Journal of Film Music, Vol 5, No 1-2 (2012)

Juxtaposing teatro de revista and cine: Music in the 1930s comedia ranchera

Jacqueline Avila
Issued Date: 31 Oct 2013

Abstract


In the early 1900s, Mexico’s popular entertainment spectacle was the teatro de revista, a satirical theatrical genre derived from the Spanish zarzuela that combined social analysis and political commentary with burlesque. Combining monologues and comedic skits with music and dance performances, the revista became an important component in the daily lives of urban Mexicans, placing the popular of contemporary culture center stage. With the advent of sound cinema, several key players from the revista transferred their talents from the stage to the screen and molded a cinematic practice with strong theatrical origins. As a consequence of the crossover, these actors, musicians, and composers kept their fingers on the popular pulse of the nation as the overlap of revista structures into sound film provided an easy and non-intimidating way of enticing the urban audience to screening spaces. For the comedia ranchera (ranch comedy) during the 1930s, the synthesized revista provided a sturdy dramatic foundation, but the development of the film genre depended on musical performance because the protagonist, the singing charro, sang. Rancheras performed by mariachis dressed in full trajes de charros (charro suits) became one of the genre’s musical and visual signifiers, but the comedia ranchera’s musical compilation is much more diverse, juxtaposing several originally composed canciones mexicanas, canciones rancheras and traditional music. This paper examines the comedia ranchera of the 1930s not with the intention of concentrating on a picturesque representation of folklore on screen, but as an experimental product of a specific socio-cultural context and a vehicle of musical hybridization that created a successful cinematic formula for the national industry. I discuss those hybrid components such as the singing charro protagonist, theatrical practice, and melodramatic currents that structured the comedia ranchera, examining in particular Fernando de Fuentes’s groundbreaking Allá en el Rancho Grande (Over on the Big Ranch, 1936).

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DOI: 10.1558/jfm.v5i1-2.121

References


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