Laura y Don Gonzalo 

-Melodramatic Work in 4 Acts-



Author: Alberto Cobo




Act I: Introduction


            After having made the first critical edition of the "Integral de la música para clave y pianoforte" (Complete Works for Harpsichord and Fortepiano) by the teacher of the Royal Chapel, Félix Máximo López (1742-1821), which in this new year, 2001, has just been published by the ICCMU (Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales - SGAE -), I continued investigating among possible works pertaining to the Spanish musical patrimony that, due to their interest, deserve to escape from the forgetfulness.

As "Mundo Clásico" has already informed, a manuscript found in the Superior Conservatory of Madrid (possibly copy), in whose front page, written with ball-point pen, indicated the title: "Los enredos de un curioso" (The Messes of an Onlooker); the composers: Ramón Carnicer, Balthasar Saldoni and Pedro Albéniz; and the author of the libretto: Castrillón y Enciso, attracted my interest. I also warned, adhered to the work, a note (post-it) of Jacinto Torres, musicologist of the institution, that indicated: "nothing to see with The Messes of an Onlooker", and, certainly, is thus: he is preparing the edition of this melodramatic work in two acts, which was produced to celebrate the birth of the princess Luisa Fernanda in the just created Dª Mª Cristina´s Royal Conservatory. "Los enredos de un curioso" was described since its inception as a pastiche due to the union of so many composers: Ramón Carnicer, Balthasar Saldoni, Pedro Albéniz and Francesco Piermarini. This last one, the Italian tenor and first director of the new created conservatory, contributes with the last number (the Cantata) in Italian. Simply verifying the lack of resemblance between the Félix Enciso Castrillón's libretto of "Los enredos de un curioso" with the one of the present work we see that they constitute absolutely different works.

Act II: Analysis

We are, then, in front of an anonymous work: Opera in Spanish which, by the instrumentation and the libretto , can be located between  1832 and 1850. Thus, we see that the work cannot be previous to 1825, since the cornets were introduced in France that same year. Carnicer introduced in Spain the German Figle and extended the choirs. "Oboeses", plural of Oboe, is a term used at that time. The use of the harp, in the Romanza de Don Gonzalo, induces me to think that the work is


Ramón Carnicer y Batlle (1789-1855) by Federico de Madrazo. Biblioteca Nacional.

contemporary to Queen María Cristina, who loved to sing opera and to play harp (instrument which is briefly included in this work). Even by flattery, it was forced to worry about these lady's likes that came to restore Scarlatti and Bocherini times in Madrid. -About this issue, in general, I have thought suitable for my edition to respect the instrument setting, from high to low, to bring up the student a more truthful information-.

I discard the author of this work could be an Italian composer; this music is not Italian, it is within the Italian style, its school, but I find in the rythm an indomitable Spanish head. Having in mind the possibility, always doubtful due to the lack of signature, to be mistaken in this statement and that this could be a transcription into Spanish -the late 18ths law forced the performance of the lyric works in Spanish-, I have thoroughly inspected the Manferrari dictionary, devoted to all the nineteenth century melodramatic operas, without seeing this work could be adapted among any of the catalogued ones. This reaffirms the Spanish origin of this work, because otherwise we would find a well-known and released work.

The orchestra is treated in an ample way, coloring and using all the expressive resources without harming the line of the song, but following the Italian tendency of the triumph of music over the text. It is also constituted of great choirs. In general, being music the greater work, it exists a perfect harmonization with the letter or vice versa, which shows more clearly the impossibility of an adaptation. Balthasar Saldoni , in the "Efemérides de músicos españoles" (Events of Spanish musicians) said in one article dedicated to Carnicer: "Here we must state with pride that the very little we could know about orchestration or the way to orchestrate, we almost exclusively owe him.".


It is frequent the use of progressions and harmonic step modulations. We can find the 9th chord in several inversions, or the 7th over tonic and dominant and the 7th disminished chord (especially in the last act). This corroborates the theory to locate the work within the romantic period. As far as the geographic location of its running, the masked choir locates us clearly in Madrid.

