Cuban Zarzuela and the (Neo)Colonial Imagination: A Subaltern Historiography of Music Theater in The Caribbean
Zarzuela is a musical theater genre in which alternating sung and spoken text do not rupture the dramatic action. It originated in Spain during the seventeenth century primarily as a form of court entertainment, however it soon became an effective tool for the consolidation of Spanish colonial power in the Americas. While many of the former Spanish colonies developed native zarzuela genres, Cuba was the only American territory to develop a solid and prolific zarzuela culture with an extensive repertoire. Cuban zarzuela developed and flourished in Cuba between the 1920s and 30s, a few decades after the Spanish relinquished control of the Island. This historical period was marked by pronounced shifts in the country’s political, economic, and cultural sectors. As the country began to define itself as a nation, artists turned back to the colonial experience in search of a national identity. Hence, from its inception Cuban zarzuela has been part of a nationalist project. Even though its structure follows closely that of its Spanish counterpart, Cuban zarzuela is an independent musical theater genre, differentiated from the former by the inclusion of Afrocuban, European and Indocuban performance practices that circulated throughout the Island until the early twentieth century. I position Cuban zarzuela and the themes it explores in the context of what Diana Taylor has labeled ‘scenarios of discovery’ to designate a research paradigm that decenters European modes of knowledge production and transmission in the interpretation of cultural phenomena in the Americas. In doing so, I frame my analysis by locating and exploring the gaps within and among the histories of the Spanish conquest, and the subsequent trajectories of the scenario in the diaspora. My objective is to localize the ways in which zarzuela has been an active participant in discourses of Cuban national identity construction. I conclude my analysis with an exploration of the relationships between zarzuela, cultural memory, and identity formation.
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:cuban zarzuela diaspora musical theater
Date of Publication:01/01/2007