This article examines the development of Wagnerism in late-nineteenth-century Spain, focusing on how it became an integral part of Catalan nationalism. The reception of Wagner's music and ideas in Spain was determined by the country's uneven economic development and the weakness of its musical and political institutions—the same weaknesses that were responsible for the rise of Catalan nationalism. Lack of a symphonic culture in Spain meant that audiences were not prepared to comprehend Wagner's complexity, but that same complexity made Wagner's ideas acceptable to Spanish reformers who saw in the composer an exemplar of the European ideas needed to fix Spanish problems. Thus, when Wagner's operas were first staged in Spain, the Teatro Real de Madrid stressed Wagner's continuity with operas of the past; however, critics and audiences engaged with the works as difficult forms of modern music. The rejection of Wagner in the Spanish capital cleared the way for his ideas to be adopted in Catalonia. A similar dynamic occurred as Spanish composers tried to meld Wagner into their attempts to build a nationalist school of opera composition. The failure of Tomás Bréton's Los amantes de Teruel and Garín cleared the way for Felip Pedrell's more successful theoretical fusion of Wagnerism and nationalism. While Pedrell's opera Els Pirineus was a failure, his explanation of how Wagner's ideals and nationalism could be fused in the treatise Por nuestra música cemented the link between Catalan culture and Wagnerism.
The Southern Slope of Monsalvat: How Spanish Wagnerism Became Catalan
Clinton D. Young is associate professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. He is the author of Music Theater and Popular Nationalism in Spain, 1880–1930 (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and is a specialist in the political and cultural history of modern Spain. His current research deals with the transatlantic development of operatic culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
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Clinton D. Young; The Southern Slope of Monsalvat: How Spanish Wagnerism Became Catalan. 19th-Century Music 1 July 2017; 41 (1): 31–47. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2017.41.1.31
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