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The appearance of zarzuela in Hungary is entirely unknown in musicology. In the present study, I discuss the currently unchartered reception of the zarzuela El rey que rabió (first performed in Spain in 1891) by Ruperto Chapí (1851-1909), a Spanish composer of over one hundred stage pieces and four string quartets. Premièred as Az unatkozó király in Budapest seven years later in 1898, Chapí’s zarzuela met with resounding success in the Hungarian press, a fervour which reverberated into the early decades of the twentieth century. Emil Szalai and Sándor Hevesi’s skilful Hungarian translation, together with Izsó Barna’s appropriate adjustments and reorchestration, accordingly catered the work to Budapest audiences. Through analysis of hand-written performance materials of Az unatkozó király (preserved in the National Széchényi Library), alongside a detailed study of the Hungarian reception, the profound interest in Spanish music–particularly in relation to musical theatre–amongst the turn-of-the-century Hungarian theatre-going public is revealed. This paper explores how Az unatkozó király became a success in Hungary.

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