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Ruperto Chapí, biography and works

Alicante 1851 -  Madrid 1909

Ruperto Chapí orn in Villena, Alicante, came from a humble family background. Thanks to the family love of music, which had been passed down through several generations, he began his musical education at a very early age. He began his playing career in his hometown as a band musician and would later go on to the Conservatorio de Madrid. There, Ruperto and his friend Tomás Bretón studied with Arrieta.

His career as a composer was benefited by the award of a first prize for composition in 1872. This success enabled him to take up residence and study for four years in Rome and Paris. Although he was interested in music for the stage from an early age (at the age of twelve he had composed the zarzuela Estrella del Bosque), it was during this time that he managed to establish himself in the lyric-dramatic genre. In this period he composed and premiered his first opera, Abel y Cain, in Madrid, and this was followed by Las naves de Cortés and Vasco Núñez de Balboa. His first piece at the Teatro Real was La hija de Jefté, a work that the composer wrote during his stay abroad and which was premiered when he was only twenty-five years old.

When he returned to Spain he consolidated himself in the zarzuela genre and composed a sizeable number of works of which the majority are included in the standard repertoire of zarzuela companies: La Tempestad, La bruja, El rey que rabió, La zarina, El tambor de granaderos, Las bravías, La revoltosa, Las hijas de Zebedeo, El milagro de la Virgen, El duque de Gandía and Curro Vargas.

Vocal works

Among his compositions for stage there are some that aroused greater interest during the last century and are still often performed.

Música clásica was one of the works in the genre of Spanish operetta that won most acclaim from the public. A peculiarity of the storyline is that it exposes the problematic relationship between zarzuela and classical music, a controversy in which the composer was directly implicated. The work was premiered in 1880 at the Teatro Comedia de Madrid. The publication of the score has been planned to mark the occasion of the centenary of the composer’s death.

La tempestad was premiered in 1882 at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. It made a considerable impact because of the elaborate orchestral treatment. It was the most important zarzuela in the decade of the 1880s and helped to establish large-scale zarzuela.

La bruja, was premiered in 1887 at the Teatro de la Zarzuela de Madrid. Set in the popular atmosphere of 17th century Pamplona the work is closer to opera than zarzuela as regards its technical requirements and the length of the instrumental sections. Nevertheless, the large amount of comic numbers and scenes depicting customs and manners unquestionably gives it the characteristics of zarzuela. This may well be the vocal piece by the composer that displays the greatest Germanic influence, as much in the use of orchestral resources as in the technique used in the creation of the motifs.

Perhaps Las hijas de Zebedeo is not one of Chapi’s most transcendent works but it is extremely interesting for its content. This comic zarzuela in two acts was premiered in 1889 at the Teatro Maravillas in Madrid. The storyline revolves around the figure of Luisa whose ignorance and poor memory lead to an endless series of comic situations.

El rey que rabió, zarzuela in three acts and seven scenes, was premiered at the Teatro de la Zarzuela de Madrid in 1891. The libretto of this satire was accused in its time of being a plagiary of "Un roi de vacances". Chapí and his colleagues had to deal with this type of situation fairly often. Despite the controversy the premiere of the work was the biggest success of the year in the theatre world.

La revoltosa, zarzuela in one act which was premiered at the Teatro Apolo de Madrid in 1897, was an instant success and has continued running until the present day thanks to the adaptation of the musical discourse of the libretto.


The incorporation of stylistic resources typical of the music listened to in Madrid at the end of the 19th century was a sure-fire guarantee of success.

El puñao de rosas was premiered at the Teatro Apolo de Madrid in 1902. With a storyline that focussed on the popular atmosphere in the mountains of Cordoba, it won instant acclaim from the public. One oddity was that the librettists decided to adapt it to the language and the pronunciation of this Andalusian region in order to help reconstruct the local atmosphere.

Instrumental works

Although his music for the stage reached a wider audience Chapí also composed symphonic music and cuatro cuartetos (four chamber quartets). The composer had to cope with the public’s lack of interest in symphonic music. Nevertheless, he made transcendental contributions to the development of symphonic music and received a positive reception from the foreign public. All his instrumental works have been published by the ICCMU during the last decade and have been the subject of some very interesting recording projects such as the Brodsky Quartet’s version of the four quartets.

The composer’s first instrumental work was the overture Zanzé written in 1865. This was followed by Fantasía Morisca (Corte de Granada) composed during the same period. He also wrote a symphonic poem that he called Escenas de capa y espada.


