Ópera y Teatro musical

La Dolores

Ángel Oliver
jueves, 23 de septiembre de 2004
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Tomás Bretón y Hernández (Salamanca, 1850-Madrid, 1923) was one of the great revitalising forces of Spanish music during the period of the Restauration. He composed in a wide variety of genres, including opera, zarzuela, symphonic and chamber music. He was always an ardent defender of the state of music in Spain, his noble ideals often being hostilely rejected.

His ideas regarding the renovation of music in Spain, which connected with contemporary regenerative thought, were insistently expounded in the capital’s main cultural forums, such as the Conservatorio –which he directed from 1901-1921, the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the Círculo de Bellas Artes and the Ateneo Artístico y Literario.

The composer

Tomás Bretón completed his studies at the Conservatorio de Madrid in 1872. He shared the composition prize with fellow composer Ruperto Chapí. Later, without the official support of his maestro Emilio Arrieta, he was forced to compose zarzuelas for second-rate theatres in order to earn a living. However, the idea of composing an opera always formed part of his artistic goals. This led to the composition of Guzmán el Bueno in 1876, a modest operatic work in one act, whose main flaw was Antonio Arnao’s excessively traditional libretto.

From this point onwards, opera formed a central part of his extensive output. Its presence was unrivalled in comparison to that of his contemporaries, who only sporadically composed in this genre. For Bretón, opera was the genre which would bring Spanish music up the standards of other European countries, a stance which was in line with the approach of the first wave of nationalism. Although zarzuela was originally an interesting departure point, he believed it hadn’t managed to evolve enough towards opera and had become a genre with no future. His rejection of the género chico was even clearer, due to the excessive evaluation of his sainete La verbena de la Paloma, which –despite its charm and character– was limited by its unambitiousness. Opera was thus the only viable way of creating a national musical-theatrical genre, although the existing infrastructures didn’t offer any facilities towards this end. Bretón was thus very critical of the management of the Teatro Real, which showed its lack of support of national opera by neglecting it and by programming poor-quality Spanish works, centring its ideas on foreign operas and bowing to the wishes of the divas.

Bretón’s first real opportunity to work on a large-scale opera came with a scholarship from the Rome Academy, which allowed him to travel throughout Italy, Vienna and Paris from 1881-1884. In fulfilment of the third year of the scholarship, Bretón composed Los amantes de Teruel, which was premièred at the Teatro Real in 1889, after a long and bitter polemic. Months later, the success of this première in Madrid was followed by that attained in the Liceo of Barcelona, whose Círculo commissioned him for a new opera, this time with a Catalonian theme: Garín o l’eremita di Montserrat, another success after its 1892 presentation. Both operas followed in the tradition of grand Romantic opera, revealing a mature musical style which was marked by a careful treatment of the voices and Wagnerian-influenced symphonic development.

La Dolores –his next operatic work– respresented an original part of his output, it being an adaptation of the well-known rural drama by Feliú y Codina. Bretón’s use of this work was not a coincidence, since its more realistic setting set it apart from the more Romantic forms of historical melodrama, bringing him closer to the modern veristic conception which was at its peak during the 1890s throughout Europe. Musically, greater importance was placed upon popular elements, in keeping with the practices of the género chico, barely a year after the unexpected success of La verbena de la Paloma. In addition, the symphonic texture was simplified by renouncing recurring motives, in favour of a greater presence of the voices, in line with the Italian tradition which he never strayed from. La Dolores was thus a very powerful and original opera, one of the greatest successes of Bretón’s career, as well as an interesting twist in his conception of national opera, which formed part of the most advanced European trends.

The work

La Dolores was not only one of the greatest operatic successes of Tomás Bretón’s career, but one of the few successful works in the little-known history of Spanish opera. The dramatic intensity of the theatrical work is especially significant, offering the composer many possibilities which Bretón took full advantage of in his score. The composer not only assimilated the main European operatic trends of the time in a very original manner, but successfully adapted veristic forms to the demands of Spanish music. In this respect, Guillermo de Morphy –Bretón’s good friend and patron– reproached the audience for only paying attention to the most superficial elements, commencing a long review of La Dolores by emphatically affirming the opera’s national character:

La Dolores is a Spanish opera in every sense; it has everything: plot, characters, setting, music, picturesque and popular scenes and many elements which combine in giving it a life of its own and local colour. And herein lies the importance of this opera, which time and future generations will call a masterpiece.

Morphy himself pointed out that the new opera studied local elements with greater accuracy than Bizet’s Carmen, whose popularity was unwaranted:

This is, briefly, Bretón’s La Dolores, for me his most complete work, and as I have already stated, I believe that in posterity it will be considered an ideal brought to fruition. Bizet’s Carmen is known throughout the world more because of the supposed Spanish colour of the work, than for its composer’s talent, yet this Spanish flavour is unauthentic, both in the literary and musical parts of the work, though it is undoubtedly inspired and very beautiful, but inappropriate to a popular Spanish story-line.1

However, the Spanishness of La Dolores should be viewed from a wider perspective, which relates Bretón’s opera to the veristic movement as a whole. Realism forms part of the basis of Feliú’s conception of the drama, which, as we have seen, presents two important novelties: a realistic setting and very passionate characters. The choice of Feliú’s drama was well made, forming a model for Spanish opera which was based on operatic verism, the most up-to-date conception of musical drama at the end of the nineteenth century. The music critic of La Época viewed it in the following manner:

The composer of Los amantes de Teruel was right in focusing his attention on La Dolores. It is such a beautiful drama, with a sincere and strong national spirit, abounding in characteristic scenes, full of animation, life and local colour, in which, encouraged by the inspiration of a true dramatic author, violent passions of the kind which, as Rossini would have said, are sung, securing half the road to success for the composer, and perfectly reflecting a patriotic spirit and generous desire, encouraging Bretón to bring his dream to reality. Spanish opera is no longer a deceptive hope.2

In La Dolores, Tomás Bretón was careful to maintain a balance in the unfolding of the story-line, constructing an opera on a smaller scale to that of his previous two operas, within the traditional three-act form, more in accordance with fin-de-siècle models than with those of grand opera, which had previously inspired Los amantes de Teruel and Garín. In fact, these early operas were criticised for their excessive length, a problem which La Dolores did not pose, this having been one of the reasons for its immediate success.

The work’s vocal roles are distributed according to traditional patterns, with a leading couple played by the soprano (Dolores) and the tenor (Lázaro), accompanied by two baritones (Patricio and Melchor), a bass (Rojas), a comic tenor (Celemín) and a mezzo-soprano (Gaspara). Additionally, another tenor voice is required to sing the two jotas  in Acts I and III, as well as the copla sung by the muleteer in the first scene.

The female protagonist who gives the work its title, is on stage during most of the three acts. The role is entrusted to a lyric-dramatic soprano, capable of singing in both registers with expression and developing the psychological complexity of the character. The upper register is not too demanding, only reaching a high Bb, although this note should be powerful, while the lower register goes down as far as C. The role is comparable to that of some of Verdi’s heroines (Leonora, Aida, Desdemona), which were followed by late nineteenth-century roles such as Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur and La Gioconda. Dolores was frequently performed by Ofelia Nieto.

