Personalities | Pedro Calderón de la Barca | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera

1600–81, Spanish

Pedro Calderón de la Barca, one of Spain’s greatest playwrights, made an important venture into the world of opera with his libretto for Juan Hidalgo’s (c. 1612–85) La púrpura de la rosa (‘The Colour of the Rose’, c. 1660) – the first Spanish opera performed in Madrid. The same year, Calderón provided Hidalgo with another libretto, this time for the composer’s Celos aun del aire matan (‘Even Jealousy of the Air Can Kill’, c. 1660). Although Calderón’s output for opera was not great, the plots of his plays – notably his so-called ‘revenge’ dramas – explored similar territory. Calderón’s work also retains a modern appeal. His most famous play, La vida es sueño (‘Life is a Dream’, 1635), which dealt with free will and predestination, was turned into an opera by the American composer Lewis Spratlan (b. 1940) and won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2000.

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