The Scherzo (Combate de Don Quijote contra las ovejas) composed between 1869 and 1870 was a descriptive piece written for the orchestra of the Circo Teatro de Price. Both Chapí and Bretón were members of this orchestra and it gave then the opportunity to try out some of their own works.

The Symphony in D was written in 1877 in Paris and later premiered in Madrid following the creation of  a concert society. The work was a study in orchestration written by the composer in his student days and has a clear structure based on the prevailing German models at that time.


Los gnomos de la Alhambra was premiered in 1891 by the orchestra of the concert society. This work was followed by La marcha de recepción in 1895.

The quartets were written between 1893 and 1897 in the keys of G mayor, F mayor, D mayor and B minor. At the time, a female string quartet, La Bretoniana, was devoted to popularising the chamber music of both Chapí and Bretón, a contemporary of Chapí. The public enjoyed comparing the productions of the two composers and taking sides with one or the other.

Some examples of Ruperto Chapí’s music can be heard in recordings made by the Orquestra de la Academia del Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona. A clear and concise performance accompanied by essential liner notes in Catalan, Spanish and English.

Modern-day repercussions

Owing to a dispute over copyrights with the publisher Florencio Fiscowich (the publishers acted as middlemen between the theatres and the composers at that time), Chapí founded the Sociedad de Autores in 1899 together with other composers and librettists. Fiscowich’s aim was to have control of all the zarzuela librettos and scores and he did all in his power to achieve this goal. The composer’s flat refusal to cooperate prevented the editor from carrying out his business plan. It was then that Chapí decided it was necessary to set up an organisation that regulated composers and authors’ copyrights and he contributed his own personal store of works to put the idea into practice.

For those who are interested in learning more about the life and work of Ruperto Chapí, Luis G. Iberni has completed a detailed, basic analytical study of his figure. Another less disseminated work, but not for this reason any less interesting, is Miradas desde el Arte a la Música de Ruperto Chapí, the catalogue of the exposition held in homage to the composer in October 2008.

To mark the occasion of the centenary of the death of Ruperto Chapí, one of the most important composers in the ambit of Spanish music for the stage, several homages are being organised.

At last, the previously unpublished scores of some of the composer’s works that have been performed and included in recordings will see the light of day. As well as the recently published Scherzo, Fantasía Morisca, Polaca de Concierto, Marcha e himno de la hija de Jefte and Escenas de capa y espada and Música clásica (score and reduction) will be published. For the time being some other stage works and zarzuela reductions that performers would like to see available will remain in the pipeline.

The new recordings include live performances of El rey que rabió and Roger de Flor, on DVD and CD respectively. A CD of vocal and instrumental works recorded by the Ensamble de Madrid and a box set containing historic recordings of complete versions of zarzuelas by Chapí will also be released.

Lastly, there will be an itinerant exhibition dealing with the life and work of Chapí, which will visit Villena and Valencia among other places. The exhibition counts on musicological assessment by Javier Suarez Pajares and Victor Sanchez Sanchez.


