The Valencian Sainet

Drama and Socio-Cultural Identity (1845–1939)

by Olga Celda Real (Author)
©2023 Monographs XXVIII, 368 Pages


Since the mid-nineteenth century up to the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the extraordinary popularity of the Valencian sainet – short plays of one to two acts – was due to the effervescent and prolific production of these new dramatic works capable of depicting the world of the Valencians as no genre did before. In these plays – analysed in this book in their original versions – the plots encapsulated systems of symbolic expression shaped by ethnicity, ideology, languages, kinship, beliefs, social construct and cultural capital, as the fictional frame offered to an audience was perceived as an imaginable reality. The stories they told, transferred from the street onto paper and the stage by Valencian playwrights, gave voice to characters dealing with complex contemporary socio-political issues happening in Valencian time and space settings. Demeaned since the beginning of Franco's dictatorship due to narratives of cultural exclusion, the genre is here the subject of a vivid first-time analysis of its role in shaping the Valencian socio-cultural identity during a precise timeframe.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Figures
  • Note to the Reader
  • Preface
  • Introduction: Mapping the Ground: Contextualizing the Valencian Sainet and Socio-Cultural Fields
  • Chapter 1 El nostre teatre: Identifying the Valencian Sainet (1845–1900)
  • Section 1 The Social Role of History and Cultural Developments in Valencia
  • Section 2 Theatres as Social Space
  • Section 3 Performing the Valencian Sainet: Actors and Dramatic Speech
  • Section 4 Delineating the Dramatic Blueprint of the Sainet: Valencian Dramatic Genres in Context
  • Section 5 The Impact of the Modelo Escalantí in the Sainet Dramaturgy
  • Section 6 Shaping Notions of Nationhood: The Valencian Renaixença, Lo Rat Penat and the Cantón of Valencia
  • Chapter 2 Volem riure: Puns, Ideology and Performativity in the Golden Era of the Sainet (1900–1930)
  • Section 1 Performing the Sainet: Actors, Characters and Audience
  • Section 2 Defining Positions: From Costumbrista Parody to Socio-Cultural Product
  • Section 3 Valencian Theatres and the Valencian Folletines
  • Section 4 Changing Times for the Sainet: The Ushering In of a New Era
  • Chapter 3 ‘No me dona la republicana gana’: The Valencian Sainet and the Second Republic (1931–1939)
  • Section 1 Socio-Political Context and Cultural Initiatives in Valencia
  • Section 2 Performing Ideology: The Socialización del espectáculo and Theatre Programming
  • Section 3 Republican Culture and Valencian Cultural Institutions
  • Section 4 Towards the End: The Spanish Civil War in Valencia
  • Epilogue: Erasing Culture and Identity
  • Bibliography
  • List of Plays and Other Texts
  • Glossary
  • Index

