Classical

During the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy landowners began sending their children who showed musical promise to study in Spain and, through a trickle-down effect, the classical overtures popularized by baroque and romantic composers began to make their way back to this Caribbean outpost. The first Puerto Rican to gain any real international recognition was composer Manuel Tavares, and his success inspired a small island "boom" in enthusiasm for classicists. By the 1830s, classical concerts, operas and zarzuelas (operatic comedies) were in full swing in the theaters and concert halls of San Juan.

Meanwhile, a new classical rhythm was developing in Ponce. La Danza was conceived by composer Juan Morel Campos, who had been searching for an appropriate identity for the ballroom dancing that took place every Saturday night among Ponce's elite. He came up with a unique minuet performed on the piano, and this musical tradition lives on (see Festivals & Events, page 231).

The next local sensation was the sumptuous voice of tenor Antonio Paoli (1872-1946), who is Puerto Rico's best-known opera singer. But the most famous classical musician ever to have come out of Puerto Rico was Spanish-Puerto Rican cellist Pablo Casals. His legacy is recognized for two weeks every June during the Pablo Casals Music Festival (see page 40), which attracts classical aficionados from all over the world.

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