Catalogue of works by Ruperto Chapí
1863 Estrella del bosque. Zarzuela -
1868 Doble engaño. Zarzuela -
1871 Abel y Caín. Zarzuela Salvador María Granés
1872 Vasco Núñez de Balboa. Zarzuela Marcos Zapata
1874 Las naves de Cortés. Ópera Antonio Arnao
1876 Motet a seis voces. Música religiosa -
1876 Trío, para violín, cello y piano. Música religiosa -
1876 Escenas de capa y espada, poema sinfónico. Música de cámara (trio) -
1876 La muerte de Garcilaso. Ópera Antonio Arnao
1878 La hija de Jefté. Ópera Antonio Arnao
1878 Roger de Flor. Ópera (3 actos) Mariano Capdepón
1879 Fantasia Morisca [A Granada (Andante cantabile) - Meditación (Moderato) - Serenata (Alegro moderato) - Final (Moderato)]. Orquestal -
1879 Polaca de Concierto. Orquestal -
1880 Sinfonía en Re menor. Orquestal -
1880 Los Ángeles, oratorio. Música religiosa (oratorio) -
1880 Música clásica. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Estremera
1880 La calandria. Zarzuela (1 acto) Miguel Ramos Carrión y Vital Aza
1880 Adiós Madrid. Zarzuela -
1880 Madrid y sus afueras. Zarzuela -
1881 La serenata. Ópera (1 acto) José Estremera)
1881 La Serenata. Opereta (1 acto) José Estremera
1881 Las Dos huérfanas. Zarzuela (3 actos) Mariano Pina Domínguez
1881 La calle de Carretas. Zarzuela -
1881 Hijo de la Nieve. Zarzuela -
1881 Nada entre dos platos. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Estremera
1882 La tempestad. Zarzuela (3 actos) Miguel Ramos Carrión
1884 El milagro de la Virgen. Zarzuela (3 actos) Mariano Pina Domínguez
1884 La Flor de Lis. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Estremera
1885 Término medio. Zarzuela (1 acto) Ramón de Marsal
1885 El Guerrillero (en colaboración con Manuel Fernández Caballero y Pascual Emilio Arrieta y Corera). Zarzuela -
1885 El País del abanico. Zarzuela (1 acto) Francisco Serrano de la Pedrosa
1885 Los Quintos de mi pueblo. Zarzuela -
1885 Ya pican. Zarzuela (1 acto) Enrique Prieto
1886 El Domingo gordo o Las tres damas curiosas. Zarzuela Ricardo de la Vega
1887 El Figón de las desdichas. Zarzuela Adolfo Llanos Alcaraz
1887 Juan Matías el Barbero. Zarzuela -
1887 Los Lobos marinos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Miguel Ramos Carrión y Vital Aza
1887 La bruja. (partitura) Zarzuela (3 actos) Miguel Ramos Carrión y Vital Aza
1887 El Fantasma de los aires. Zarzuela (2 actos) Enrique Prieto
1888 Ortografía. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Arniches y Gonzalo Cantó
1889 La Flor del trigo. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Estremera
1889 Las hijas del Zebedeo. Zarzuela (2 actos) José Estremera
1889 El cocodrilo. Zarzuela según Fjodor Michajlovitsj Dostojevski
1889 A casarse tocan o La misa á grande orquesta. Zarzuela (1 acto) Ricardo de la Vega
1889 El País de los insectos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Enrique Fernández Campano
1890 Los alojados. Zarzuela (1 acto) Emilio Sánchez Pastor
1890 La leyenda del monje. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Arniches y Gonzalo Cantó
1890 Las Doce y media y sereno. Zarzuela (1 acto) Fernando Manzano
1890 Las Tentaciones de San Antonio. Zarzuela (3 actos) Enrique Prieto
1890 Nocturno. Zarzuela (1 acto) Enrique Fernández Campano
1890 Los Nuestros. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Estremera
1890 Pan de flor. Zarzuela (1 acto) Ricardo Monasterio y Celso Lucio
1890 Todo por ella. Zarzuela -
1890 Para hombres solos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Enrique Fernández Campano
1891 Los Gnomos de la Alhambra [La ronda de los gnomos (Alegretto) - Conjuro. Séquito de Titania y Oberón (Andante maestoso) - La Fiesta de los espíritus. La Aurora (Alegro molto vivace)]. Orquestal -
1891 El rey que rabió. Zarzuela (3 actos) Miguel Ramos Carrión y Vital Aza
1891 El Mismo demonio. Zarzuela (2 actos) Fernando Manzano
1892 El Organista. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Estremera
1892 Los Calaveras. Zarzuela -
1892 Las Campanadas. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Arniches y Gonzalo Cantó
1892 La Czarina. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Estremera
1892 La raposa. Zarzuela (1 acto) Ricardo Monasterio
1893 Los Mostenses. Zarzuela (3 actos) Gonzalo Cantó, Carlos Arniches y Celso Lucio
