismo than to the accustomed realism of the sainete madrileño. Follow-up successes included the lyrical La reina mora (1903), El mal de amores (1905) and La mala sombra (1906); but even the composer's last, unfinished zarzuela La venta de los gatos (1943) was to a text provided by the Quinteros. Two of their earlier and more ambitious 3-act plays were adapted and set years later by Sorozábal - a lyrical but sharply observed version of the Don Juan story, Los Burladores (1948); and Las de Caín (1953), which unusually for the Quinteros dealt with the comic tribulations of a turn-of-the-century Madrid family.

The virtues of the Quinteros' writings include good taste, solid construction - and shafts of that brooding, poetic imagination which created such a stir in their work with Serrano at the turn of the century, notably the passionate short dramas El mal de amores and La reina mora.

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