The tenor entrusted with the role of Lázaro must possess a more lyrical voice, although with dramatic touches, meaning that the role should be performed by voices with great capacity, such as those of Hipólito Lázaro and Miguel Fleta, who recreated the role at the beginning of the century. A lyrical, cantabile line predominates in the madrigal in the second act, as well as in his two duets with Dolores. His participation in Act I is very brief, although his character has a great effect on the audience, comparable to that of Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca, or other veristic works such as Turiddu in Cavalleria, Enzo in La Gioconda, Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur or Andrea Chernier.

The other roles are of lesser importance with respect to Dolores and Lázaro. Melchor is a baritone, with little to do in the upper register. The role doesn’t present any great difficulties. Of note are his three encounters with Dolores, one in each act, although only the first is worthy of being termed a duet. Patricio is also sung by a baritone, who is mainly required during the initial scenes, with a brief cantabile passage and his song about gifts in Act II, while he is barely needed later, merely giving brief comments in group scenes. The same occurs with Sergeant Rojas, a bass role, with certain features inherited from zarzuela such as his guise as an Andalusian character.

Celemín was conceived for a light tenor, in line with a comic zarzuela tenor, with little weight to his voice and a central register which doesn’t surpass a high G; he only takes on more lyrical tones in his duet with Lázaro in Act III, also participating in the famous jota at the end of Act I. Gaspara is an easy role for mezzo-soprano, with even a lesser degree of participation, although she is present in the opening scenes of the last act in a dialogue with Lázaro and Dolores. The role of the chorus is brief and not very involved, its highlights being the animation of the plaza in the opening scene and the end of Act I with the famous jota. Other brief choral sections include the party at the end of Act II and the rosary scene, involving only a few singers.

As in other operas, the orchestral part in fairly complex, though within a Classical line. The orchestral forces required are: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in A and Bb, 2 bassoons, 4 French horns in F, 2 trumpets in F, transcribed in C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (triangle, cymbals, glockenspiel, tubular bells, side drum, bass drum) and strings. The voices are always supported by an elaborate orchestral texture, which gives great continuity to the action and effectively underlines the different dramatic situations. Notwithstanding, the orchestration used in La Dolores is less elaborate than in his previous two operas, especially in the use of recurring themes, which are reduced to a minimum.

On the other hand, a band of string musicians, consisting of bandurrias, lutes, guitars and bass (guitarrón), is used on stage to perform the passacalle in Act I and the jota in Act III. In addition, a band consisting of piccolo, clarinets, cornets, French horns, bass saxhorns, trombones, basses, side drum, bass drum and cymbals, is used for the pasodoble in Act II. The use of these bands comes as a result of Bretón’s attempt to reproduce the musical reality of the town of Calatayud on stage.

The opera begins with a prelude previewing several themes which are heard later, with clear programmatic intentions, which are reflected in the presentation of the theme of the copla at the beginning as a generating element of the entire drama. Later, a theme with a Spanish character, in its lowered scale degrees, is heard –inspired by the destiny theme from Carmen– (Bien moderado y enérgico), the cantabile in which Lázaro declares his love and the jota at the end of Act I. Despite its potpourri appearance, Bretón constructs a condensed exposition of the drama in the prelude, as he had done in his previous operas.

When the curtain is raised on Act I, we are privy to an animated scene in the Calatayud market place. Over a Moderado in F Major, phrases pertaining to different groups can be distinguished (low-class individuals, stall holders, spinners and pious women), which are intermingled and separated in a light, but elaborate, polyphonic texture. Later, as at the beginning of La verbena de la Paloma, our attention is directed towards the dialogue which takes place by the inn between Celemín and Rojas, who comment on the chorus of a jota which is heard in the background (Solo a dos teclas responden, en mi pueblo las muchachas…), which presages the entire tragedy. Of note is the accompaniment, with many small details in its orchestration (alternating woodwinds and strings) and expressive modulations (D Major–F Major–Db Major–etc.). Bretón’s musical language is very continuous, avoiding the stereotype of the traditional recitative. According to Guillermo de Morphy, “all these initial scenes are sprinkled with the enchanting perfume of popular music”.3

The arrival of the boastful Sergeant Rojas interrupts the scene with a drum roll which marks the beginning of a simple march. He salutes those present with a series of bombastic phrases, which end in a comic coloratura, followed by a Moderato in which the bass sings a melody over repeated circular motives in a very Italian style, as is the harmony with the use of the lowered third and sixth scale degrees. This passage is clearly within the tradition of Italian opera buffa, recalling similar episodes such as Belcore’s entrance in Donizetti´s L’elisir d’amore.

Dolores appears in the following scene, coming out of the inn to serve wine to her two suitors. Her appearance –and Rojas’s surprise– are highlighted by an interrupted cadence in the brass, which instantly changes the tone of the previous dialogue. Sergeant Rojas declares his love to Dolores in a simple, very Italian cantabile passage, in which a semi-quaver triplet motive features in the accompaniment, a melodic resource characteristic of Spanish music camouflaged in a secondary part. Following this, Patricio proposes to her in a different cantabile passage, all three characters forming a trio, divided into two parts: a slow part based on the theme of Rojas’s cantabile passage (D Major) and another rapid passage in a 3/8 allegro (B Major), which ends with a brilliant final ritornello. This trio follows traditional formal structures, used in Italian opera buffa, although harmonic and melodic details give it a certain “Spanish” colour. The transition to the third scene takes place while Lázaro goes off to find Dolores, with a sequential modulation of the rapid theme of the trio over a chromatic bass. Different moments in the dialogue between Lázaro, Dolores, Celemín, Patricio and Rojas are framed musically by rhythmic figuration in the accompaniment, over which they express their thoughts. In addition, certain words and situations of this agile dialogue are highlighted by harmonic changes and the orchestration.

Melchor’s appearance interrupts the light character of the opening scenes, the mood becoming more dramatic in his discussion with Dolores. During these moments of intensity, Bretón uses a non-traditional continuous form, which seeks to reflect the character’s sentiments. Thus, in their initial meeting there are constant changes of tempo (Lento–Allegro vivo), harmonic instability and uneven melodies with constant leaps. There follows greater lyricism with an intense melody sung by Dolores, constructed using sequences, appoggiaturas and modulations. There are few moments in which the voices are combined and left undeveloped, the continuity of the action given priority. In the midst of a violent discussion, Melchor shows his true character over a destiny theme which was heard in the prelude (Así, Dios me formó cruel, violento, sin temor y fe…). Guillermo de Morphy indicated that this phrase was very significant, since its “tragic and sombre character is a clear indication of the cruel destiny that awaits him”.4  The approaching band of string musicians’ pasacalle interrupts the discussion, which ends with a hesitant repetition of the previous theme, in the form of a modulatory progression.

Act I ends with a brilliant combination of themes, based on popular forms such as a pasacalle, jota, soleá and another chorus of the jota. These elements are not merely decorative, but incorporated in the drama of this finale in a very original manner. Patricio enters with the group of string musicians, playing a pasacalle to serenade Dolores, in which Bretón attempts to reproduce popular music in a direct way: the harmony is reduced to its basic tonal functions, contrasting sections, symmetrical phrases and clear and distinctive rhythmic motives.