1893 Vía libre. Zarzuela (3 actos) Carlos Arniches y Celso Lucio
1893 El Reclamo. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Arniches y Celso Lucio
1894 El tambor de granaderos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Emilio Sánchez Pastor
1894 El Duque de Gandia (en colaboración con Antonio Llanos). Zarzuela (3 actos) Joaquín Dicenta
1894 El Moro Muza. Zarzuela (1 acto) Federico Jaques
1895 Mujer y reina. Zarzuela (3 actos) Mariano Pina Domínguez
1895 El Cura del regimiento. Zarzuela (1 acto) Emilio Sánchez Pastor
1895 El Señor corregidor. Zarzuela (1 acto) Fiacro Yrayzoz
1896 Las bravías sobre («La fierecilla domada» de William Shakespeare). Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y Carlos Fernández Shaw, gebaseerd op het blijspeel
1896 El bajo de arriba. Zarzuela (1 acto) Emilio Sánchez Pastor
1896 Los Golfos. Zarzuela Emilio Sánchez Pastor
1896 Los Guerrilleros. Zarzuela (1 acto) Enrique Prieto
1896 Las Peluconas. Zarzuela -
1896 Viva el Rey. Zarzuela (1 acto) Emilio Sánchez Pastor y Robert Planquette
1896 El cortejo de la Irene. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Fernández Shaw
1897 La Revoltosa. (sainete lírico en un acto y tres cuadros)(partitura general, reducción) Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y Carlos Fernández Shaw
1897 Los Charlatanes. Zarzuela (1 acto) Federico Castellón
1897 La Niña del estanquero. Zarzuela (1 acto) Tomas Luceño
1897 El Sí natural. Zarzuela (1 acto) José Jackson Veyán
1897 La piel del diablo. Opereta (1 acto) Federico Jaques
1898 Los hijos del batallón. Zarzuela (3 actos) Carlos Fernández Shaw
1898 Pepe Gallardo. Zarzuela (1 acto) Miguel de Palacios
1898 La Chavala. Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y Carlos Fernández Shaw
1898 Pedro Antonio de Alarcón). Zarzuela (3 actos) Joaquín Dicenta y Antonio Paso
1898 El Beso de la duquesa. Zarzuela (1 acto) Sinesio Delgado
1898 El Hijo del batallón. Zarzuela (3 actos) Carlos Fernández Shaw
1899 La cara de Dios. Zarzuela (3 actos) Carlos Arniches
1899 El Baile del casino. Zarzuela -
1899 Los Buenos mozos. Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y Carlos Fernández Shaw
1899 El Fonógrafo ambulante. Zarzuela (1 acto) Juan González
1899 Señá Frasquita. Zarzuela (1 acto) Guillermo Perrín y Miguel de Palacios
1900 La cortijera. Zarzuela (3 actos) Joaquín Dicenta y Antonio Paso
1900 Al galope de los siglos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Sinesio Delgado
1900 El barquillero. Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y José Jackson Veyán
1900 Aprieta constipado (en colaboración con Arturo Saco del Valle). Zarzuela (1 acto)  
1900 El Gatito negro. Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y Carlos Fernández Shaw
1900 María de los Ángeles. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Arniches y Celso Lucio
1900 El Estreno. Zarzuela (1 acto) Serafín Álvarez Quintero y Joaquín Álvarez Quintero
1901 Quo Vadis. Zarzuela (1 acto) Sinesio Delgado
1901 Blasones y talegas. Zarzuela (2 actos) Eusebio Sierra gebaseerd op een novel van José María de Pereda
1902 El puñao de rosas. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Arniches y Ramón Asensio Mas
1902 Don Juan de Austria. Zarzuela (3 actos) José Jurado de la Parra y Carlos Servet y Fortuny
1902 La venta de Don Quijote. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Fernández Shaw
1902 Abanicos y panderetas o ¡A Sevilla en el botijo!. Zarzuela (3 actos) Serafín Álvarez Quintero y Joaquín Álvarez Quintero
1902 El Sombreo de plumas. Zarzuela (1 acto) Miguel Echegaray
1902 El Tío Juan (en colaboración con Enrique Morera). Zarzuela -
1902 Cuadros vivos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Guillermo Perrín y Miguel de Palacios
1902 Circe. Ópera (3 actos) Miguel Ramos Carrión
1903 La Chica del maestro. Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y José Jacson Veyán
1903 La Cruz del abuelo. Zarzuela -
1903 El rey mago. Zarzuela (1 acto) Sinesio Delgado
1903 Man'zelle Margot (en colaboración con Joaquín "Quinito" Valverde). Zarzuela -
1903 Cuarteto de cuerda nº 1, en Sol mayor. Música de cámara (cuarteto) -
1904 Cuarteto de cuerda nº 2, en Fa mayor. Música de cámara (cuarteto) -
