Golden Age of Flamenco Begins

The three-part musical form—voice, accompanied by guitar and dance—transcended the small-group, folk-song styles and places of the Spanish underclass, particularly the Gitanos, or Gypsies, to become an art form and widespread phenomenon. Flamenco melded with the Spanish lyric theater, was represented in literature, and won many aficionados among all social groups.

Summary of Event

From the time of its ancient history, Spain has been characterized by not only multicultural diversity but also a rigid socioeconomic hierarchy. The resulting estrangement and anomie of most of its inhabitants led to voices of dissatisfaction, complaint, and suffering in rustic social settings expressed in the works of the musical form flamenco. Flamenco dancing
Spain;Flamenco dancing
[kw]Golden Age of Flamenco Begins (c. 1869)
[kw]Age of Flamenco Begins, Golden (c. 1869)
[kw]Flamenco Begins, Golden Age of (c. 1869)
[kw]Begins, Golden Age of Flamenco (c. 1869)
Flamenco dancing
Spain;Flamenco dancing
[g]Spain;c. 1869: Golden Age of Flamenco Begins[4290]
[c]Music;c. 1869: Golden Age of Flamenco Begins[4290]
[c]Dance;c. 1869: Golden Age of Flamenco Begins[4290]
[c]Art;c. 1869: Golden Age of Flamenco Begins[4290]
[c]Theater;c. 1869: Golden Age of Flamenco Begins[4290]
Fuertes, Mariano Soriano
Franconetti, Silverio
Machado y Álvarez, Antonio
Breva, Juan
Chacón, Antonio

Flamenco was originally cante, a type of vocal expression. Later, flamenco was accompanied by toque de palmas, or hand clapping with guitar playing, and baile, or dance. Traditionally associated with intense emotion (duende) and the individual style of the performer, flamenco has always been inextricably tied to ethnicity, marginality, eroticism, substance abuse, and rebellion against all manner of social norms.

José Cadalso Cadalso, José was the first writer to mention flamenco in literature in his Cartas marruecas (1774). Flamenco schools became more prevalent between the mid-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in cities such as Cádiz, Jérez de la Frontera Frontera, Jérez de la , and Seville. Until that time, flamenco had been a lower-class phenomenon of southern Spain, especially of the province of Andalucía, and was originally performed in tawdry juergas, or bordellos, of the slums.

During the self-proclaimed Siglo de Oro, the Golden Age of Spanish culture, the seventeenth century apex of all things Spanish, the public had begun to suffer because of the country’s downward spiral in terms of loss of world prestige, economic privations, and socioreligious repression, which led to a national identity crisis. Then, in 1849, Mariano Soriano Fuertes Fuertes, Mariano Soriano wrote the pivotal comic opera El tío Caniyitas
Opera;El tío Caniyitas[Tío Caniyitas] , which was performed in Seville. Appealing to every level of society with its music, dance, and humor, the work featured a poor Gypsy, the Uncle Caniyitas of the title, who initiated a young rich woman into the social milieu of the Gitanos, including the ribald language and the morally edgy flamenco. This work, and the later ¡Cante Hondo! (1882), tied flamenco to the lyric theater Theater;Spanish , thus initiating social acceptability and a new cultural form.

However, not everyone approved of flamenco, some because of the sexual tension inherent in the dance and some because of the shady beginnings and overlay of the genre. Several members of the Generation of 1898 writers, including Pío Baroja Baroja, Pío , opposed writing about the fashionable genre because they believed that to do so would feed negative international stereotypes.

Concurrent nineteenth century costumbrismo (1820-1860) literature, by such writers as Armando Palacio Valdés, Salvador Rueda, Alarcón, Fernán Caballero, and Serafín Estébañez Calderón, Estébañez Calderón, Serafín
[p]Estébañez Calderón, Serafín had been dedicated to writing about Spanish life and practice, had made extensive references to Andalucía, and had portrayed scenes of flamenco. For example, Estébañez Calderón’s Escenas andaluzas (1847) contains two stories so dedicated, mentioning mythical singers of the time, El Planeta and El Fillo, and describing aspects of flamenco.

Much of Spain had begun to identify with flamenco. Around 1869, it began to move into cafés cantantes, or musical cafés, and spread throughout the south and central provinces. It had even been performed in elegant bars like Los Fornos and Los Gabrieles in Madrid, the capital. The patronage of the señoritos, the young and disaffected male dandies of the period, and the majos, descendants of Andalusian immigrants to Madrid, played a role in this transformation.

