- Musical Agency in Calderón's El Laurel de Apolo
Calderón de la Barca's El laurel de Apolo is among the first zarzuelas in the history of the Spanish stage.1 Since the novelty of the work when it was created was that much of the play was sung to musical accompaniment, it is not surprising that Calderón would make music the focus of the work. Yet the dramatist goes further than simply foregrounding song texts and musical cues. In this dramatization of the myth of Apollo and Daphne from Ovid's Metamorphoses, music is the primary vehicle of important changes in the action. Far from being merely incidental or aesthetic, music here functions with powerful agency as it instigates conflict, alters emotions, introduces complications, and shapes the final tone and meaning of the work. Repertorio Español's 2015 production of the play, directed by Estefanía Fadul, allows the viewer to appreciate the vital role Calderón assigned to music in his original text.2 Although the original seventeenth century music, likely written by Juan Hidalgo, has been lost (Valbuena Briones 130), the play features music written in a variety of modern styles, including tango, flamenco, and folk, by musical director Marios Aristopoulos. Music in Repertorio's El laurel is the means by which each plot turn leading to the climactic metamorphosis takes place. Music, furthermore, proves essential to the representation of Dafne's transformation, and plays a key role in changing the tone and message of the play from tragic to triumphant. It is only through the agency of song and music that Calderón's play and Repertorio's production achieve coherence and depth of expression.
Scholars of El laurel de Apolo have discussed various points of interest, not the least of which is the obvious importance of the music in the work; to date, however, none have demonstrated in detail the persistence with which Calderón uses music as an agent that influences the movement and perception of the action at decisive moments in the plot. Jack Sage asserts that Calderón's use of music goes beyond the merely theatrical or spectacular, and he evidences the playwright's "functional" use [End Page 3] of music, primarily in autos sacramentales, to distinguish between the sacred, represented by celestial harmony, and the mundane, evoked by sensorial, corrupt music (221-22). Sage does not, however, equate musical functionality to causality. For Ángeles Cardona Castro, the most notable functions of the music in El laurel are the exposition of the occasion of the performance, the birth of Felipe IV's son Felipe Próspero, and the definition of a new genre, the zarzuela (1077). Louise Stein interprets Calderón as positing the zarzuela as a "mixed dramatic genre" that "invited the flexible use of music" (Songs 264, 267). Denise Dipuccio interprets the music of the play from a semiotic perspective, focusing on the conflict between the sense of order the gods project through their harmonies and the discord they engender by what they actually say and do (153-63).
Other scholars do not treat the music of the play directly or in detail, preferring to focus on myths, editorial issues, or politics. H.M. Martin compares how Lope and Calderón treated the same myth, while Jesús María Lasagabáster treats the reception of myths in Calderón. José Manuel Losada Goya demonstrates how Calderón extracts Christian values and lessons from classical myths, presenting a humanized Apolo that transforms his greed into generosity, his pride into humility, and his lust into sincere love (492-94). Thomas Austin O'Connor focuses on the work's contrasts between rustic and courtly, comic and serious, while analyzing the play within the context of myths of male domination and violence (119-35). Everett Hesse compares the 1687 edition of the play with the two 1664 editions. Julio Vélez-Sainz focuses on the play's propagandistic promotion of Felipe IV, who, represented by Apolo, embraces love and becomes the "perfect courtier" (238), restoring order and harmony to the world.3
More to the point of the current analysis, George Yuri Porras...