To signify as peculiar aspect the Number 11 with "banda dentro" ( Band inside), which walks in Minuetto while the orchestra and soloists go at the same step but in binary, with the explanation of the musician "para la fácil ejecución de este tiempo, se marcarán todas las partes al dar" (for the easy execution of this time, all the parts will be marked when giving). Carnicer already used in his other operas the inclusion of wind bands, like -in his Cristoforo Colombo, for example, although not with the particularitity of this case.

Could it be of Basilio Basili? Following the trajectory of the tenor-composer it is difficult to accept that theory. The same happens with Manuel García, José Artero, Ángel Inzenga, Ledesma, Tomás Genovés, Reart, Soriano Fuertes, Oudrid, Reparaz, José Melchor Gomis, Sers, Martí (some of these composers are unknown, however mentioned by Peña and Goñi) and it is difficult also to drag the work until his disciples Hernando, Gaztambide and Barbieri.

In hypothesis and using a discarding system I have attributed the music to Ramon Carnicer (1789-1855) and the libretto to Manuel Bretón de los Herreros (1796-1 873). It has not existed another contemporary Spanish musician to Carnicer who has composed with the characteristics that this work gathers.

The Chilean national anthem, whose music was composed by Ramon Carnicer in 1828, one of the few Carnicer's works which are known, demonstrates the paternity of this work by the similarity of the turns, beginning and end of the phrases and harmonic links. The reader can listen to this hymn -MIDI file- on and can compare it with the in Real Player format archives of the Opera: Laura and Don Gonzalo -a complete recording of the work with synthetic sounds-.

First Page of the Score (by Alberto Cobo) of Laura y Don Gonzalo by Ramón Carnicer.

Soriano Fuertes mentions an opera which Carnicer was making and which was left to take the order of the banker Safont in 1842: a "Misa de Réquiem" (Requiem Mass). From this fact, we could deduce that one first part of the opera was already made approximately in 1841, and the second from 1843, by the syntactic-musical evolution of the work from the third act, since, analyzing the Mass, it agrees with our opera "Laura y Don Gonzalo" in several aspects. In the evolutionary period of Carnicer this one can be the nearest work , or by the instrumentation of great orchestra and choirs, by harmonic connections or some similar turns, accentuations, syncopations or supports. Also, it is very similar the form of writing abbreviations and repetitions of later passages. In the instrumentation, we also found the use of four tubas and all the instruments exactly used in the opera with the following differences: he still uses the clarions as much of piston as of keys that replace in the opera by cornets (he used already these instruments in his Cristoforo Colombo); the “oficleide” is called now “figle”; from oboes makes the plural to oboeses (this fact can simply be attributed to the copier) and the timbals are placed underneath the wind metal in the Mass instead of the last instrument in the opera. He does not use, as in previous operas, the English horn in the Mass.

Regarding Bretón de los Herreros, there are also elements to analyze. Beginning with his relation with the Conservatory and also with Carnicer, who he was in principle a severe critic with, but then collaborated in Carnicer's incidental music. It is known that Carnicer used to modify something the text to his own flavor -he had also that ability-, in order to integrate more the "all" in one -maybe there was a mutual complicity with Bretón-. Bretón utilizes in several occasions characters as in this opera: D. Gonzalo, D. Simeón, D. Leonor and the King. The drama in five acts "¿Quién es ella?" (Who is she?), nothing to see with "Laura and Don Gonzalo", has a similar title to that of the beginning of the Opera: "¿Quién es la dama?" (Who is the lady?) The same occurs with "El pelo de la dehesa" and the 8th scene of the 3rd act. It does not escape to one the spirit of Fernández de Moratín in the assembly of the text, of whom B. was a great admirer. In the libreto we find the ingenuity, vivacity of the dialogue, the same festive character of a romantic spirit, although this last was not for which B. was more emphasized, but that he practiced in several occasions. Clear it is, that the Opera without romanticism is a "descafeinado" (caffeine free). It is just the epoch of the beginning of the Spanish romantic novel with Antonio García Gutiérrez's "El Trovador". And why not Vicente Rodríguez de Arellano , Gil de Zárate  or Eugenio Rubí, Hartzenbush, Gómez de Avellaneda, Adelardo López de Ayala, Tamayo y Baus, Núñez de Arce, Asquerino brothers, Luis Eguílaz, Pérez Escrich, Juan de Ariza, Narciso Serra, Gertrudis G. de Avellaneda, Olona, Manuel Hernando Pizarro, Gerónimo Morán, Campoamor, Jacinto de Salas y Quiroga, Jose María Carnerero, Ramón de Valladares y Saavedra, Ángel de Saavedra (Duque de Rivas), Juan Francisco Pastor, etc.,etc., Benavente, Ventura de la Vega, Eugenio Moreno López or Félix Enciso Castrillón? In my modest hypothesis, it results me clearer Bretón de los Herreros.

