Juan Hidalgo de Polanco

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Juan Hidalgo de Polanco (28 September 1614 – 31 March 1685) was a Spanish composer and harpist[1] who became the most influential composer of his time in the Hispanic world writing the music for the first two operas created in Spanish. He is considered by many to be the father of Spanish opera and of the zarzuela.[2]

Hidalgo was born and died in Madrid. In either 1630 or 1631 he became a harpist at the Spanish royal chapel where he was responsible for the accompaniment of both sacred and secular music and also played for the King of Spain, King Philip IV. Around 1645 he began to serve as leader of the court's chamber musicians and chief composer of villancicos, chamber songs, and music for the theatre.

He personifies the origins of Spanish opera with the work Celos aun del aire matan by the illustrious playwright Calderon de la Barca, based on the story of Cephalus and Procris told in Ovid's Metamorphoses, released on 5 December 1660 to celebrate the third birthday of prince Felipe Prospero. It is considered the oldest opera preserved in Spain

Juan Hidalgo dominated secular and theatrical music at the Spanish court until his death. He was a prolific composer and enjoyed a great deal of popularity throughout his career. His place in Spanish theatre history is equivalent to that of Henry Purcell in Britain and Lully in France. He wrote music for at least nine allegorical religious plays that were performed in public for Corpus Christi. His work for the court stages included songs for 16 spoken plays (comedias), many partly sung zarzuelas and semi-operas, and two full operas which are highly regarded. His output also included a large number of sacred villancicos and some liturgical music.

His life is the basis of a novel, The Harpist of Madrid, by the English author Gordon Thomas.[3] Composer Celia Torra based her choral composition Las campanas on a melody by Hidalgo.[4]

Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ Antonio Ezquerro Esteban Tonos humanos, letras y villancicos catalanes del siglo XVII - 2002 - Page 21 "Juan Hidalgo [De Polanco] (*Madrid, 1614 -1685). Sin duda, de las dos obras que hoy se editan, ambas pertenecen al célebre «Juan» Hidalgo, a pesar de que en el primer caso la fuente únicamente anota un escueto ...
  2. ^ "400th birthday to zarzuela creator Juan Hidalgo de Polanco".
  3. ^ Gordon Thomas, The Harpist of Madrid, Olympia Publishers, London (2011) ISBN 978-1848971547
  4. ^ Cohen, Aaron I. (1987). International encyclopedia of women composers (Second edition, revised and enlarged ed.). New York. ISBN 0-9617485-2-4. OCLC 16714846.