After Patricio greets all those present, the famous jota, one of the most famous parts of the opera, begins. Despite later adaptations, it mustn’t be forgotten that it forms part of the story-line. Bretón unashamedly reproduces the popular form, based on alternating tonic and dominant harmony (in A Major) in four-bar groups, with various variations and a clear predominance of rhythmic elements, in the characteristic 3/4 time. In between, Dolores, Gaspara and Melchor make breif comments over small motives in the flutes, without losing the basic harmonic structure. After this extensive orchestral introduction, which accompanies the dance offered to Dolores, three coplas are performed: the first by an anonymous singer (Aragón la más famosa…), a second by Celemín (Por una moza del barrio…) and a third which both sing together joined by the chorus (Grande como el mismo sol…). Above the obsessive harmonic structure –which attempts to faithfully reproduce the famous popular dance– Bretón uses a great array of orchestral resources, in successive variations, of note being the manner of accumulting simple musical elements. This number caused a great furor the day of the première of the opera, and was repeated twice.

Following the uproar of the jota, Sergeant Rojas proposes they sing a theme from his native Andalusia: a soleá, with a certain parodical effect. It follows traditional forms, which had already been offered a year earlier in La verbena de la Paloma: pizzicato strings, syncopated notes and Andalusian cadential formulas, set to a 3/8 rhythm. According to Guillermo de Morphy, this soleá is a “radical and effective” constrast to the “ferocious Aragones song” of the previous jota, “a love and war song”, “proof of the richness of Spanish popular song”.5 Melchor detains Rojas’s soleá, whose repetitions were becoming excessive, and improvises his famous copla for Dolores (Si vas a Calatayud, pregunta por la Dolores…), preceded by an orchestral introduction in the string band. This gives way to a tense and rapid final number, an agitado in which Dolores reacts angrily and those present comment on the situation, based on an imitatory theme and a series of modulations. A repetition of the initial variations of the jota close the act effectively, since an attempt to mask the tension of the situation is made using festive music. All these popular themes are used in a clear attempt to accurately reflect the popular music which the drama is based on. Bretón doesn’t detain himself in searching for “atmospheres”, as the generation posterior to Falla did, but resorted to a direct quote, or an attempt at imitating the musical reality. This concept was misinterpreted by later critics, who unjustly accused Bretón of not knowing how to “correctly” deal with popular song, showing their incomprehension of the realist interests of his quotes.

Act II –which takes place in the courtyard of the inn– begins with a brief prelude, which a critic once defined as having a “religious character”,6  since it reflected the atmosphere of devotion and prayer of the high mass attended by Lázaro and his aunt Gaspara. This orchestral introduction (Bien moderado) is based on the repetition of an ornamented arpeggio in the violins, with harmonic support from the other instruments, soft dynamics and tonal stability (G Major),  intensified by some modulations. As the curtain rises, a short dialogue between Lázaro and Gaspara takes place, which is indicated in the score as “recitado-tranquilo”, in which the rich accompaniment –over the simple melodic lines of the voices– stands out, adding a more lyrical atmosphere through an elaborate contrapuntal line in the strings.

The next scene is a tenor romance, one of Bretón’s additions to Feliú’s drama. This number reflects the Italian influence on Bretón, constituting a good example of his skilful handling of the voices and the orchestra. The musical development is conventional, with a recitative and an aria in three parts (ABA), which is termed Madrigal, in an attempt at dramatically justifying the pause in the drama. Of note is the lyricism of the tenor’s phrases, tonally enriched by modulatory turns, and the progressive participation of the accompaniment, through imitations, partial doubling in the strings and woodwinds and chromatic support in suspensions and appoggiaturas.

The third scene contrasts with the previous ones, as Patricio enters weighed down with presents with which to seduce Dolores. He sings a light Allegretto gracioso, on a simple theme and orchestration with a predominance of staccato notes in the flutes and violins, within a more tonal harmony (F Major). According to Morphy, “Patricio sings a delightful passage of music, which I’m not sure could be called an aria, but whose forms and genre recall Mozart’s style”.7  Patricio is surprised by Rojas and later by Celemín, who arrives with the townsfolk. The Sergeant fantasizes about a successful bullfight, in an extensive narration, based on popular elements used in a parodial manner: a pasodoble (Allegretto animado) and an Andalusian rhythm in 6/8 with hemiolas. These scenes reflect the assimilation of the zarzuela tradition in lyric drama, as Morphy recognises in pointing out that “it can stand up against the best repertory by Barbieri, Gaztambide and Oudrid”.8

In the fifth scene Melchor boasts that he has been Dolores’s lover to her two suitors. Bretón once again resorts to a free recitative with great variety, in which lyrical motives are contrasted with the strings and other more rhythmic motives, with a certain freedom of modulations, which contribute to the continuity of the scene, without any brusque changes. The dramatism reappears when Dolores detains the new copla Melchor was going to improvise. Bretón reflects the tension of the meeting with a single note (F#) in the double basses, sustained during their first words. Later, he uses stronger, more violent resources, such as arpeggio motives and dry tutti chords, while Dolores challenges her spiteful lover and swears revenge. In contrast more lyrical themes are heard, which give the scene greater expressivity. Various harmonic turns –such as Andalusian cadences and an alternation between the major key and its relative minor– give it a Spanish colour, camouflaged in the compositional texture.

Once the three suitors have gone, Lázaro arrives and is alone with Dolores, forming a brief duet. Expressive resources trace the psychology of the characters, such as in the seminarist’s first words, in which there are hints of his fear at declaring his love for Dolores, through anticipated quotes of the previous cantabile theme in the woodwinds. Finally, he expresses his love in a long and passionate phrase, in a brilliant upper register, which Dolores contests “smiling and mockingly”. Once again, Bretón’s Italian influences are reflected in “a musical page with a very new timbre, with marvellous tenderness”9,  as described by Guerra y Alarcón. Celemín suprises them and calls over the townsfolk to tell them, in a passage constructed in a long, gradual crescendo, which Lázaro angrily contests.