Act III: Ramón Carnicer y Batlle

D. Ramón Carnicer y Batlle was born in Tárrega, province of Lérida, on 24 October 1789. His aptitudes for music were promptly manifested, since with seven years of age, and after having studied solfa under the direction of the teacher of chapel of Tárrega, obtained in a rigorous public contest a place in the chorus of the cathedral of the Seo de Urgel. It is in this population, in which he remained for seven years, where he began to study composition and organ, afterwards perfected in Barcelona, with C. Baguer. From Barcelona was transferred to Mahón, where he taught singing and piano. Finished the French invasion, returned to Barcelona, where he continued with his pedagogical works, bringing to light, besides, as excellent director of orquesta and choral masses. After a trip to Italy, with the assignment of hiring the best Italian company that was possible to organize for the theater of Santa Cruz, acquired great prestige and reputation -he came back to Barcelona with an opera company directed by Generali and in which figured names like Cantelli, Bassi, Bordogni, all singers of indisputable reputation-. He was named director of the Santa Cruz Theater, replacing Generali, who was engaged completely to composition works. From this time dates the precious symphony Carnicer wrote for Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia", magisterial composition in which the rossiniano style is imitated in an admirable way and that Rossini, friend of Carnicer, when listened to it recognized the superiority to his. Due to the success with which his first works were received, he was encouraged to undertake another of greater importance as the "Adele di Lusignano", Italian opera of 1819, "Elena e Constantino", of 1827 and "Don Giovanni Tenorio", whose premier was on 20 June 1822. In 1825 he emigrated with his family for political reasons to Paris and then, in 1826, to London, where, due to his fame, received the assignment of composing the National Hymn of Chile.      

 In 1827 the city Hall of Madrid named Carnicer by royal order director of the theaters of the cort succeeding Mercadante. In 1827 he performed for the first time "Elena and Malvina"; in 1829 "Cristóforo Colombo"; in 1832 "Eufemio di Messina". In 1838 he carried out an opera in two acts "Ismalia o Morte ed amore". Also he composed a solemn Mass for 8 voices and orchestra and two Requiem Masses besides the vigils with orchestra for the funeral rites of Fernando VII, emphasizing among the works of so an extensive catalogue.

The queen María Cristina, forth wife of Fernando VII, very concerned by the music in her previous life in Napoles, instituted in 1832 the Royal Conservatory (in the today Plaza de los Mostenses, to see: under the direction of Piermarini. Carnicer, that according to Soriano Fuertes was one of the most qualified Spaniards to occupy that position, mainly because a composer of that level could never be compared in preparation to a singer and, besides, being Spaniard, he was going to watch more by our unfortunate country music, was named teacher of composition, professorship that performed until a year before its death (besides he also taught counterpoint and harmony), in Madrid, on 17 March 1855, and in which formed numerous outstanding disciples. In spite of he did not leave fortune, his funeral was the most sumptuous one than any Spanish musician has had.

