Show and Tell

Once upon a time, before the age of specialization, performers prided themselves on cultivating a jack-of-all-trades mentality. Acting, dancing, singing, and even comedy were skills practiced in tandem with one another -- sometimes within the confines of the same production -- making for performances and performers as well-rounded as they were entertaining.

With apologies to today's entertainers, it takes a fertile mind indeed to imagine Britney Spears singing Pavarotti, Pavarotti performing interpretive dance, Twyla Tharp doing standup and Jerry Seinfeld reciting Shakespearean prose. Yet in 17th-century Spain, artists were faced with similar challenges via the birth of an entertainment genre whose legendary status would grow with the centuries: zarzuela.

A form of lyric theater, zarzuela is a mélange of entertainment forms rolled into one. Classical and popular music, dance, comedy, and even verse and prose make their way into each performance, and some four centuries after its advent, zarzuela continues to evolve in both style and substance. Graduates of the art form include two of the world-famous "Three Tenors," Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

A culture sometimes lacking in culture can use all the imports it can get, and luckily zarzuela has applied for its visa and gone on a road trip far beyond the borders of its nation of origin. Be part of the welcoming committee when Teatro Bravo! presents Phoenix's own Greta Skelly in "Zarzuela and More... Touring America." Skelly will be joined by pianist Rubia Santos and Ballet Arizona's Luis Torres for a performance that will also feature music by local Latin American favorites Nosotros.

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Craig Wallach