This second act closes with a very original scene in which the bullfight is experienced without it being shown on stage; only the characters’ comments and movement on stage reveal what is happening in the plaza to the spectator. The bullfight is announced by an on-stage band, which plays a pasodoble, with which Bretón once again attempts to be faithful to the music of a real situation, in a completely veristic gesture. This realistic intention produces such surprising details as the brusque tonal change which interrupts the pasodoble with the famous bugle call which marks the beginning of the bullfight, a horn in E Major, in strong contrast to the Bb Major in the band, a key often used in band music because of its easy transposition. Morphy pointed to this realist treatment of the band, indicating that “both for the character of the idea, and the predominance of the bass, the military band has been given the typical form and sonority of the local street band”.10

The bullfight is described by the cries of those present who, instead of singing, join in the festive bustle, a situation which undoubtedly inspired a similar one in Penella’s El gato montés. The tension of the orchestral motives reaches its peak when Lázaro jumps into the bullring to save the Sergeant: a timpani and bass drum roll, brass motives with a tremolo in the strings, and an unstable harmony in diminished sevenths. After the happy ending a theme in quick 6/8 time enters, during which everyone congratulates Lázaro. In the midst of the dialogue, brief reminiscences to previous themes can be heard, which presage the tragic events of the last act, before the brilliant orchestral coda which accompanies the curtain fall. This entire final scene is very effective dramatically-speaking, and very accurately portrays the different situations, which Guerra y Alarcón described as “a scene full of light, life and colour”.11

Act III transports us to a room in the inn, next to that of Dolores. It begins with a Grave which reflects the atmosphere of devotion and prayer in its orchestration –bells included– with long pedal notes, which produces a static sensation. When the curtain rises we witness Gaspara, Celemín and Dolores praying in the room, togther with other young boys of the town, led by Lázaro. Bretón characterises the situation with great accuracy, once again seeking to recreate the sound of a similar, real-life situation, with their rogations declaimed by the clergyman and contested by the chorus in open fifths, on a long D pedal. Once they have finished praying, a brief dialogue between those present takes place, with an intense accompaniment in the strings, and great lyricism in some of Lázaro’s phrases, the scene ending with two expressive augmented-sixth chords. The subtlety of these details was highlighted by the critic of El Imparcial, who termed this beginning: “a very inspired page composed for the most delicate of palettes”.12

Resources of characterization, and a sense of dramatic continuity are noteworthy in the following scenes. First Celemín, who –upon attempting to warn Lázaro of the danger of his love for Dolores– forces the previous light characterization of his character into more lyrical moments. Then Lázaro, who reacts violently –threatening all those who approach Dolores– in a very different register. Some details reflect the dramatic capacity of Bretón’s music, such as a Gb held by the bass clarinet, which serves as an enharmonic modulation (Eb-B Major), whose insistence seems to announce the upcoming tragedy. Later, Dolores, Rojas and Patricio, and later Gaspara, whose brief comments are accompanied by a simple theme shared between the violins and woodwinds, in a scene full of small details, such as a triplet which is heard as Rojas leaves, in reference to his Andalusian character. Finally, Gaspara –who blames Dolores for the danger her nephew faces– and Lázaro, who bids a very emotional farewell to Dolores, with an intense appoggiatura motive which reappears several times. All these moments reflect the emotion prior to the tragedy, with a great richness of orchestral means: clarinet phrases which gradually become more important, the constant presence of the strings or the mysterious horn calls.

Alone, Dolores sings a beautiful romance in which she expresses her contradictory feelings. The leading soprano develops the expressive possibilities of the middle register of her voice (climbing sporadically to a high Gb or Ab) and using the low notes very effectively (C), a vocal treatment more in the line of late Verdi than veristic dramaticism. The orchestra intensifies the moment, incorporating oboe and clarinet motives in imitation and chromatic lines, with expressive tonal turns which enrich the main key of Db Major.

The bells toll ten o’clock, the fateful hour of his meeting with Melchor, beginning the great love duet between Dolores and Lázaro, one of the most successful moments of the score since its première. It is divided into cantabile moments, in which both manifest their love, and other, more tense moments, in which they express their fears. First the tenor’s declaration of love (Di que es verdad…) over a very traditional, symmetrical line, tonal harmony (E Major) and the characteristic high note at the end (B natural), gently accompanied by harp arpeggios and the solo cello. After a modulating transition, the soprano responds (Todo mi ser embriagado…), in a passage in Db Major, which is enriched by a suprising enharmonic modulation (Ebb Major=D Major). After another transition in a chromatic progression, both voices combine with the tenor theme in E Major. The combination of traditional elements in this duet is significant, especially the predominance of the voices and cantabiles, with other more advanced elements, such as the use of modulations, all this with numerous orchestral details, such as the woodwind expressions and the trill in the violin in diminuendo which ends the duet. This is one of the culminating moments in the score, in which “there is infinite passion, desperate jealousy, anxiety and hope, all expressed with amazing precision…”.13

Tensions mount from this moment on, firstly, the string musicians’ jota, surprising the lovers and later the knocks on Dolores’s bedroom door. Once again, the resources used to characterise the characters are once again very accurate, reflecting the couple’s fears: timpani beats, brass chords, rapid figuration in the violins, a longer, more expressive motive, all above the faltering dialogue, which is combined with a recollection of the previous love-duet theme in the woodwinds. When Melchor enters, the tragic ending is perceived in the orchestra’s comments, with quotations of previous themes, with an increasingly confused discourse, backed by a sustained harmonic instability. Lázaro challenges Melchor, with an “Andalusian” harmonic pattern, which is repeated in the later fight in which the seminarist kills Melchor, carrying out Dolores’s revenge. Finally, everyone arrives after hearing the cries and Lázaro is accused of the crime, rejecting Dolores’s help with two passionate phrases, which flow into a vibrant orchestral finale which moves to the major mode (B Major). This ending is fairly quick, following a dramatic framework similar to that of Bizet’s Carmen, a model which was present in the violent finales of veristic operas such as Cavalleria rusticana and Tosca.

In light of an examination of the score, La Dolores constitutes one of Bretón’s main creations, especially in the strength of its story-line and its national character, built on realistic bases. As a result of his choice of Feliú y Codina’s drama, Bretón distanced himself from the historical models of romantic drama, which he would retake in his next opera, Raquel, working on a very original proposal, in a model which was at the height of its popularity in European lyric theatre since the success of Cavalleria rusticana.

Musical elements of a national character are especially significant in the score, which transcends the decorativeness employed in Garín with Catalonian themes. Firstly, direct quotation -or recreations- of Aragonese popular folklore are used, such as the different coplas and jotas, a pasacalle and a pasodoble. The novelty lies in the literalness of these quotations, attempting to reproduce popular musical elements on stage, resorting to characteristic ensembles: the popular string band and brass band. All this is a result of the character of Feliú’s drama, in which copla was the main ingredient, generating the drama. The composer himself recognised the importance of these popular elements, especially the jota, in his new opera, in an interview published the day of the première in El País, pointing out that

we have more than enough elements to make national opera, our popular airs are the best in the world, especially the jota is the best of them all and has an epic character which makes it the fighting song of a virile population, and I believe with a bit of good will we can free ourselves of foreign tutelage in music. My aim is to do everything possible to throw out the Italians, tossed out from the greater part of Europe. I certainly won’t be able to, but in time this will be the goal of many, not just mine, and its success won’t leave any room for doubts. In regard to the work’s artistic tendency, I will say La Dolores is genuine and essentially Spanish; without being made of seguidillas and boleros; they serve as the motive and basis of the popular songs of this land, and especially the jota, which I passionately admire.14

The Spanish character goes beyond quotations of jotas and pasacalles. Sergeant Rojas performs a wide array of Andalusian songs, treated with an ironic tone. But in La Dolores, Spanish elements are also integrated into the musical discourse, especially with the use of melodic motives with lowered scale degrees and triplets, as well as in the importance of harmonic progressions which follow the model of the “Andalusian cadence”. This is used at central moments in the drama, such as Dolores and Melchors’ meetings or during the final fight, creating great emotional intensity.