Saldoni in his Efemérides describes the character of Carnicer: His character was extremely kind, accompanied of an extremely sensitive heart. Only, he was seen serious and still with strong ways, abrupt or hard in some trials, when these did not go to his flavor, or there was some singer or professor that did not comply with his obligation, and for this extraordinary zeal, someone that did not know him in depth and did not treat him enough, attributed him a rough and strong genius; but past these acts, he was the most humble, kind and docile character I have ever dealt with: was truly a boy without own will.

According to  Elías de Molins, 1889, Carnicer: 

was harshly tried by his rivals, and the case arrived of taking the determination of leaving the music and to dedicate to carpentry, to which end he acquired the necessary tools. Little time before his death entrusted his children, when he died, to burn all his compositions, since he had the conviction that they would produce them nothing. And nothing produced them. An excerpt from the book of Victor Pagán and Alfonso de Vicente shows us this fact clearer:

César, one of the Carnicer's grandchildren, writes on 25 October 1933 a letter to Fidel Prado, journalist of The Heraldo of Madrid, to thank him for the mention in his column, "Calendario de Talia", of his illustrious ancestor a day before.

            The originals of the majority of its works are in my property, before the indifference of the present teachers of music... think to dedicate them to the fire, to contribute thus to the complete oversight of my ancestor. Then, in the same letter, he manifests also his interest in maintaining living the fame of his illustrious ancestor.

Four accusations are evident in his personal dossier. First: to have belonged to the National Militia as volunteer. Second: to compose patriotic Hymns. Third: to be addict to the Constitutional Government. Fourth: to be liberal and democrat. These accusations vetoed him by life from becoming Teacher of the Real Chapel, what by merits corresponded him.

Víctor Pagán comments in the book "Catálogo de las obras de Ramón Carnicer" the romantic inclination, into which possibly derived Carnicer in his last stages.


Act IV: Final Thoughts


Up to now the last known opera of Carnicer was "Ismalia or morte ed amore", first performed on 12 March 1838 in the de la Cruz Theater , evidently Italian. But all we know in life is very complex and some motives overcome others. What does occur with "Laura y Don Gonzalo" (this title has been assigned based on the protagonists; it was obliged to catalogue it in some way)? Perhaps, it was expecting the impact of the technology. What do we know about the creative life of Carnicer from 1838 ? Would contribute to it his dearer disciple, Baltasar Saldoni? Juan Angel Vela del Campo named his critic in the PAIS, 12/XII/99, about the Opera "Margarita la Tornera" of R. Chapí (incidentally, where will be the Opera "Roger de Flor"?) : Who fears the Spanish opera? and I, in the case of Carnicer, would say: Who fears the best Spanish Opera?, at least up to now. Stevenson, basing on the librettos, mentions other unkonwn or not catalogued operas of Carnicer: "Guillermo Tell" (1834), following the tracks of the last Rossini, and "Eran due or sono tre, i.e., Gli esposti" (1836), comic opera in 2 acts with text of J. Ferreti. Besides, he attributes Carnicer an "Ipermestra" (P. Metastasio), drama in 3 acts first performed in the del Liceo Theater of Zaragoza in 1843, which is also mentioned in the dictionary of Manferrari; however Peña y Goñi comments upon this matter that such opera did not exist. Also errors due to his contribution in the music have been provoked incidental, for example with the works "Lucrecia Borgia" or "El sacristán de Toledo". An epoch dominated by the Italian music, united to envies and idleness, has not been the ideal for the germination of an absolutely pure kind Spaniard, keeping in mind that the latino finds in the opera his salsa. A citation in the magazine El artista, dated from 1836, of the literary Eugenio de Ochoa, says that Carnicer was the composer indicated for creating a purely national Spanish opera, as soon as circumstances permit it (and not the politics), in which it will be written the letter and the music by a Spanish poet and a Spanish composer,and sung by Spanish artists. If Mister Carnicer accomplishes this noble and patriotic thought, he will acquire a new title added to the deserving appreciation that so many profess him, the ones interested in the progress and the prosperity of the Beautiful Arts in our unfortunate country.


