From the city dump to the concert halls: The journey of the Manuel Areu Collection.

Jerome, Arizona in 1909

The “Manuel Areu Collection of Nineteenth-Century Zarzuelas, 1849-1932” is a set of musical scores and personal documents that belonged to Manuel Areu, a composer, violinist, actor, and impresario. Manuel Areu was born in Spain and traveled and worked as the director of his family company in Cuba, Mexico, and southwestern United States.

Looking for objects to use in his sculpture work, in 1952 artist Frederick Sommers discovered a collection of musical and drama manuscripts in a garbage dump in the town of Jerome, Arizona. The majority of these scores were handwritten orchestral parts and scores. The collection also included plays, playbills, and personal papers and letters. Further investigation revealed musical compositions between 1849 and 1889, among them 131 zarzuelas (Spanish operas) and miscellaneous music. Of the zarzuelas present in this group, about 100 originated in Spain, and a small number in Cuba and Mexico. About eighty of the musical works include conductors’ scores and/or piano-vocal scores.

The collection is incredibly valuable since it includes rare and/or unavailable works that have not been known to the public, much less performed, including original compositions by Manuel Areu from 1868 to 1927.

The collection is now located in the UNM Zimmerman Library, Center for Southwest Research, which permits Honors students and faculty from UNM direct access to the manuscripts, giving students and researchers a firsthand experience of researching primary sources of an interdisciplinary project.

External Links

Frederick Sommer site

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