La Dolores created a model for Spanish opera which went in a very different direction to Bretón’s two previous works by integrating Spanish elements into the drama, using a great variety of expressive resources to characterize the action. In addition, the intensity of Feliú’s drama offered many possibilities for dramatic development, which were well exploited by Bretón. All critics praised the musical quality of the score of La Dolores, as Guerra y Alarcón related:

The whole work is written in such a pure style and with such a great knowledge of all the procedures of the difficult art of counterpoint, and such a prodigious harmonic richness, that it can serve as a model. Bretón has composed a work in which he has combined his profound knowledge of all available harmonic resources, in a very original and personal way and an infinite and spontaneous inspiration in each musical number”.15

In La Dolores, Bretón not only manages to integrate the typologies of more contemporary music in late-nineteenth century opera, but create a work with great force and musical-dramatic quality, which deserves to form part of the international opera repertory.

Synopsis (by Víctor Sánchez)

Act I: Calatayud market place

On market day the Calatayud square is bustling with stall holders, espadrille shoemakers, weavers and devout women. Amid all this activity, seated outside Gaspara’s inn, the rich Patricio tells his friend Celemín of his love for Dolores. A drover crosses the stage singing a premonitory refrain: solo a dos teclas responden, en mi tierra las muchachas: al querer suena la una, la otra suena a la venganza (where I come from, girls only respond to two things: love and vengeance. Both agree the refrain portrays Dolores, who was rejected by Melchor the barber after he had seduced her. A drumroll announces the arrival of soldiers under the command of Andalusian Sergeant Rojas, who boasts of his intention to win over Dolores, in turn provoking Patricio, who views him as a new rival. Lázaro, a timid clergyman and Gaspara’s nephew, reproaches the young girl’s mocking attitude with respect to her suitors. Melchor arrives enraged and tells his former lover he is going to marry someone richer, enraging Dolores, who herself swears revenge. After this incident, the band of street musicians. conducted by Patricio. makes its appearance playing a pasodoble. Everyone joins in the party, performing a jota, while Celemín comments on Patricio. Rojas clumsily begins a soleá, which is interrupted by Melchor’s improvisation of the famous romance in which he insults Dolores (Si vas a Calatayud, pregunta por la Dolores, que es una chica muy guapa y amiga de hacer favores). Dolores gets angry, challenging her former lover, although the liveliness of the jota calms the mood, separating them.

Act II: Courtyard of Gaspara’s inn, with a door through which the square can be seen.

Gaspara advises her nephew to study hard on his return to the seminary so that he can be ordained soon. Left alone, Lázaro laments that his vocation could be affected by his love. Patricio arrives weighed down with gifts for Dolores. He argues with Sergeant Rojas, who boasts Dolores will be swept of her feet when she sees him kill the bull. Melchor makes a bet with her other two suitors that she will agree to a date with him that very night. Dolores, plotting her vengeance, lets herself be seduced and arranges to meet him at ten o’clock, although she also arranges to meet Patricio and Rojas at the same time. Once the three suitors have gone, Lázaro, who has come to say good-bye, declares his love for Dolores, much to her surprise. Celemín catches them by surprise, calling everyone over to laugh at the scene. Lázaro, enraged, grabs him by the neck but the fight is interrupted by the announcement of the beginning of the bullfight. Everyone heads towards the ring. Rojas, who had dedicated his turn at bullfighting to Dolores, is taken by the bull and saved by Lázaro, who throws himself into the arena. All celebrate the seminarist’s unexpected triumph. Dolores, moved by his bravery, makes a date with him as well for ten o’clock.

Act III: A room in Gaspara’s inn.

Dolores, Gaspara, Celemín and the boys of the inn led by Lázaro, say the rosary. Once they have finished, Gaspara tells her nephew to rest since at five he is to leave for the seminary. Celemín recognises Lázaro’s courage and makes up with him, telling him to forget Dolores. Patricio and Rojas arrive to take him on rounds, but Gaspara throws them out, insisting he should rest. Later, she calls Dolores to say good-bye to her, reproaching her for having seduced her nephew. Dolores explains her feelings for him, warning that he should go before ten so that he doesn’t coincide with Melchor. Gaspara follows her advice and brings forward Lázaro’s trip, and he bids an emotional farewell to Dolores. Once alone, Dolores laments her solitude. At ten o’clock, Lázaro unexpectedly comes through the window and they embrace passionately. Later, the insulting romance from the first act is heard and Lázaro swears his vengeance. There is a knock at the door and Lázaro hides in the next room. Dolores knows it is Melchor but tricks Lázaro, telling him it is Gaspara, thus trying to avoid the tragic meeting. Melchor argues with Dolores and tries to rape her, prompting Lázaro to come out in her defense. After a brief fight, Lázaro kills Melchor. Everyone comes running in response to the cries of help and they encounter the body. Dolores tries to protect her lover by confessing to the crime, although Lázaro reacts by admitting his guilt.


Première and dissemination

Given La Dolores’s different character, Tomás Bretón decided not to offer it to the larger opera houses –such as the Teatro Real or the Liceo–, believing that his new opera would be more appropriate for a theatre like that of the Zarzuela, where it was premiéred on 16 March 1895. This decision was a very correct one, since by going beyond traditional operatic circles –closed to Spanish opera– the work was popularized as more performances were possible. Bretón was aware of this, since he had seen how Los amantes de Teruel had been very successful with audiences, but didn’t hold its place in the repertory, despite the fact that it was restaged several times and it could be seen in various cities in Spain and the rest of the world.

In 1895, the Teatro de la Zarzuela tried to recuperate its image with the support of the zarzuela grande, in the midst of an atmosphere dominated by the success of the género chico. For this reason, the impresario Elías reinforced the company which had been successful with works such as Mujer y reina, with music by Ruperto Chapí with a libretto in three acts by Mariano Pina y Domínguez. Notwithstanding, the limited artistic quality of the company was underlined by the demands of La Dolores, as the Conde de Murphy recognised:

Lamentably, the Teatro Real was not the scenario for its performance, and the means of execution, although very praiseworthy, haven’t been up to the standard they should be given such important and critical circumstances for the history of national art. This is a natural and logical consequence of the lack of organization in everything concerning music and theatre, as proven by La Dolores. Had it been performed in the Real, it would have had to be translated so that the Italians could sing it in their own language, passing into the theatre’s archive six or eight performances later so that a century later some clever researcher could rescue it from the dust and oblivion.16

The cast-list for the première was led by the soprano Corona (Dolores) and the tenor Simonetti (Lázaro), together with Mestres (Melchor), Sigler (Rojas), Visconti (Patricio), Alcántara (Celemín), Castellanos (Gaspara) and Vera (muleteer and vocalist), conducted by Bretón himself. It must be said that these were not the most appropriate singers for such an important work. Notwithstanding, the première was a great success, both for the composer and the theatre. There were ovations throughout the entire performance, and at the end numerous admirers accompanied Bretón to his home (calle de la Bola, 7), forcing him to salute them from his balcony, as was previously the case with Los amantes de Teruel and Garín. The next day the press underlined the importance of the new opera, emphasizing the force and quality of its music.

