This article makes an initial contribution to the largely unexplored field of historical performance practice in zarzuela by examining the earliest surviving recordings of Manuel Fernández Caballero’s Gigantes y cabezudos (1898). One of the greatest successes of the género chico subgenre of zarzuela during the early years of commercial phonography in Spain, it is also the zarzuela of which the most recordings made before 1905 have survived: nineteen, made on wax cylinders by local gabinetes fonográficos and on disc by Gramophone. Both the thriving género chico culture and its singing practices, as well as the technological, commercial, and cultural aspects of the early recording industry in Spain, are discussed to consider how recordings related to live performance in this particular context, what the value is of these recordings as documents of performance practice, and what questions they open up for further study of performance practice in zarzuela.

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