During the last third of the nineteenth century, a series of nonethnic, nonpeasant singers, among them Silverio Franconetti, Franconetti, Silverio Juan Breva Breva, Juan , and Antonio Chacón Chacón, Antonio , both revolutionized the style and content of flamenco and broadened and popularized it as a uniquely Spanish cultural form. Franconetti’s singing initiated the change by stylistically blurring the line between the peasant folk variations and the so-called outcast (ethnic or criminal) protest-element style, as well as by incorporating Opera;conventions of operatic conventions. Breva called attention to the flamenco by his flamboyant behaviors on and off the stage, gaining something of a “rock star” notoriety complete with groupies. Chacón, a star as a teenager, brought real acceptability to the form with great musical talent and an ability to incorporate prior elements into his own style.

In 1881, Antonio Machado Machado y Álvarez, Antonio y Álvarez wrote the first flamenco biography, that of Franconetti, Franconetti, Silverio and published a collection of songs. The same year, Manuel Balmaseda, who was barely literate and mainly dictated his lyrics, published Primer Cancionero Flamenco. Writers outside Spain picked up on the fashion as well; a work in German, Die Cantes Flamencos, by Hugo Schuchardt, was published a few months later.


The golden age of flamenco eased Spain’s national identity crisis by providing an acceptable, yet appealingly risky, artistic form around which the Spanish could rally. The fusion of styles incorporated those of diverse groups. The geographic spread and change of venue from the bordello to the lyric theater and the musical café led to social acceptance. The period also saw the fine-tuning of technique and the addition of variations like the intense cante jondo.

The golden age of flamenco led also to a complete reevaluation of the genre as a valid scholarly pursuit. In 1922, Granada, Spain, held a cante jondo competition, with the presentation of scholarly papers, a performance of classical-music adaptations by Manuel de Falla Falla, Manuel de and Federico García Lorca Lorca, Federico García that were inspired by flamenco, and performances of flamenco guitarra works by Andrés Segovia and others. Many books followed, among them a study of flamenco subgenres, De cante grande y cante chico by José Carlos de Luna Luna, José Carlos de (1926); a study of the sociopolitical milieu, Andalucía, su comunismo y su cante jondo by Carlos y Pedro Caba Landa (1933); and a collection of biographies, Arte y artistas flamencos by Fernando of Triana (1935).

“Flamencology” became something of a fashion in 1955 with the publication of Flamencología by Anselmo González Climent. The majority of works thereafter have dealt with the dance and guitar aspects. Non-Spanish scholars, too, have addressed the genre, with the majority of these works addressing the origins and history of flamenco. Other scholars have looked at flamenco’s many other angles: linguistic (Manuel Ropero Nuñez), sociological (Francisco Carrillo Alonso, Gerhard Steingress), Anthropology;and flamenco dancing[Flamenco dancing] anthropological (Cristina Cruces, Génesis García Gómez), literary (Francisco Gutiérrez Carbajo), musical (José Romero, Norberto Torres, Faustino Nuñez, Miguel Espín), and cinematographic (Angel Custodio Gómez).

In 1997, the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco organized a congress, where experts analyzed several representative works from the various periods. Flamenco has become respectable in the twenty-first century, but it has also been commercialized as a so-called ethnic art form and consequentially distanced from its emotional roots through an international emphasis instead on its technical aspects.

Further Reading

  • Haas, Ken, and Gwynne Edwards. ¡Flamenco! New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000. A work on the genre that presents a combination of photographs and technical explanations.
  • Leblon, Bernard. Gypsies and Flamenco: The Emergence of the Art of Flamenco in Andalusia. Hertfordshire, England: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2003. Biographies of two hundred famous Gitano flamenco artists, plus terms and a bibliography of recorded flamenco music.
  • Martínez, Emma. Flamenco . . . All You Wanted to Know. Pacific, Mo.: Mel Bay, 2003. Focuses on the song and music aspects of the genre.
  • Mitchell, Timothy. Flamenco Deep Song. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994. Mitchell’s application of critical theories to flamenco illuminates the genre as not only a historical phenomenon but also a psychological one.
  • Pohren, Donn. The Art of Flamenco. 1962. Reprint. Hertfordshire, England: University of Hertfordshire Press, 1999. Pohren’s work is considered the bible of flamenco. A classic.
  • _______. Lives and Legends of Flamenco: A Biographical History. 1964. Rev. ed. Madrid: Society of Spanish Studies, 1988. Highlights the lives of the best-known singers, guitarists, and dancers in the flamenco tradition.
  • Totten, Robin. Song of the Outcasts. Portland, Oreg.: Amadeus Press, 2003. A technical guide plus a historical approach to the genre’s emotional aspect from the point of view of the best-known component of the flamenco experience, the Spanish Gitanos.

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