Opera Scotland

Verbena de la Paloma La verbena de la PalomaThe Festival of the Virgin of the Dove

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Tomás Bretón (born Salamanca, 29 December 1850; died Madrid, 2 December 1923)

Ricardo de la Vega.



First performance: Madrid (Apollo Theatre), 17 February 1894.
First UK performance: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 17 August 1997.
First performance in Scotland: As above.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.


La verbena de la Paloma was the most successful of the popular zarzuela form of entertainment, produced by Bretón and his contemporaries, known as género chico, or small-scale pieces, because they were in one act. The story is a fairly inconsequential one set against the lively street life of Madrid during the annual Festival of the Virgin of the Dove on the 14 August. It was the second zarzuela to be staged in Edinburgh, following La Chulapona in 1989. Sensibly, instead of the vast spaces of the Playhouse, it was performed in the more intimate King’s Theatre, and was a great success. It marked the first appearance in Edinburgh of a staging by Calixto Bieito, but was rather less controversial that some of his later productions of well-known works.


Main Characters
Susana (soprano)
Julián, a typesetter (tenor)
Seña Rita, the innkeeper’s wife (mezzo-soprano)
Casta, Susana’s sister (mezzo-soprano)
Don Hilarión, an elderly apothecary (baritone)
Don Sebastián, a merchant, Hilarión’s friend (baritone)
Tia Antonia, Aunt to Susana and Casta (mezzo-soprano)
Flamenco singer (singer)


Plot Summary
The piece opens with three separate groups of people, Hilarión and Sebastian outside the chemist’s shop, Julián with his godmother Rita, and Rita’s husband playing cards with his friends. Julián complains to Rita that he is jealous due to Susana’s behaviour. Hilarión is seventy, but still full of energy, though teased about this by his old friend Sebastián. They all leave for the festival. Later, a voice from the café sings a popular song, taken up by the crowd. The nightwatchman and guards end their patrol. Casta and Susana, chaperoned by their aunt, start to dance to melodies played in the café. Don Hilarión flirts with the girls and arouses Julián’s jealousy, but he is calmed down by the innkeeper, guards and watchman. Outside Sebastián’s shop a dance is in progress when Hilarión comes to seek Sebastián’s protection and hides in the shop. Julián arrives followed by the girls and their aunt and an argument ensues. Julián reveals that he loves Susana and she reciprocates, but there is a final flurry of excitement when Julián finds Hilarión in the shop, but peace is at last restored.

The Cast

 (a Flamenco Singer)
 Susana's sister
Don Hilarión
 an elderly apothecary
Don Sebastian
 a merchant, Hilarión's friend
 a typesetter
Seña Rita
 the innkeeper's wife
Tia Antonia
 Aunt to Susana and Casta

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