Intersections Study Day

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09:00–10:50 Session 1. Wagnerisms

David Ferreiro, Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales,

An intersection between neo-Riemannian analysis and topic theory: Wagnerian mystery in Conrado del Campo’s El final de don Álvaro (1910–1911)

During the first fifteen years of the 20th century Madrid was living the last peak in the reception of Wagner’s music. In this sense, the successful premiere of Tristan und Isolde in 1911 asserted the pressure to implement Wagnerian elements to create the Spanish national opera. Therefore, Wagnerism—a lyric style known by composers and the specialised audiences of the time—was assumed to be the best global language for elaborating an attractive operatic idiom that, together with the Spanish folklore, would play well on the international stage.

This paper studies the first opera of Conrado del Campo (1878–1953)—El final de don Álvaro (1910–1911)—, which epitomises the height of using Wagnerian elements in Spanish opera. He was, together with Manuel de Falla, one of the most important composers of the time, not only because of the quality of his output, but also due to his pedagogical influence. In addition, he absorbed many of the best features of the Wagnerian idiom but, at the same time, avoided the excesses that mar many other Wagner-influenced works. Namely, I demonstrate how Del Campo uses the Neo-Riemannian harmonic concept ‘Hexatonic pole’—very prominent within Wagner’s mid-late lyric dramas—to build and transmit the uncanny within his first opera.

First, I start with the technical and hermeneutical definition of the ‘Hexatonic pole’. Second, I show how this element is used throughout El final de don Álvaro, not only in terms of harmony, but also within the structural and melodic levels. Finally, I apply topic theory to prove that the ‘hexatonic pole’ must be considered a musical topic that, in this concrete cultural context, is a Wagnerian influence that evokes the mystery; and, at the same time, whose meaning is understood both by the composer and the audience of the Teatro Real of Madrid.

David Ferreiro gained his PhD in Musicology at Complutense University of Madrid (2019). He also holds a Master’s Degree in Spanish and Hispano-American Music in the same university (2015). For the realisation of his doctorate he enjoyed a four-year contract for the Training of University Teachers funded by Spain’s Ministry of Education (FPU), which allowed him to devote full time to his dissertation about the first two operas of Conrado del Campo; as well as to complete two three-month stays at Yale University as Visiting Assistant in Research (2017 and 2018). His lines of research focus around Spanish music and musicians of the 19th and 20th centuries, with special attention to the following areas: analysis and music theory, nationalism, regionalism, and musical identity in Galicia, edition and recovery of the repertoire, Spanish lyrical theatre, associationism, musical institutions, and wind bands. He won the National Prize of Musicology for the most outstanding dissertation (2020), awarded by the Spanish Musicological Society.


The Didone Project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC)
under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme,
Grant agreement No. 788986.