Recovering the Story and Music of Manuel Areu

Recovering the Story and Music of Manuel Areu [event image]

Apr. 8, 2:00 PM -- Apr. 8, 4:00 PM

Research Symposium:  Recovering the Story and Music of Manuel Areu
 Friday, April 8, 2016 | 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Frank Waters Room, Zimmerman Library

Found in a dumpster in Jerome, AZ in 1952, the music scores and documents of Spanish composer Manuel Areu tell us about his creative work in Spain, Cuba, México, and the United States during times of important social and political changes. The collection is now housed in the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections at University Libraries.  Honors College students and faculty at the University of New Mexico will present their historical research based on the Areu collection and their work of transcribing the music to be played by the New Mexico Philharmonic later in the two-day "New Mexico Philharmonic Music & Arts Festival: Turn of the Twentieth: The Music & Times of Manuel Areu. This is a FREE event. 

The New Mexico Philharmonic, in collaboration with the UNM Honors College and in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the City of Albuquerque, the Consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque, and Chatter, presents season one of The New Mexico Philharmonic Music & Arts Festival, with this season’s focus being Turn of the Twentieth: The Music & Times of Manuel Areu.  The Manuel Areu Project consists of bringing to light the original music and theater works of composer, musician, actor, and entrepreneur Manuel Areu. Areu was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1845 and died in Mexico City in 1942. Although this collection was found in 1952, there were no efforts to recover and perform Areu’s original music. However, in 2012, under the guidance of UNM Honors College Faculty, University of New Mexico Honors College students began to research Areu’s life and work using this unprecedented collection of music scores and manuscripts. Areu’s artistic life spanned Spain, Cuba, Mexico, New Orleans, and Los Angeles as well as some cities in Texas and Arizona.

Find out more on the Honors College Website.

Find out more about the Areu collection.

Manuel Areu, musician, actor, and impresario, was born in Madrid, Spain in 1845 and died in Mexico City in 1942. Because his family made a living in the theater, Areu's youth was spent traveling throughout Spain with the family troupe. Thus he developed his talents at an early age.

In the 1850s, when Areu was still quite young, Spain experienced a revival of an indigenous form of lyric theater known as zarzuela. Hundreds of zarzuelas were written and produced in the following decades. They became as popular in Latin America as they were in Spain, with companies like the Areu's travelling from Madrid to perform in the Americas.

Areu himself departed Spain for the New World in 1868. He was choral director and prompter for a newly-formed family company which had been commissioned to perform for the Teatro Albisu in Havana, Cuba. Areu helped to popularize the zarzuela during a long and successful career as composer, conductor, performer and stage director in Cuba, Mexico, and the southwestern United States, and he kept his growing collection of zarzuela manuscripts in several large chests. Areu also staged plays, concerts, and arrangements of French and Italian opera, and gave violin recitals.

After the turn of the century, as the popularity of the zarzuela began to decline, Areu and his family, including six children, settled in Puebla, Mexico. Here, in 1905, they established a successful enterprise in talking films, or vistas habladas. Their company, known as the Variedades Hermanos Areu, performed zarzuelas and vistas habladas throughout Mexico and Guatemala.

The family was driven from Mexico, however, during the Mexican Revolution in 1914. Eventually the elder Areu settled with his daughters in Jerome, Arizona, where the family company performed vaudevilles and films at the Lyric and Zaragosa theaters and worked at a large mercantile store. Areu himself concentrated on oil painting, writing music and plays for the vaudeviles, and teaching his grandchildren the fundamentals of music.

During the height of the Depression, the entire family moved from Jerome to Los Angeles, leaving Areu's eight large chests of zarzuelas behind in the care of a neighbor. In 1934, Areu was taken to live in Mexico City, where he died at the age of 97 in 1942.

In 1952, the Areu house in Jerome was demolished by the mining company, and the contents of the apparently forgotten chests were disposed of at the Jerome dump. Here an artist, combing the dump for sculpting materials, discovered the cloth-bound manuscripts carefully tied in bundles with bias tape and shoelaces. The soiled and faded manuscripts were subsequently received by John D. Robb, Dean of the Fine Arts College at the University of New Mexico. By arrangement with family members living in the Los Angeles, California area, the collection was formally deposited with the University of New Mexico University Libraries. Additional materials were donated to the collection in 1985 and 1992 by family members.

Two scholarly works have been written about the Areu collection. Mary Caroline Montano brought the rare collection to light in 1976 with her thesis titled "The Manuel Areu Collection of Nineteenth-Century Zarzuelas" (UNM, 1976). The collection was also the subject of Sally Joan Bissell's dissertation titled "Manuel Areu and the Nineteenth Century Zarzuela in Mexico and Cuba" (University of Iowa, 1987). Numerous articles about the collection have also appeared in journals nationwide. In addition, works from the collection have been transcribed and performed by local and out-of-state theater companies.

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