Why Did Spain Fail To Develop Nationalist Opera?

Why Did Spain Fail To Develop Nationalist Opera?

Volume 38 Issue 1

Author(s): Clinton D. Young

Recommended Citation:

Young, Clinton D. (2013) “Why Did Spain Fail To Develop Nationalist Opera?,” Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies: Vol. 38 : Iss. 1 , Article 7.



Spain, unlike most other continental European nations, failed to develop a nationalist school of operatic composition during the nineteenth century. This failure had two causes. The first was a lack of institutional support, as Spain’s leading opera house (the Teatro Real in Madrid) was dedicated to the performance of Italian opera. This pushed opera into the commercial theatre, betraying the lack of state support for nationalist musical culture. The second reason for the failure can be found in the adoption by Spanish composers of the musical philosophy of Richard Wagner. Wagnerism insisted that music was a universal ideal. The lack of institutional support and tensions inherent in Wagnerism played out most clearly in the performance history of Tomás Bretón’s Los amantes de Teruel; the failure of this opera to find an audience would be the last significant attempt to create nationalist opera in Spain. The failure of nationalist opera in Spain is yet a further example of the Spanish state to develop nationalist traditions in the late nineteenth century.

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