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Recordings

21 Feb 2005

SALGADO: The Teatro Solis 150 years of Opera, Concert and Ballet in Montevideo

During the latter half of the 19th century, and much of the 20th, countless opera companies, mostly Italian, but also some French and an occasional German, toured much of the Southeast coast of Latin America. Cities visited most frequently included Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, with occasional swings inland (Rosario and Cordoba), but sometimes going as far West as Santiago and Valparaiso.

Salgado, Susana: The Teatro Solis 150 years of Opera, Concert and Ballet in Montevideo
Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 2003, 493 pages
ISBN: 0-8195-6593-8 (cloth) 0-8195-6594-6 (paper)

During the latter half of the 19th century, and much of the 20th, countless opera companies, mostly Italian, but also some French and an occasional German, toured much of the Southeast coast of Latin America. Cities visited most frequently included Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, with occasional swings inland (Rosario and Cordoba), but sometimes going as far West as Santiago and Valparaiso.

From its inauguration on August 25, 1856 until well into the twentieth century, the Teatro Solis in Montevideo was one of the leading theatres in South America, and was probably not too far behind the major houses in Europe. This is hardly surprising since Montevideo is only a short trip from Buenos Aires, and most of the companies visiting Buenos Aires would spend a week or two there once the Buenos Aires season was over. Thus, almost all of the great artists of the period, including Caruso, Ruffo, Battistini, Tamagno, Tetrazzini, Stagno, Lauri-Volpi, De Lucia, Zenatello, Muzio, Anselmi, O'Sullivan, Schipa, Lazaro, etc., etc., sang there. The repertory was just as interesting as the artists, and works like Pacini's Medea and Bondelmonte are known to have been performed in Montevideo. Felice Romani's libretto for Donizetti's Parisina was used by a local composer named Giribaldi, and the opera was premiered at the Teatro Solis on September 14, 1878. It was repeated in 1899. There are any number of books already published on many legs of these tours, especially for Buenos Aires, Rosario, and Sao Paulo with various others in preparation. Dr. Salgado's effort is easily among the best and most useful of these, particularly because it covers the longest time frame (from 1856 to the present), and is in the English language.

A narrative history of the theatre takes up a little less than half the book, with various appendices taking up the rest. The narrative portion is outstanding in terms of readability, and covers highlights of each season, especially artists and operas new to Montevideo. Since the same companies invariably visited other major South American cities, this narrative really provides more than just a history of the Teatro Solis, being just as valuable for the insight it provides into opera in South America.

The chronology, which takes up most of the appendices, is a model of its kind, with dates and casts (as far as possible) of all the performances. Other appendices of special interest include artists who performed at the Solis (with references to the years they sang), musica works performed there, instrumental and vocal ensembles as well as ballet companies.

The book is copiously illustrated, and includes an exhaustive bibliography. Highly recommended.

Tom Kaufman

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