- Venue's Capacity: 1246
The history of the zarzuela as a musical genre dates back to the 17th century, when it was originally a stage play in vhich music played a prominent role. In the 18th century, zarzuela was overshadowed by italian opera, but in the 19th century there was a great revival and for audiences in Madrid it was the equivalent of comic opera or Singspiel in other European countries. Modern zarzuela, an unusual blend of vocal art influenced by both Italian opera and popular dances, also featured cutting social satire reflecting the prevailing attitudes in Madrid. With the success of zarzuela and through initiatives by composers such as Barbieri who had set up a "Sociedad Artística", the handsome Teatro de la Zarzuela, designed by Jerónimo de la Gándara, was opened in 1856.
Here in the calle Jovellanos (the new street where the theatre was built), the most famous zarzuelas were premiered, including EL BARBERILLO DE LAVAPIES, recently revived on both stage and record. But in 1909 the building burnt down. The theatre opened again in 1913 presenting an increasing number of operas (including the first Spanish performance of CARMEN), especially after the Teatro Real closed in 1925. Since then, and while waiting for the Teatro Real to reopen in 1997, the Teatro de la Zarzuela has been the main opera theatre in Madrid: Maria Callas sang here in 1958 and the association of friends of the opera of Madrid organised the first annual opera festival in the theatre in 1964. Zarzuela has also continued its musical reign and has provided opportunities for many young Spanish singers to establish their reputations with a wide public.
In 1970 the Teatro de la Zarzuela was taken over by the Spanish state, but has continued to present opera programmes. The seasons are now comprised of two months of zarzuela and seven months of opera every year, plus recitals and concerts by the Madrid Symphony, the official opera orchestra. The theatre is a partner in the Madrid autumn festival which programmes contemporary works. With such a history, it is hardly surprising that the Teatro de la Zarzuela should be classified as being of public interest, as it was in 1994.