Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Roof view froma distance

Zarzuela: Spanish musical theater

Duration01.8.2016 - 31.12.2017
CoordinationDr. Ulrike Mühlschlegel

Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (BKM)

Select an item

1. Co-applicant


2. Project Group


IAI staff

  • Ariane Herms   
  • Ania Müller   


3. Short description

Point of departure

The library of the Ibero-American Institute is home to an extensive collection of Spanish and Hispanic American musicals and musical comedies, known as zarzuelas, totaling over 1,600 titles which date back to the 19th and 20th centuries. The core of the collection comprises works which were printed in Spain between 1800 and 1930. The generic term “zarzuela” also encompasses genres such as entremeses and sainetes, which developed along virtually the same lines as zarzuelas from around 1900.


Zarzuela libretti were printed on thin, fragile paper, especially in the 19th century. This cost-cutting production method aimed to increase the circulation of these popular texts and to accompany the zarzuela performances. As a result of the poor quality of the printed materials and the popular nature of the zarzuela texts, they rarely feature in the collections of contemporary libraries. The collection at the IAI is unique in Germany in terms of its size and content.


In the second half of the 20th century, the zarzuela was viewed as a genre that had been co-opted by nationalists and had close ties to the Franco dictatorship in Spain. The period since the turn of the millennium, however, has seen a revival in this form of musical theater and a surge in interest from academia. From a research perspective, it is absolutely essential to ensure the availability of the older, original texts, which are often in a poor condition and thus not accessible in libraries or as international interlibrary loans.


The project involves professionally digitizing the zarzuela libretti in line with the guidelines of the German Research Foundation (DFG). This will make them accessible regardless of location and create a valuable resource for researchers. At the same time, it will preserve for posterity cultural assets which would otherwise be lost due to paper degradation. An exhibition and accompanying catalogue are also planned, aiming to showcase the images, sounds and texts of this multi-media genre and to present it to the public.

Task Schedule

The exhibition „Zarzuela: Spanisches Musiktheater“ is held from December 8, 2016 to February 25, 2017 in the IAI’s Reading Room. The illustrated catalogue features a series of academic essays. The process of cataloguing, scanning and compiling structural data on the digital copies will span the entire duration of the project.

Expected Results

Indexing and digitizing the zarzuela libretti will make 1,600 titles accessible via the library's OPAC and the IAI's digital collections. The results of the project will be presented at various symposiums. The exhibition is designed as a traveling exhibition and can be used at other locations on request.


4. Products



2021 || Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preussischer Kulturbesitz