←viii | ix→


This section is a thank you to all who helped me with this book, a process which began in 2018 after I submitted my thesis – An Ignored Dramatic Genre: The Contribution of the Sainet to the Making of Valencian Cultural Capital (1845–1939) – and established the original research corpus further explored here. I am first indebted to the Committee of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (AHGBI) for inviting me to present a paper based on this research (‘Writing Socio-Cultural Identity: Drama, Polyglossia and Performativity in the Valencian Sainet (1845–1939’) at its 66th Annual Conference in 2021. I am grateful to my publisher Peter Lang for accepting my proposal and to Dr Laurel Plapp, Senior Acquisitions Editor, for her advice, competence and patience. I am also indebted to Peter Lang’s Production Team for their amazing help, especially to Dyana Jaffris. I would like to thank the Trustees of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland for granting me the Trevor J. Dadson Publication Enhancement Fund Award in 2021 to help with the completion of this book. A very big thank you goes to the extraordinary Valencian StreetArt artist La nena wapa wapa, whose radical and delicate portrayal of Valencian female identity made the perfect cover for this book: gracias, Raquel. I am forever indebted to those who helped me to home in on my research and to make this book possible. Here, my first debt of gratitude is to Professor Catherine Boyle at King’s College London for her unfailing support over the years. Her intellectual generosity, humanity, knowledge and genuine interest for the subject have been central to my research. I would also like to warmly thank Emeritus Professor David Mayer (University of Manchester, UK), Emeritus Professor Michael Thompson (Durham University, UK), Assistant Professor Vicente Iranzo (Weber State University, USA) and Profesor Asociado Oscar Rueda (Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain) for their expertise and impartial advice. Special thanks go to the members of the Patronage at the Real Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana (RACV), expressly to its President José Manuel Ricart and to Marisa Mompó for their ←ix | x→unfailing support. Forever gratitude is due to Dr Voro López i Verdejo, director of the Secció de Llengua i Lliteratura Valencianes at the RACV, for his precise and erudite advice regarding all linguistics queries regarding Valencian language (Valencià) and specifically for his exact evaluation of the phonetical model version (‘Valensiá’) as employed by the Valencian playwrights during the timeframe of this book. Dr López i Verdejo’s decoding of the latter’s writing of utterance in the sainets was significant to this book because it allowed an accurate and first-time identification of this phonetical model version in written form. I am also indebted to Vicent Navarro and to Lo Rat Penat for their generous help in answering questions and unrestricted access to their excellent and factual archives. I thank Fernanda Medina at the Centro de Documentació Escènica of the Institut Valencià de Cultura for her professional help with unpublished dramatic material from the Legado Hernández Casajuana, which I began to study for PhD research in 2011 and transferred first to the thesis and now to this book. Special gratitude goes to Cuca Peris, who gave me unconditional access to the Fondo Privado Familia Josep Peris Celda in Valencia and whose generosity and interest played a significant role in this book, well beyond the act of providing unpublished research material. To meet Cuca and members of her family was a turning point, as the research for my thesis (and this book) stopped being just an academic exercise and it became an explorative journey into a lost part of my own family I did not know. In addition to Cuca, I am forever grateful in the Josep Peris Celda family to Javier Peris, Marta Arjona, M. José Arjona, Ana Gost, Fernando Gost and to the late Vicenta Peris, the daughter of Josep Peris Celda. To them I owe access to unpublished research material for this book, family anecdotes and the revealing of the astonishing ‘Cueva de Aladino’, a staggering stack of unpublished material encompassing literary works by Valencian playwrights and records of their cultural activities in Valencia during the early years of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain. This unique research data is now slowly being made available for public access in digital format, with internet contact details, by means of the Josep Peris Celda family’s private initiative. In Valencia, I would like to thank my cousins, the solicitors Inma Celda Cortés and M. Angeles Celda Cortés, who were patiently at hand to help me with legal data and to round up precise historical/contextual information. I am forever indebted ←x | xi→to my ‘linguistic advisers’ in Alcoy, my cousins Maris Cantó Celda, Matilde Cantó Celda and Judith Cantó Celda, whose superb native awareness of Valencian language and mischievous sense of humour helped to untangle the meaning encoded in the dramatic texts in this book. I like to thank my fellow members at the University Women’s Club in London and specially to its wonderful staff, who always accommodated my needs when total solitude from daily life was needed. A warm thanks goes to my dear friends Dr Almudena Coterón and Dr Una Canning for their intelligent advice, wit and kindness. A forever thank you goes to my childhood friends from Nuestra Señora de Loreto school in Valencia, the ‘Loretanas’ group, your humanity and unconditional support have been and continue to be an inspiration and a privilege. To my dear late parents, Dr Luis Celda Martínez and Dr Olga Real Carbonell, I owe so much freedom to read, learn, think and act: I owe them ever-lasting memories. Last but by no means least, I want to thank my children, Oliver Modi-Celda and Victoria Modi-Celda for their love, support and (Valencià) sense of humour; and finally, to my husband Sam Modi, because this book would have never existed without you being at my side along its making.

←xii | xiii→


Figure 1. Photo of the first page of the manuscript La pilara by Josep Peris Celda

Figure 2. Photo of a single page of the manuscript La fam nos trau a ballar by Fausto Hernández Casajuana

Figure 3. Photo of the cover of Teatre Valensiá

Figure 4. Real Senyera [Valencian flag] at Lo Rat Penat

Figure 5. Note included in the first edition of La tía Pepa Tona by Josep Peris Celda

Figure 6. Procession of the Cofradía del Cristo de las Penas [The Brotherhood of the Christ of the Sorrows]

Figure 7. La Moma and one Momo

Figure 8. Original Lo Rat Penat banner (1878)

Figure 9. Official shield of the Cantón of Valencia

Figure 10. Portrait of Constantí Llombart

Figure 11. El organiste de Sollana

Figure 12. Cover of Furtanines and El Repatriat

Figure 13. Tres róses en un pomell

Figure 14. ¿Qué hiá que fer en el teatre valensiá? ¿PER QUÉ NO HU FA VOSTÉ?