This challenge already came from before, when Pedrell comments, after the debut of "Don Giovanni", in 1834, that the enlightenment of Mister Carnicer and the requirements of artist and good flavor that he is distinguished for, should have impelled him to the difficult business of creating a proper national school.

Personally, I think that Carnicer tries with this work to carry out a Spanish opera without losing his rossinana roots, valuable knowledge of what signifies an opera, and tries to reflect a Spanish spirit in the margins that he considers available, after large thoughts and introspective studies, keeping his deep belief of the Beauty, a concept that obsessed him during all his life.

By this exposition, we could consider the conspicuous Maestro as the creator of a purely nationalist opera and the creator of the first Spanish opera, since the text is completely in Spanish and it is the unique one, as far as I know, that he composed and finished that enjoys this privilege (indispensable condition to be called Spanish Opera). With all this, we find ourselves in front of one of the biggest composers that Spain has had, the most important one of his generation, the largest Spanish operist or the most famous Teacher of Music of the first half of the nineteenth century, to the one that Rossini, the great one Rossini, had respect and admiration (not to forget his Symphony-Overture for "Il Barbiere di Siviglia"). Nowadays, he is one of the Spanish musicians less known by his music (and therefore by his name). Let's think about that.

Why is the reason so many and glorious works of the Spanish music Patrimony have dissapeared? 7 operas by R. Carnicer, 8 by Saldoni, 3 by Hilarión Eslava ( ¡Ah!, "Las Treguas de Ptolemaida"... ), to mention some of this genre and the three more important composers of that period. Possibly, the reason is the little development of the music press in Spain, which had a transformation in Carnicer epoch with the arrival of the German Bartolomé Wirmbs to court. But this is a true pity, Andrés Ruiz-Tarazona commented me: "they will be somewhere..." I will applaud the one that have the patriotism of rediscovering them. ¡Ah! the "Ipermestra" by Saldoni.

To comment that this edition is the unique one of an opera of this musician that we can find, since the "Colombo" published by the German Jürgen Maheder is not found available to the public in the SGAE (that bought the rights to the V Centennial). I have tried to carry out the most faithful revision of the manuscript, correcting occasionally some notes clearly erroneous or metrically not fitted and completing the repetitions indicated of shortened form with the complete scripture of the work. The text of the libretto, in verse, has been selected directly from the sung parts. The scenography has been imagined by me, for which the "Urtext" (original) would be without it and another one, provided it is coherent, could be valid.


Copyright Alberto Cobo        email:






- The news has been published for one year on:  in the NEWS section by Christopher Webber.

- This opera has been included in the Operissimo catalogue (where priorly did not exist neither Carnicer neither Baltasar Saldoni):

- Dr. Otto Tomek of Universal Edition AG, in Wien, wrote me after examining in depth my edition: "Without any doubt this music deserves to be of interest beyond the borders of its birth", but lamentably it cannot be covered all the unfold of activities that is required for a composer that is not sufficiently known.

 -The internet magazine, “Mundo Clásico”: , gives the news on 03/04/00.





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- Victor Pagán (coordinador), Jacinto Torres Mulas, Juana Mª Rodríguez de Acuña Cruz, Teresa Prieto Palomo, Alfonso de Vicente, Carlos José Gosálvez Lara, Enrique Igoa Mateos, María Encina Cortizo y Javier Suárez-Pajares y Ana María Arias de Cossío: "Dosier sobre Ramón Carnicer" en +Revista Scherzo nº 64+ Mayo 1992, págs. 123-152


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- José Subirá: +Historia de la música española e hispanoamericana+. Barcelona - Salvat, 1953


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- Andrés Ruíz Tarazona: "En el II centenario de Ramón Carnicer (1789-1855)" en +Revista de musicología+, XII/1 (1989), pg. 331



LAURA, Soprano
DOÑA LEONOR, Mezosoprano
REY, Bajo


Coro (tenores, tiples y bajos) Banda dentro, Guardia