La Dolores was the great success of the season in the Teatro de la Zarzuela, and was performed from its première on 16 March until the end of the season on 15 May, a total of more than 60 performances in two months, which included the usual interruption for Holy Week. During these months, in addition to the usual benefit functions at the end of the season, various homages were paid to Bretón, including a banquet17  in the Jardines del Buen Retiro.18

The work’s departure from more traditional operatic circuits, dominated by Italians, brought with it important opportunities for its dissemination. That same summer it was performed at the Tívoli Theatre in Barcelona for 112 consecutive nights, an unthinkable figure for a Spanish opera in a theatre such as the Liceo or Real. It could be seen thoughout Spain over the following years, and it wasn’t long before it was heard in Latin America. It arrived in Mexico on 30 November 1895, and was performed by the same company that would present the work in Buenos Aires in January 1896. An Italian translation, made by E. Golisciani, allowed the work to be offered by Italian companies, such as that which visited Rio de Janiero in August 1896 and Buenos Aires in October that same year. In 1906 the composer embarked on a journey to conduct La Dolores, first in Milan on 16 January, and later in Prague, on 18 February, in a German translation made by F. Adler. It was also translated into English in 1907 by C. A. Byrne, making it likely that it was performed in the United Kingdom.

La Dolores reached the Teatro Real in Madrid on 11 May 1915, during a discrete season of Spanish opera. Six performances were given –from 11-23 May– with a cast led by the soprano Carmen Domingo (Dolores) and the tenor García Romero (Lázaro), together with De Ghery (Melchor), Pablo Gorgé (Rojas), Corts (Celemín), Carlos del Pozo (Patricio) and Ramona Galán (Gaspara), with a beautiful sceneography by Luis París, and was conducted by the composer himself. Of greater significance was the work’s restaging in 1923, only months before the composer’s death. Two of the most famous Spanish singers of the period participated: the soprano Ofelia Nieto and the tenor Hipólito Lázaro. The first performance conducted by Bretón himself while the rest were conducted by Ricardo Villa. Another two performances were staged at the end of this season in the Teatro Real (4 and 8 April), this time with Miguel Fleta accompanying Ofelia Nieto. The Aragonese tenor, who had started his career singing jotas in his local region, took Bretón’s opera around the world and didn’t hesitate to perform it in Madrid,19  despite the recent success of Hipólito Lázaro only a few months prior. Certainly, the role of Lázaro offered the singer moments of brilliance. In the Gran Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona, the work was performed for the first time on 1 January 1916, with the tenor José Palet and the soprano Dolores Frau, of whom it is said her voice was not dramatic enough for the role; the orchestra was conducted by Padovani, who already knew the work after having conducted it in America.20

The popularity of La Dolores led to the making of a cinematographic adaptation in 1923, during the composer’s lifetime. The film was produced by P.A.C.E (Producción Artística Cinematográfica Española), written and directed by Maximiliano Thous and the participation of the actors Ana Giner (Dolores), Leopoldo Pitarch (Melchor), José Latorre (Lázaro) and Dolores Cortés (Gaspara). The music was chosen under Bretón’s supervision, using his own adaptation of the opera, the score being held in the Sociedad General de Autores.21  The popularity of La Dolores was enormous, becoming the composer’s most famous work, even rivalling that of his popular sainete La verbena de la Paloma.

The libretto. From Feliú y Codina’s drama to Bretón’s opera

Tomás Bretón used Feliú y Codina’s drama titled La Dolores as the basis for his new opera, and wrote the libretto himself. This work had been the driving force behind so-called rural drama, whose realistic orientation interpretted rustic costumbrismo within a middle-class morality. According to Jesús Rubio Jiménez,

the origins of rural drama derive from naturalism, the prolongation of nineteenth-century regional costumbrismo and the influence of certain aspects of Golden-age theatre, with its themes about honour and pride, rooted in popular feeling. Rural drama presented exalted human passions in a primitive framework, and normally made reference to conflicts of a sense of personal honour. It was a middle-class creation, a consequence of their idealized view of the rural environment, in which simple, but noble people were situated, without the viciousness of the city.22

José Feliú y Codina (1847-1897) was born in Barcelona. He spent part of his career as a writer in Madrid, which he made his home in 1886, although without losing contact with the Catalonian capital. In his early years, after studying law in his native city, he made contributions to various satirical and humorous newspapers in the Catalonian language, and at the same time commenced his career as a playwright, making contacts in newly-reborn Catalonian theatre circuits, creating a very varied array of pieces such as the drama La filla del marxant (1875), the magic comedy La dona d’aygua (1882) and the revue La barretina (1882). After his move to Madrid he also wrote in Spanish, contributing to newspapers such as La Revolución, La democracia, El Imparcial and La Iberia. Th success of his three-act drama La Dolores in 1892 would consolidate his reputation as one of the best playwrights in the Spanish language on a national scale. In a very similar line to this rural drama are later works such as Miel de La Alcarria, La real moza, Boca de fraile and María del Carmen, the latter named best drama premièred in 1896 by the Spanish Academy and set to music by Granados. He died prematurely in 1897.

According to the Aragonese writer Juan Barco,23  Feliú y Codina was inspired by a blind romance he heard in Binéfar during a train stop in the route between Madrid and Barcelona. He wrote a zarzuela he presented to maestro Cereceda, who returned it years later, prompting the author to convert the story into a three-act play. The première of La Dolores the dramatic work took place at the Teatro Novedades in Barcelona in November 1892. The work was very successful with audiences, who were attracted by its great dramatic force, filling the theatre to capacity over the next few months. The work was presented in Madrid in April 1893, starring María Guerrero, provoking controversy among some critics. Clarín published a very critical commentary attacking Feliú’s style for being “plagued with grammatical, rhetorical and poetic defects”. José Yxart replied to Clarín reproaching him for “spending too much time censuring verbiage and insignificant mistakes”.24  The Catalonian critic highlighted the play’s important qualities, underlining the interest in its characters, its traditional setting and passionate action, making it a “characteristic and national” work.

Another interesting aspect of La Dolores is its realism. Antonio Sánchez Portero’s research  has uncovered the real basis of the legend found in the blind romance upon which the work is founded. Seemingly, there was a woman named María de los Dolores Peinador Narvión, born in Calatayud in 1819, who a retired military man and his wife obliged to live the licencious life told in the popular romance. Years later, Feliú y Codina was able to go to Calatayud himself, to learn more about the vicissitudes of the Dolores of the romance before writing his famous play. During his stay he had the opportunity to visit the San Antón Inn, which as Gaspara’s, became the setting for his play. La Dolores’s naturalist intentions can thus be compared to those of the librettos of Cavalleria rusticana –inspired by a story by Giovanni Verga about a passionate crime in Sicily– and Pagliacci, whose text was written by Leoncavallo himself, based on a real crime which occured in Calabria.