1904 Juan Francisco. Zarzuela (3 actos) Joaquín Dicenta
1904 La Cuna. Zarzuela (1 acto) Guillermo Perrín
1904 La Polka de los pájaros. Zarzuela -
1904 La Puñalada. Zarzuela (prólogo y 4 escenas) Carlos Fernández Shaw
1904 La Tragedia de Pierrot. Zarzuela (1 acto) Ramón Asensio Más y José Juan Cadenas
1905 Guardia de honor. Zarzuela (1 acto) Eugenio Sellés
1905 La sobresalienta. Zarzuela (1 acto) Jacinto Benavente
1905 ¡Angelitos al cielo!. Zarzuela (1 acto) Alberto Casañal Shakery
1905 Las Calabazas. Zarzuela Antonio Ramos Martín
1905 El Cisne de Lohengrin. Zarzuela (1 acto) Miguel Echegaray
1905 Miss Full. Zarzuela (1 acto) Antonio Viérgol
1905 La leyenda dorada. Zarzuela (1 acto) Sinesio Delgado
1905 La Peseta enferma. Zarzuela (1 acto) Fernando Pontes
1905 La Reina. Zarzuela (1 acto) Guillermo Perrín y Miguel de Palacios
1905 El Seductor. Zarzuela (1 acto) Antonio Domínguez
1905 Cuarteto de cuerda nº 3, en Re mayor. Música de cámara (cuarteto) -
1905 "El amor en solfa" segunda parte de "El Amor en el Teatro", capricho literario, 4 scenes y prolog (en colaboración con José Serrano Simeón. Ópera Serafín Álvarez Quintero y Joaquín Álvarez Quintero
1906 La pesadilla. Opereta (1 acto) Luciano Boada y Manuel de Castro Tiedra
1906 El alma del pueblo. Zarzuela (1 acto) José López Silva y Carlos Fernández Shaw
1906 El triunfo de Venus. Zarzuela (1 acto) Pedro Muñoz Seca y Carlos Fernández Shaw
1906 Los Contrahechos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Antonio M. Viérgol
1906 El Maldito dinero. Zarzuela (1 acto) Carlos Arniches y Carlos Fernández Shaw
1906 El Rey del petróleo. Zarzuela (1 acto) Guillermo Perrín y Miguel de Palacios
1906 La Fragua de Vulcano. Zarzuela (1 acto) Manuel Linares Rivas
1907 La patria chica. Zarzuela (1 acto) Serafín Álvarez Quintero y Joaquín Álvarez Quintero
1907 Los bárbaros del Norte (en colaboración con Joaquín Valverde Durán y Joaquín "Quinito" Valverde (hijo). Zarzuela (1 acto) Sinesio Delgado
1907 Ninón. Zarzuela (1 acto) Manuel Fernández de la Puente y Carlos Allen-Perkins
1907 La Puerta del Sol. Zarzuela (1 acto) Celso Lucio y Manuel Fernández Palomero
1907 Los Veteranos. Zarzuela (1 acto) Manuel de Labra
1907 El príncipe Kuroki. Zarzuela (1 acto) Fernando Gillis
1907 Cuarteto de cuerda nº 4, en Si bemol menor. Música de cámara (cuarteto) -
1908 La eterna revista (en colaboración con Jerónimo Giménez y Bellido. Zarzuela (1 acto) Ramón Asensio Mas y Jacinto Capella
1908 Aquí hase farta un hombre. Zarzuela (1 acto) José de la Cueva
1908 La Carabina de Ambrosio. Zarzuela Vicente Castro Les
1908 La Dama roja. Zarzuela (1 acto) Antonio Sotillo
1908 El Diablo con faldas. Zarzuela (1 acto) Sinesio Delgado
1908 Las Mil maravillas. Zarzuela (4 actos y prologo) Serafín Álvarez Quintero y Joaquín Álvarez Quintero
1908 El Merendero de la alegría o Sábado blanco. Zarzuela Antonio Casero y Alejandro Larrubiera
1908 Entre rocas. Zarzuela (1 acto) Joaquín Dicenta
1909 Donde hay faldas hay jaleo. Zarzuela Alejandro Larrubiera y Crespo
1909 El Pino del norte. Zarzuela (1 acto) Vicente Casanova
1909 Los majos de plante. Zarzuela (1 acto) Joaquín Dicenta y Pedro de Répide
1909 Margarita la Tornera (basada en la leyenda de José Zorrilla). Ópera (3 actos) Carlos Fernández Shaw
- Clavito. Zarzuela (1 acto) Manuel Linares Rivas
- Diversiones infantiles (en colaboración con Tomás Bretón Hernández, Jerónimo Giménez y Bellido). Zarzuela Antonio R. López del Arco
- El duo de la africana. Zarzuela Manuel Fernández Caballero
- La joroba. Zarzuela (1 acto) Miguel Ramos Carrión y Antonio Ramos Martín
- La magia de la vida. Zarzuela (1 acto) Manuel Linares Rivas
- Carceleras de «Las Hijas del Zebedeo» Música orquestal (banda) -
- Fantasia «La Revoltosa»" Música orquestal (banda) -
- Preludio «El tambor de Granaderos». Música orquestal (banda) -
- Preludio e Selección «La bruja». Música orquestal (banda) -
- Fantasia «El Rey que rabió». Música orquestal (banda) -
- Fantasia «La corte de Granada». Música orquestal (banda) -
- Seleccion de «La corte de Granada» [1. Introducción y marcha al torneo. - 2. Meditación. - 3. Serenata. - 4. Final]. Música orquestal (banda) -
- Selección de «La Patria Chica». Música orquestal (banda) -