Figure 15. ¿Voleu llum? ó Valensia á Fosques

Figure 16. First page of the manuscript ¡Salut i Revolusió!

Figure 17. Pamphlet for the premiere at the Saló Romea

Figure 18. Cover of La fam no té lley o la solusión mañana←xiii | xiv→

Figure 19. El divors

Figure 20. ¡Que se divorsie Rita!

Figure 21. Propaganda posters against the destruction of religious art

Figure 22. Nostra Novela (1930)

Figure 23. Nostra Novela (1931)

Figure 24. Opening of the Sala Floral at the Generalitat Valenciana (1931)

Figure 25. Valensia a la moda

Figure 26. Manuscript of La doneta

Figure 27. First edition of La doneta

Figure 28. A scene from Al Capone

Figure 29. Enrique Rambal (FL) and Hernández Casajuana (3L)

Figure 30. Sopar de fraternitat [Fraternity Supper] organized by the Societat d’Autors Valensiáns

←xiv | xv→

Note to the Reader

This book employs a rigorous transcription of Valencian and Castilian1 languages and the phonetical model version ‘Valensiá’ (Valencian language written with Castilian orthography employed by Valencian authors during the timeframe under study), used in the sainets (one- or two-act plays) and texts studied here as written by the authors themselves. Each time the written phonetical model version is referred to in this book it is done in italics and between inverted comas (as ‘Valensiá’) to differentiate it from grammatical Valencian (Valencià). The latter will be referred to as Valencian language throughout the book to make connexions easier and to better differentiate communicative systems. The book retains an exact transcription of the fonts (size and style), punctuation and use of upper- and lower-case letters as exercised by the authors, who would often combine writing patterns in their texts. It is also essential to state the sainets were often subheaded after the title by literary monikers devised and used by the playwrights to introduce their plays. The evidence found in the sainets analysed in this book makes an astonishingly long and intriguing list: pesa [dramatic piece], pieza [dramatic piece], chuet [dramatic plaything], juguete [dramatic plaything], pieza bilingüe [bilingual dramatic piece], proverbio bilingüe [bilingual proverb], sopar en un acto [supper in one act], comedia de costums valensianes [costumbrist Valencian comedy], juguete valenciano [Valencian dramatic plaything], juguete dramático [dramatic plaything], jog [dramatic game], casi sainet [almost sainet], comedia bilingüe [bilingual comedy], choguet [dramatic short plaything], sainet orichinal [original sainet], ensalá [dramatic salad], ensalá valensiana [Valencian dramatic salad], paseo cómico-lírico [lyrical-comical walk], revista sonora [musical number], apropósit [on-purpose], entremés en prosa [short comical piece in prose], entretenimiento bilingüe [bilingual entertainment], choguet bilingüe-cómic-líric [comical-lyrical ←xv | xvi→bilingual short plaything] and juguete cómico bilingüe [comical bilingual plaything] were some of the tags used by the authors to categorize their sainets. Some were games on words written in Castilian and Valencian languages or in the phonetical model version, but all of them were different tags identifying sainets. All these Valencian literary informal terms and monikers the playwrights used to refer to their sainets are translated into the most similar options in English. In addition to the above, the book includes translations of all non-English words, titles of newspapers and magazines, names of cultural and governmental institutions, political parties, laws, theatres, literary terms, quoted reviews, quotations from the plays and titles of all the literary works interwoven into the main text of the book.2 However, due to word limits, it does not translate the excerpts from the plays written in Valencian and Castilian languages and in the phonetical model version ‘Valensiá’. Recurring words in the book (such as names of institutions, titles of newspapers and similar cases) are translated at first appearance and then employed in their original wording. To help readers to navigate the book, the Glossary gives a comprehensive list of the more frequently repeated literary terms, newspapers, magazines, theatres, cultural initiatives, institutions and political parties. All literary terms, titles of newspapers, plays and terms or single words appearing outside a quotation are kept in italics throughout.

Here are examples of the research material on which this book is based: a handwritten manuscript, a typed sainet and a first printed copy of a sainet in a Valencian folletín (cheap publications in magazine format widely distributed) that published these types of plays; folletines3 that also included articles and reviews related to Valencian culture written by Valencian authors.