The dramatic force of the subject matter was thus very appropriate to a musical-theatrical work and it was inevitable that Tomás Bretón be seduced by Feliú y Codina’s play. Bretón composed the score of La Dolores in barely two years, and work on it was interrupted by two other zarzuelas –La verbena de la Paloma and El Domingo de Ramos– and the completion of the symphonic work Escenas andaluzas. He himself wrote the libretto for his new opera, as he had done previously with Los amantes de Teruel, whose favourable results had given him sufficient confidence to tackle his own texts.

Bretón interest in the subject moved him to visit Calatayud, so as to get to know its folklore first-hand. The visit is described in an unpublished memoir by the Aragonese writer and journalist Darío Pérez. In his adaptation, Bretón was faithful to Feliú y Codina’s play, maintaining the unfolding of the story-line, even the small details, fitting them into musical and operatic structures which require greater concentration and simplification. The changes Bretón made to the drama were small. In fact, the cover of the libretto published in 1895 states that the work is “arranged and based on the drama of the same title by José Feliú y Codina”.26 

He eliminated the secondary role of Justo, who barely spoke, so as to cut back on characters, which would otherwise reduce the possibilities of having the work staged. Even the scenic annotations are copied –with small changes– from those of the drama, except for Act 1, which transfers the action to the market square outside Gaspara’s inn, the setting for the beginning of the traditional scene, with different groups of the chorus as espadrille makers, stall holders and spinners. An interesting detail is the change of epoch of the action. In the drama it is “contemporary” while the opera is set around “1830 or 1840”. Antonio Sánchez Portero relates this change to the real-life Dolores, who experienced the Carlist War around 1834. In his opinion, although Feliú y Codina changed the legend for his play, he was aware of the real story because of his research in Calatayud . It was probably the Catalonian playwright himself who told Bretón the real story and suggested the change of date of the opera’s setting.

Feliú’s play began with Celemín’s comments after the famous copla, which gives rise to all the action. Bretón preferred to situate it at the end of Act 1, creating a moment which is not in the play, in which the tension produced explodes with great force, after the famous jota. The remaining episodes are very similar, even in their small details: Patricio and Celemín’s comments about Dolores, Rojas’s arrival, Lázaro short and timid entry and the meeting between Dolores and Melchor. In Act 2, secondary details are eliminated, although a very similar structure is used: Patricio’s gift of the scarf, Dolores’s interruption of Melchor’s new copla, Lázaro’s declaration of love, interrupted by the townsfolk and the final scene in which the seminarist shows his bravery with the bull. Only a “madrigal” for the tenor is inserted at the beginning, in accordance with operatic practices. In Act 3 the action is even more concentrated, eliminating the initial scenes between Patricio and Rojas, to get straight to the tragic ending. There are many similarities to the dramatic work, such as the duet between Dolores and Lázaro: Lázaro’s declaration, Dolores’s asking to be forgiven, their coming together, the band of musicians and Lázaro’s anger. The same occurs in the last scenes, in which even the same words are used on various occasions.

In sum, Bretón reinterpreted Feliú y Codina’s play, maintaining the story-line and taking inspiration from its original lines. Logically, it didn’t make sense to directly use the same lines, since this wouldn’t have been viable musically. Bretón wrote various new lines, although he was often inspired by the original text. Bretón himself confirmed his faithfulness to the text in his adaptation of it in an interview in which he denied rumours about the excessive innovations he made to Feliú y Codina’s drama: “No, sir. The only change, with his approval, was to the copla ‘Si vas a Calatayud, pregunta por la Dolores, etc.’, which instead of coming from the street to the stage, is improvised right there, which gives rise to the musical number; the other changes are only minor ones. Right now I can’t recall them”.27

Bretón considered the use of the Spanish language as an indispensable element in the development of national opera, in contrast to the excessive presence of Italian, which he himself had suffered in the forced translation of Los amantes de Teruel for its première. Language’s capacity to communicate itself was a very big advantage, while it also implied a different relationship between the audience and the stage. In a 1904 address Bretón defended the excessively harsh criticism his librettos had received. Much of the criticism of the text by critics was excessively condemning, since the final result of the libretto should be comprehended in the musical context, there being little sense in comparing these lines with those of the drama, since they have a very different function. In addition, it is the music that gives the drama true force and value, which in its transformation into opera, not only maintained the excellent qualities of Feliú y Codina’s original drama, but  strengthened them with the excellent score composed by Bretón.

The libretto has contributed to clearing up some doubts about the text, with various reeditions, although the first was published by the Administración Lírico-Dramática in 1895: “La Dolores. Drama lírico en tres actos, arreglado sobre el drama del mismo título de José Feliú y Codina. Letra y música de Tomás Bretón”.28

Sources and editorial criteria

All remaining manuscripts of the work have been used in assembling this critical edition. These are listed below:

1. The manuscript belonging to the Bretón family, which was able to be consulted thanks to the kindness of Joaquín Hernández Bretón, the composer’s grandson. It consists of three volumes, one for each act, the first signed by the composer in October 1894, the second, 1894, and the third left undated. This is the most reliable source, in that it was undoubtedly revised by the composer himself.  

2. A copy of the manuscript held in the Archivo Lírico of the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, with the reference number MPO/227. It is a very accurate copy, also revised by the composer. It was accidentally cut when it was  bound and some pages have been damaged to the extent that the music on the uppermost and lowest staves has been affected. The stamp of the publisher F. Fiscowisch can be found on a number of pages of this copy.

3. A second manuscript copy in three volumes, also held at the Archivo Lírico of the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, with the same reference number MPO/227.  As with the previous copy, this very clear, hand-written copy was also used for performance.

4. In addition to the three sources mentioned above, a fourth autograph manuscript exists in vocal score format, dedicated to Anselmo González del Valle, and held in the family’s collection. This was the first version of the opera, since Bretón first worked on a pianistic reduction. Despite its secondary character, it offers some details which have helped to resolve doubts in the vocal parts.

Logically, the two vocal reduction have also been consulted. The first was published by Casa Romero (undated) and forms part of the archives of the SGAE with the call number B/3317.1. The other was also published in Madrid –in 1910– by the Sociedad Anónima Casa Dotesio, and carries the call number B/3318. The text of this edition is given in Spanish and Italian. It contains numerous errors and the piano part, not only reduces the orchestral part but also doubles the voices, often forcing the adaptation. It has been used as a secondary source to verify some details.

With respect to “tempi” and its modifications, these have been expressed both in Spanish and Italian, thus avoiding a mixture of different terms in both languages which frequently appears in the original manuscript. Some of these cases include: “Bien moderato” (beginning of Scene I, Act I); “crescendo mucho” (Scene 1, b. 78 and Scene 8, b. 120, both in Act II), “Allegretto movido” (Scene 8, b. 13, Act II), etc.

With regard to the voices, dynamic and expression marks had to been included, since the overriding majority of them are not included in the original manuscript. Equally, innumerable articulations of very different types have been included with regard to instruments, such as sforzandi, hairpin dynamics, staccati, underscoring, etc., in keeping as close as possible to the composer’s original intention. The fact that the string band consisting of bandurrias, lautes, guitars and bass guitars, is written out in full in the score is an advantage, since this was not often found in such works from later periods.

