Walter Clark was a graduate student researching his dissertation when he stumbled upon a mystery that would haunt him for more than two decades: What happened to an unpublished opera written by Enrique Granados, one of Spain’s greatest composers, at the turn of the 20th century?
The answer would elude Clark — now a professor of music and director of The Center for Iberian and Latin American Music at the University of California, Riverside — until 2009, a tale as riveting as the plot of any opera, with the three-volume “Maria del Carmen” surviving a torpedo attack, economic collapse in Spain, and a warehouse fire in New York.
“I have been a lover of Granados’ music since I was a teenager and have played some of it,” Clark said. “‘Maria del Carmen’ is beautiful music, inspired by the folk music of the Spanish countryside.” Although Granados is best-known as a composer and pianist, Clark said his work is easily arranged for performance by guitar, which the UCR scholar plays.
Granados, born in 1867, composed “Maria del Carmen” in 1898, the year Spain and the United States went to war. It premiered in Madrid to such acclaim that Queen Maria Cristina awarded Granados the Charles III Cross for his work. The opera — a love triangle set in a Spanish village in the region of Murcia — was later revised for subsequent productions, but was never performed in its original version again.