Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Canciones De España: Manuel García-Composer, Teacher, and Singer

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Canciones De España: Manuel García-Composer, Teacher, and Singer

Article excerpt

As voice teachers and singers, we have studied and performed beautiful lieder and mélodies composed by the best known of the nineteenth century German and French schools. In preparation for vocal literature classes, we have researched works of lesser known composers, discovering printed music, recordings, articles, and books-all available at the click of the computer mouse. The canciones of the Spanish school-in printed music or recordings-have not been as easily attainable. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elly Ameling, Gerard Souzay, Graham Johnson, Lorraine Gorrell, and others have inexhaustibly promoted lieder and mélodie, but who has championed the art song of Spain? Art song collections available in music stores include, meagerly, a single Mexican folk song or a song by Granados. Standard vocal repertoire has embraced the canciones of Falla, Granados, Obradors, Rodrigo, and Turina because their song collections and cycles have been published and marketed. Was Spanish art song not composed prior to these twentieth century composers? Which composers established an art song tradition in Spain prior to the twentieth century?

Singers and voice teachers teach and perform only accessible song repertoire. If the songs of Manuel García, the gifted tenor who premiered Rossini's Count Almaviva, survive only in Madrid's Biblioteca Nacional, his influence on Bizet and other composers who imitated Spanish melodies and rhythms is not known. The purpose of this article is to discuss briefly the contributions of Manuel Vicente del Pópulo García to opera, music history, voice pedagogy, and composition.

Manuel Vicente del Pópulo García (1775-1832)-the name itself brings to mind the dynasty created by García. We idolize his superstar daughters, the singers Pauline Viardot-García (1821-1910) and María Malibrán (1808-1836), and his son, Manuel Patricio García (1805-1906), the inventor of the laryngeal mirror (1854), a formative figure in the development of voice science, and one of the most prominent singing teachers of his generation. Manuel García, senior-the primo tenore of the operatic stage, the singer for whom Rossini composed the role of Almaviva for his opera, Il barbiere di Siviglia-was a remarkable man whose contributions as composer, teacher, and singer are significant more than one hundred and fifty years after his death.

García was born in Seville on January 21, 1775, in the neighborhood of La Cesteréa, Calle de las Vírgenes, near the convent of Nuestra Señora de Pópulo, from which his name is derived. He was baptized Manuel Rodríguez Aguilar, later changing Rodríguez to García, about which there is much speculation. He may have taken the name of his paternal grandfather, Diego Rodríguez García, or he may have wanted to sever ties to his family. In 1797, García declared that his parents were dead, but his father lived until 1817 and his mother lived until 1821.

Little can be documented about García's early life, including his musical study. As an adult, García stated that he had studied with Antonio Ripa, maestro de capilla of the Seville cathedral, and with Juan Almarcha, cellist and keyboardist. However, García's name does not appear on any corresponding records.1

García moved to Cádiz in 1791, and, in 1797, married Manuela Aguirre Pacheco Morales (1776-1836?), daughter of the actors, José Morales and Manuela Pacheco. The couple moved to Madrid in 1798 to perform in the opera company of Francisco Ramos. García was hired as eighth-leading man, and Manuela, who had already achieved some notoriety as an actor and dancer, held the rank of fourth-leading lady. García made his Madrid debut on May 16, 1798 and, later in the year, starred with Manuela in two of his own compositions-the tonadillas El majo y la maja and La declaración. (Tonadillas, or tonadillas generales, were miniature comic operas with orchestral accompaniment and a small cast. Most were twenty minutes or so in length.)2 García was promoted to fifth-leading man in early 1799, singing his first important role in Nina by Paisiello. …

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