Opera Scotland

Chulapona La chulapona

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Federico Moreno Torroba (born Madrid, 3 March 1891; died Madrid, 12 September 1982)


Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernández Shaw.



First Performance: Madrid (Teatro Calderón), 31 March 1934.

First Performance in UK: Edinburgh (Playhouse Theatre), 17 August 1989.

First Performance in Scotland: as above.



Federico Moreno Torroba was a long-lived and prolific composer of musical theatre pieces, producing around fifty between 1912 and 1980. La chulapona is generally regarded as one of his most successful. Even so, it seems astonishing that its British premiere in 1989 should also have been the first appearance in Britain of any of the vast output of light Spanish operas known as zarzuela. How sad that we have missed out on the knowledge of so many attractive works. While it is perhaps typical in providing us with a 'slice of life' in an urban setting, it steers clear of the style of tragedy familiar from contemporaneous works of the verismo school. Despite the success of this piece in 1989 and then of an earlier one by Bretón at the 1997 Festival, no further stagings have been imported, and there is no sign that any British management is even considering the production of such repertoire.


Main Characters

Manuela 'La Chulapona', owner of a laundry (soprano)

Don Epifanio, her father (tenor)

Rosario, Manuela's assistant (soprano)

Venustiana, Rosario's mother, a money-lender (soprano)

Señor Antonio, owner of the Café de Naranjeros (baritone)

Emilia, his daughter (soprano)

José María, a slaughter-house dealer (tenor)


Plot Summary

In Manuela's laundry, Rosario and Emilia are at work. Manuela arrives, in cheerful mood, then Emilia's father, the local café owner Señor Antonio, who flirts with Manuela. Don Epifanio then arrives, pursued by Venustiana, who is owed money by him. Manuela hands her a valuable silk shawl as collateral. The next visitor is Manuela's fiancé, José María. After he goes, Rosario, who also loves him, plants the idea in Manuela's mind that her lover is being unfaithful. She goes off to investigate, so when José María returns it is Rosario who throws herself at him.

A bullfight is about to get under way, and the citizens are excited. Manuela calls on Venustiana with the money to reclaim her shawl, and is annoyed to find José María dancing attendance on Rosario, who is wearing the shawl in preparation for the bullfight. Manuela duly takes back the shawl, but leaves the man behind.

Several days pass, and at Antonio's café Rosario enquires after José María, who has not called on her for a week. After she leaves, the man himself comes in to drown his sorrows, as he has realised that he really loves Manuela. Among the drinkers are Don Epifanio and Juan de Dios, Manuela's father and brother. She now arrives with a wedding present for Antonio's daughter Emilia, and the café owner is disappointed to see José María now become reconciled to his first love.

Emilia's wedding day has arrived, and the crowd are celebrating. Rosario makes a further move on José María, now claiming to be pregnant by him. He is reluctant, but when Manuela hears of the situation she repudiates him, putting the welfare of the child ahead of her own personal happiness. Rosario now admits that she only tried to attract José María because she envied her employer's happiness. Manuela forgives her, and decides to marry Señor Antonio instead, even while admitting that she will continue to love José María.

The Cast

Café Owner
 the organ grinder
Don Epifanio
 father of Manuela
 daughter of Señor Antonio
First Guard
Flamenco Dancer
 Cattle Owner
José María
 a slaughter-house dealer, fiancé of Manuela
Juan de Dios
 a painter, brother of Manuela
Manuela 'La Chulapona'
 owner of the Laundry, rival of Rosario
 Manuela's assistant
Second Guard
Señor Antonio
 owner of the Café de Naranjeros
Sleeping Man
 a money-lender, mother of Rosario
Young Man in Tavern

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