(Sp. from zarza, ‘bramble bush’).
Idiomatic Sp. form of opera in which mus. is intermingled with spoken dialogue. Name comes from entertainments perf. in 17th cent. at royal palace of La Zarzuela, near Madrid, for Philip IV and court. First known composer of zarzuelas was Juan Hidalgo, c.1644. In 18th cent., popularity of the form was challenged by tonadillas, which were racier and more satirical. Despite brief revival, the zarzuela languished until nat. movement of 19th cent. when desire to create a Sp. nat. opera led to comp. of numerous zarzuelas by such composers as Barbieri, Arieta, Bretón, and Vives. Some were in 3 acts, with serious subjects. In the 20th cent., Alonso and Tórroba have written large‐scale zarzuelas, and the form, always flexible, has been expanded to embrace features from operetta and jazz.