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Manuel Areu Collection of Nineteenth-Century Zarzuelas

Identifier: MSS-516-BC

Scope and Content

The Areu Collection, which represents the major composers and librettists of the late 19th century, contains 131 zarzuelas, miscellaneous music, plays, playbills, and personal papers. Of the zarzuelas, about 100 originated in Spain, and a small number from Cuba and Mexico. There are also several translations and arrangements of French, Italian and Viennese operettas. Almost half of the zarzuelas are one-act works, about one-third contain two or more acts, and the remainder are of undetermined length. Only a dozen works are complete with librettos and orchestral parts, but there are over eighty workable zarzuelas with conductors' scores and/or piano-vocal scores. As a performing collection, it is a valuable source of many possibly rare or unavailable works.

The music scores and librettos, full of performance notations and other marginalia, also constitute a valuable record of performance practices and serve as a primary source for the study of theater history and development in 19th-century Cuba and Mexico. The collection is, furthermore, a resource for educators who wish to amplify their teaching of Spanish language and culture.

Series I (in 62 document boxes) contains 131 zarzuelas. Series II (Box 63) contains miscellaneous musical works for theater and salon as well as a number of plays; and Series III (Box 64) contains 24 playbills. Series IV (in Boxes 64-67) comprises miscellaneous materials. Series V in boxes 68-70 contains transcriptions.


  • 1849-1932


Language of Materials

Spanish French Italian German

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research. Researchers are required to use the microfilm edition of Series I and II available at: CSWR M1500 A74 C65.

See Microfilm Guide.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. Permission is required for publications or distribution. Duplication of materials in Series 1 and II must be from microfilm. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws.

Biographical Information

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.


72 boxes (32.35 cu. ft.)

Separated Material

Master avi file for Channel 23 interview stored on library file server.

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Baqueiro Fóster, Gerónimo. La música en el periodo independiente. Vol. III of Historia de la música en México.México: Secretaria de Educación Pública, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1964.
  • Bissell, Sally Joan. Manuel Areu and the Nineteenth Century Zarzuela in Mexico and Cuba. Dissertation. University of Iowa, 1987. Excellent bibliography.
  • Carmona, Gloria. "La música en México en la época de Juárez, Lerdo y Díaz (1868-1879)." Chapter in Vol. I-III of La Música de México, ed. Julio Estrada. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1984.
  • Henken, John Edwin. Francisco Asenjo Barbieri and the Nineteenth-Century Revival in Spanish National Music. Dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles, 1987.
  • Kanellos, Nicolás. History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States: Origins to 1940, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.
  • Lapique Becali, Zoila. Música colonial cubana en las publicaciones periódicas (1812-1902), Vol. I. Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1979. (Colección Cubana).
  • Montano, Mary Caroline. The Manuel Areu Collection of Nineteenth-Century Zarzuelas. Thesis. University of New Mexico, 1976.
  • Tamayo, Manuel, ed. El Libro de la Zarzuela.Madrid: Ediciones Daimon, 1982.

Processing Information

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Finding Aid of the Manuel Areu Collection of Nineteenth-Century Zarzuelas, 1849-1932
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Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 516 BC::Manuel Areu Collection of Nineteenth-Century Zarzuelas)//EN" "nmu1mss516bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
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Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131