José Subirá, author of the monumental 1932 study of the tonadillas that remains the core text about this genre, caustically dismissed post-1790 tonadillas for their increasing reliance on Italian bel canto style and consequent (as he saw it) abandonment of true musical Spanishness. This overtly nationalistic view has been perpetuated uncritically until very recently. This chapter essays an alternative to that view by echoing the approach of chapter 1, describing the course of an evening’s entertainment as it might have taken place on August 25, 1806, as Napoleon’s armies swarmed across Iberia, famine scoured the peninsula, and the terrible Guerra de Independencia loomed. The single tonadilla performed that night, a kind of relic of happier times, demonstrates the conservative aspect of comedy, just as previous chapters have demonstrated its subversiveness.
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