FRANCISCO ASENJO BARBIERI (1823 - 1894)
Madrileo Francisco Asenjo first came into contact with theater and music at the Teatro de la Cruz in Madrid where his grandfather was the manager. He ultimately adopted the name Barbieri in honor of his grandfather. At the age of fourteen, Francisco entered the Madrid conservatory, where he studied composition under Ramon Carnicer. In 1847, while earning his living as a journalist and music critic for La Ilustracion and a copyist, prompter and translator at Teatro Real, Barbieri composed his first opera, Il Buontempone. Although this was an Italian opera, Barbieri had a desire to promote native Spanish opera. In a move toward creating a distinctively Spanish theatrical form, he wrote his first zarzuela, a type of Spanish operetta, in 1850. In 1851, he began working with other Spanish composers at the Teatro del Circo where, in addition to directing the chorus, he created many original stage works. He composed a series of zarzuelas including Jugar con fuego (1851) and Los diamantes de la Corona (1854). In 1856, the same year in which he wrote El Diablo en el pode, he founded the Teatro de la zarzuela. One of Barbieris best-known pieces is Pan y Toros, a national epic which he composed in 1864. In 1866, he founded the Society for Orchestral music, through which he further revealed the possibility of creating an authentically Spanish style of composition. In 1874, Barbieri wrote El barberillo de Lavapies, which is often called a comic masterpiece. El barberillo de Lavapies is exemplary of the zarzuela tradition in that it employs strong political themes mixed with ironic wit and musical subtlety. Because of the role that he played in developing the zarzuela tradition, Barbieri is considered to be the most influential Spanish composer of the nineteenth century.