Florida Grand Opera will open its 2011-2012 season with its first-ever zarzuela, Luisa Fernanda, and will be joined on November 15, for one night only, by the legendary Placido Domingo. For many opera lovers, myself included, zarzuela is a new experience. I, of course, have for years heard it described simply as "Spanish musical theater", but I just left it at that and never learned anything more about it. Italian Romantic opera was always my favorite when I was growing up, and Verdi and Puccini were usually what I put on when I didn't really know what to put on. Over the years, I also made occasional forrays into French, Russian, Czech, (I was lucky enough to see Renee Fleming in Rusalka relatively early in her career), and yes, even occasionally that frightening (at least to me) territory of German opera. The operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan have always been a delightful source of entertainment when I wanted something more lighthearted and comical. And yet, somehow, I managed to overlook Spanish-language works. Maybe it's because, at least during the years I lived in those places, the Seattle Opera, Eugene Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera never performed any zarzuela.
So I decided to do a little research. I started with the words of Maestro Domingo himself, who described it thus: "Zarzuela is a traditional Spanish musical genre that is frequently compared to the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and the Viennese operettas of Johann Strauss." Okay, this is already starting to sound good. Then I tracked down a synopsis of the plot, which I will not give away here, other than to say that there is, of course, the requisite love triangle. And then I found the videos, and in the process, I found something new to love. The music is beautiful and absolutely delightful! Here is the "teaser trailer" for Luisa Fernanda, and okay, so I lied, I guess it does give away at least part of the plot.
Luisa Fernanda lies outside my realm of familiarity, and so I very nearly overlooked it again. That would, indeed, have been a shame, because a whole new door of operatic bliss has been opened for me. This is one production that I definitely do not want to miss!