In regard to the clarinets, it was esteemed better to leave them as the composer indicated, in A and Bb. Apart from timbral reasons, this was also done because of the tessitura, which would have compromised the original orchestration on some occasions had they been transposed from A to Bb.

The orchestration of the on-stage band (end of Act 2) is as follows: Piccolo –in Db– (transposed to C), soprano, 1st and 2nd clarinets –in Bb–, French horns in Eb –(transposed to F), trumpets in Eb transcribed as trumpets in C, ophicleides, trombones, double basses and percussion consisting of timpani, side drum, bass drum and cymbals. The on-stage band is given as Act 2, Scene 11. The reduction can be found at the end of the score (page 403) and the orchestration is included at the end of Act 3 (page 600).

The following corrections needed to be made:


Prelude. Near the beginning, on page 4 (b. 14) in the two copies consulted, the trombone clef is wrong. A C-clef on the fourth line is needed instead of the F-clef on the fourth line.

Page 9 of the present edition –corresponding to page 8 in part no. 2–  (passage from bb. 47-52). There are some cross-outs in the manuscript copy and the inclusion –in pencil– of the two bassoons forming a harmonic entity with the violas, which seems not only more acceptable, but more coherent and timbrally interesting. In bar 52 the dotted B in the second oboe should be a minim, followed by D-C naturales, in quavers; thus reinforcing the flutes, clarinets and violas, in unison with them.

Page 10. In the repetition of the phrase given on the previous page, bar 57 of the violas, which should be identical to the previous bar, has been omitted in the original manuscript.

Scene 1. bb. 32-33: the resolution of the A in the first bassoon is missing in the original copy. It is reached from a C which has been corrected with an E; bb. 63-64, the logical F suspension, which doubles the spinners’ voices in the two flutes is missing in the original copy.

Page 42, b. 120. Omission of the resolution of the low Eb in the clarinets.

Page 43, b. 127. Fourth beat of the cellos: B instead of A.


Scene 4. b. 4. In the original copy, the copyist has mistakenly copied the bassoon part on the clarinet staves.

Page 306. bb. 106-108. There is no reason why the bassoon shouldn’t continue doubling the cello line, to maintain timbral homogeneity.


Scene 2. Page 470-71. In the passage from bars 94-100 a (clarinet and bass clarinet) pedal is present which at bars 96-97 sets up two opposing harmonies: an Eb minor chord and a Db major chord.


I would like to express my thanks to those who helped to complete this edition, especially Javier de Paz and Juan Antonio Rodríguez, who carried out the delicate and laborious task of copying the work. To Antoni Ros Marbá, who during the recording of this version of La Dolores –the first complete recording of the opera– made a very important contribution in bringing the score up to scratch.

English translation by Yolanda Acker


G. Morphy: “La Dolores de Bretón”, La correspondencia de España, Madrid, 18.3.1895.

C. F. S.: “Veladas teatrales: Zarzuela”, La Época, Madrid, 13.3.1895.

G. Morphy: op. cit.

G. Morphy: op. cit.

G. Morphy: op. cit.

R. M. [E. Ruiz Morales]: “Los estrenos: La Dolores”, El País, Madrid, 17.3.1895.

G. Morphy: op. cit.

G. Morphy: op. cit.

Guerra y Alarcón: “La Dolores”, Heraldo de Madrid, Madrid, 17.3.1895.

G. Morphy: op. cit.

Guerra y Alarcón: “La Dolores”, Heraldo de Madrid, Madrid, 17.3.1895.

Eme: “Teatro de la Zarzuela: La Dolores”, El Imparcial, Madrid, 17.3.1895.

Eme: op. cit.

E. Ruiz Morales: “La Dolores. Antes del estreno”, El País, Madrid, 16.3.1895.

Guerra y Alarcón: “La Dolores, Heraldo de Madrid, Madrid, 17.3.1895.

G. Morphy: op. cit.

Heraldo de Madrid, Madrid, 27.3.1895.

The work’s success quickly sparked parodies of the opera. The first was announced in the Madrilenian press barely five days after the première, titled La Primores, with a text by the journalists Curros and Quintana and music by Arnedo and Consuegra. The next day the same newspaper reported on a new parody, La Lola o la chica de Calatayud, with a libretto by Sr. Tolosa. The most famous parody was Dolores… de cabeza o El colegial atrevido, with a text by Salvador María Granés and music by Arnedo, premièred at the Teatro Apolo barely a month after the première of the opera.

Alfonso Carlos Saiz Valdivieso: Fleta, memoria de una voz, Madrid, Ediciones Albia, 1986, p. 148, 153.

La Dolores was incorporated into the repertory of the Liceo, and was later restaged more than 30 times: in 1922 with Hipólito Lázaro and Ofelia Nieto, in 1924 with Palet and Fiedla Campiña, in 1929 with Gaviria and Campiña, in 1931 again with Palet and Carmen Bau, in 1938 with Lázaro and Matilde Martín, in 1939 with Juan Rosich and Martín, in 1948 with Manuel Ausensi and Juana Luisa Gamazo, in 1959 with Miguel Sierra and María José Simo, in 1969 with Pedro Lavirgen and María Fernanda Acebal. The last performance took place in 1975 with Lavirgen and Mirna Lacambra, together with Vicente Sardinero, Cecilia Fondevilla and Dalmau González.

Reference no. TL-227. An analysis of this adaptation can be found in: Julio C. Arce Bueno: “Aproximación a las relaciones entre el teatro lírico y el cine mudo”, Cuadernos de música iberamericana, Madrid, S.G.A.E, vol. II-III, 1996-97, pp. 273-280. A later, more famous, cinematographic version was made in 1939 by CIFESA, directed by Florían Rey, starring Conchita Piquer, which used Bretón’s music, in combination with new songs by Guadalupe Martínez del Castillo and Manuel L. Quiroga, in a free adapatation of Feliú’s drama, which had nothing more to do with Bretón’s opera.

Jesús Rubio Jiménez: “El teatro en el siglo XIX (1845-1900)”, Historia del teatro en España, ed. José María Díez Borque, Madrid, Taurus, 1988, p. 684.

Juan Barco: VPI, pp. 80-81. Quoted in: Antonio Sánchez Portero: La Dolores: un misterio descifrado, Calatayud, 1987, p. 101.

José Yxart: El arte escénico en España, Barcelona, Editorial Alta Fulla, 1987, p. 218.

Antonio Sánchez Portero: La Dolores: un misterio descifrado. Historia de una copla que se convirtió en leyenda, Calatayud, 1987.

Tomás Bretón: La Dolores, Madrid, Administración Lírico-Dramática, 1895.

E. Ruiz Morales: “La Dolores. Antes del estreno”, El País, Madrid, 16.3.1895.

A second edition, in addition to that cited above, was “La Dolores. Argumento de la ópera española en 3 acto, arreglada sobre el drama del mismo título original de D. José Feliú y Codina, letra y música de D. Tomás Bretón”, Valladolid, Celestino González, 1903.

This manuscript has recently been acquired by the Biblioteca Nacional, where it has been deposited.

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