Samples of Spanish theatre acquired subsequent to the ‘great find’: La Novela Teatral; work in progress, most advanced descriptions: Varios 10.
It is tempting to dismiss the early 20th c. Novela Teatral series: to judge it as an uneven mix of plays; to scorn it for its profusion of poorly known authors; to suffer it, indeed, for that eye straining print on poor quality paper. Yet most of these pieces contribute to our knowledge of their times, and not only with regard to the world of entertainment but to the ‘real’ world outside. And then, though the fame we attribute to some of these authors will last, some will fade, while there are authors who will be reassessed for the better. And, in fact, some of these plays are nicely printed and their paper reasonable.
But, admittedly, it was the disconcertingly simple looking cover caricatures by Manuel Tovar which drew me to the series ‘La Novela Teatral’. The pictures (often not related specifically to the play which follows) are uninhibited with regard to expression – ranging from tongue in cheek formality, to dramatic exaggeration, to the utterly grotesque (the latter applicable to both sexes portrayed); with regard to dress – ranging from severely formal and urbane, to something more suited to the new season’s haute couture boardwalk and quite over the top (the latter applicable mainly to the women); and with regard to colour – ranging from muted sobriety and pastel or water colour delicacy and subtlety, to unashamed glitz and flash (the latter also applicable mainly to the women). All this is quite aside from the fact that the images are sufficiently substantial to dominate their cover. What a visual thrill.
There is a considerable significance beyond the sensory, however. These images of the 1920s or so represent several generations of Spanish artists dedicated in various ways to the theatre in Spain. They include portrayals of dramatists, portrayals of composers who created music to accompany plays (zarzuelas in the main), portrayals of patrons and managers who financed and directed them, and portrayals of actors and actress who performed them successfully and without whom there would have been nothing. What a gallery of finely depicted contributors.
José de Urquía (the editor) and Manuel Tovar really hit on something. Between them they were responsible for planning and creating the drawcards which gave this expressedly economy class series the financial viability it needed. And in so doing they made the public aware of the many kinds of people involved in the theatre. And as a result today, we have this bequest of a substantial cultural legacy.
The bibliographical summaries which follow, some complete (the Varios 10 entries) but many still in progress, are an acknowledgement of the serious task performed by the editor and illustrator of La Novela Teatral, and by the people depicted on the covers.
The caricatures in miniature accompany the summaries, but may be accessed separately.