Annual Conference 2016 of New Mexico Museum Association
The Manuel Areu Project consists of bringing to light the original music and theater works of composer, musician, actor, and entrepreneur Manuel Areu. Areu was born in Madrid, Spain in 1845 and died in Mexico City in 1942. Although this collection was found in 1952, there were no efforts to recover and perform Areu’s original music. However, in 2012, under the guidance of UNM Honors College Faculty, University of New Mexico Honors College students began to research Areu’s life and work using this unprecedented collection of music scores and manuscripts. Areu’s artistic life spanned Spain, Cuba, Mexico, New Orleans, and Los Angeles as well as some cities in Texas and Arizona.
The value of Areu’s work is not only the quality and the merits of the work itself, but also Areu himself as an active artist responding to the times and places in which he lived. The fact that the collection has many unpublished scores creates a unique opportunity for students and performers to be part of a research project that reveals not only new music, but also a new aspect of musical entertainment in the Hispanic communities in the Southwest at the beginning of the 20th century and continuing into their legacy today. Areu’s work in zarzuela, vaudeville, and entertainment, including his unique “vistas habladas” of silent movies, also left a legacy in Cuba and Mexico.
José Luis Temes, a music conductor specializing in zarzuela, mentioned this collection in his book, “El Siglo de la Zarzuela:”
“Scholars have found no evidence of the presence of zarzuela in the east coast of the United States at least until 1871, when the pioneer company of Manuel Areu arrived in New Orleans. From there he organized expeditions to several cities in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. He teamed with brothers Mauri (of Valencian origin, although established in Cuba), and they took some repertoire to Florida and elsewhere in the United States. In his amazing work as an entrepreneur in America, Areu came to have his own collection of e zarzuelas, both Spanish and American, which recently appeared in the city of Jerome (Arizona).