Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Born Today March 14: Manuel Fernández Caballero


Threading the needle between composer and author, Spanish musician Manuel Fernández Cabellero was born on this date in Murcia, Spain.  He was a prolific writer of the Spanish performance form known as Zarzuelas.  These were a form of "low" opera that included spoken word segments.  Cabellero took them to a whole new level.  Adding in many more operatic forms, updating folk songs and having some high choreography written in the direction for his "operas."  Zarzuelas are regional by nature and often tell the story of a particular region or people from a particular region (remember that a large portion of the population in Spain do not actually speak Spanish as a first language, or even at all).  His compositions did to take on many elements of 20th century forms of these performances, which tended to rely much more heavily on folk-tunes and stories; yet his works were utterly unique in form, though not in subject matter.  It is known that he did spend some time in his youth in Cuba as a conductor of zarzuelas (the art form had spread to several Spanish colonies--from Cuba to the Philippines).  His film credits come mostly under the "composer" category, though he gets at least one credit for "writer;" in fact, he should be credited with both.  The nature of his compositions meant that they could be used successfully in silent film as easily as sound film, and that they were.  The first use of his material for a film came with La drapaire in 1925, a silent film produced by the Artistic Films of Valencia (my translation).  The next year saw the release of Gigantes y cabezudos.  Finally in 1927 came the release of Los aparecidos.  Al them silent films; all of them based on his Zarzuelas.  The first full sound film to use any of his work came in 1952 with De Madrid al cielo, which only used one song from one of this zarzuela compositions.  His writing credit came in the 1973 Los sobrinos del capitán Grant, as made for television film in Spain.  Gingantes was remade in 1969, again for Spanish television.  The most recent use of his work in a film came in 2004, with El dúo de la africana.  All of the films made from his work have been productions in his native Spain.  Caballero died at the age of 70 in the Spanish capital of Madrid on the 26th of February, shortly before his 71st.  I cannot find any information on his funerary rites or burial.  

Spanish stamp featuring the aged profile of Caballero

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