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> Antonio Rodríguez de Hita: Briseida (1768)

Heroic zarzuela in two acts (1768) 

Music: Antonio RODRÍGUEZ DE HITA (1722-1787)
Libretto: Ramón DE LA CRUZ (1731-1794) 

Antonio Rodríguez de Hita (1722-1787) was one of the most important personalities in Spanish music during the second half of the 18th century: organist and chapel master in the Cathedral of los Santos Niños Justo y Pastor in Alcalá de Henares since adolescence, in 1744 he won the public exam for the position of chapel master at Palencia cathedral, a post that he occupied for more than twenty years. From 1765 until his death in 1787 he occupied the same position in the Royal Monastery of the Incarnation in Madrid, one of the most prestigious institutions in the kingdom. Together with the dramatist Ramón de la Cruz, he was responsible for the revival of the zarzuela in the second half of the 18th century with, in particular, Las segadoras de Vallecas (1768) and Las labradoras de Murcia (1769) which would come to define this comic and naturalistic genre - clearly a development of opera buffa - for the following decades.

Briseida belongs to the “heroic” zarzuela tradition that grew out of Calderón, based on historical and mythological themes. On this occasion it deals with the celebrated episode of Achilles’ wrath during the Trojan wars - the central theme of the Iliad. Rodríguez de Hita uses the most modern musical resources: daring modulations, Italian style arias, orchestrations in the Mannheim fashion (horns and oboes as a harmonic cushioning device), dramatic effects recalling sturm and drang, a grand finale, etc.

This zarzuela was a big hit in its day. The librettist himself, Rámon de la Cruz, wrote many years later that the premiere – which took place in the Principe Theatre in July 1768 – had broken box-office records in Madrid. Without doubt it is one of the most balanced and interesting lyric works of the 18th century, which is why we believed a revival was urgently needed.

BRISEIDA, soprano 
CRISIA, soprano 
AGAMENÓN, mezzo 
PATROCLO, soprano 
AQUILES, soprano 
TALTIBIO, soprano 
CALCAS, tenor
6 soloist singers, 7 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, double bass, 2 flutes , 2 oboes, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, bassoon, clave and director (29 MUSICIANS) 
Modern-day premiere (concert-version) in the Principal Theatre in Santiago de Compostela, 21 st July 2007 as part of the II Via Stellae Festival.