Figure 1. Photo of the first page of the manuscript La pilara by Josep Peris Celda

Figure 2.Photo of a single page of the manuscript La fam nos trau a ballar by Fausto Hernández Casajuana

Figure 3. Photo of the cover of Teatre Valensiá

Source: (1) Fondo Privado Familia Josep Peris Celda, (2) Legado Hernández Casajuana and (3) Fondo Privado OCR

This book is solely about the dramatic genre of the Valencian sainet and reflects on the fact that the Valencian playwrights’ practice of these linguistic and stylistic choices was not solely applied to the dramatic dialogue, but also employed in written statements included in the plays by the authors, in which they specified for the actors the recommended performativity of the characters’ gestural and personality, utilizing it also in the description of settings. Although the geographical area of the Comunidad Valenciana [Valencian region] in Spain encloses the areas of Castellón, Valencia and Alicante, this book focuses on the cultural activity in Valencia city and its surrounding villages because the plots of the sainets included here were all placed, by the playwrights themselves, in those specific settings and it was where the performances of these plays happened. Hence, this book is about sainets written, published and performed in specific and definitive Valencian chronotope.

Equally important is to state that no page numbers from the plays used throughout the book are given in the chapters. The reason for this is that the plays do not come from traditional sources, as all the transcripts are from handwritten manuscripts in which the pages are bound together with threads of fabric, are copies typed by the authors, or are unique first editions of plays no longer available for distribution in which page numbering was ←xviii | xix→erratic or absent. To avoid discrepancies in references caused by this non-systematic approach to page numbering, the dramatic texts are referred to their source by year, title of the play and author. In addition to these specifications, it is necessary to mention that in many cases the ‘editors’ of the original printed copies used in this book were the authors themselves, and the redacción [editorial office] was the writer’s home; these factors reducing the possibility of tracing the place from where a play was first distributed. An example of this is the case of La fam no té lley o la solusión mañana [Hunger Has No Rules or Tomorrow the Solution] (1917) by Josep Peris Celda. This significant, socially conscious and politically charged sainet was published by the folletín La Comedia Llevantina [The Levantine Comedy] and the office address was given as ‘Sogueros n.8’, the home of the writer at the time. Equally, small publishers closely related to the printing and distribution of sainets during this timeframe, like ‘Tipografía [Typography] ‘HELIOS’ V. GALLEGO’ or ‘Talleres de tipografías [Typography Workshops] LA GUTEMBERG’, eventually closed without leaving any archives behind. To help with this issue, in the List of Plays and Other Texts, each play is given as comprehensive as possible individual information as a way of recording and tracing its source chronologically. Fundamental to this book were the following archives: Fondo Privado Familia Josep Peris Celda (Valencia), the public archive Legado Hernández Casajuana at the Centro de Documentación Escènica (Valencia) and the Fondo Privado Teatral OCR (London).4 The latter includes several facsimile copies of some of the nineteenth-century sainets analysed here that were published by the editorial PARIS-VALENCIA during the 1990s, all accurately credited as such in the List of Plays and Other Texts, but footnoted in this book as copies also available in the Fondo Privado OCR to simplify references and to encourage future sharing of research material. All the plays studied in this book are indicated as belonging to one of these resources. The key Valencian cultural institutions of Lo Rat Penat5 [ The Bat] and the Real ←xix | xx→Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana [Royal Academy of Valencian Culture] in Valencia were also central to this research, as their extensive and factual archives provided invaluable information about Valencian socio-political, cultural, linguistic and historical contexts.

Figure 4.Real Senyera [Valencian flag] at Lo Rat Penat

Source: Archives Lo Rat Penat

In addition to the Valencian and Castilian languages used by the playwrights in the sainets analysed in this book, the phonetical model version used by the authors is referred to as ‘Valensiá’ for the first time in a scholarly study to differentiate it from the above-mentioned officially recognized and in-use languages. The use of the term ‘Valensiá’ is a personal decision taken by the author in light of noticing how the playwrights themselves began to gradually refer to it as per this specific term, using it as a tag to name it in written form in their sainets and in their literary works (poetry, novels, reviews and articles). Indeed, the increasing use in written form of the phonetical model version in sainets during the first three decades of the twentieth century was so important to the dramaturgy of the genre that a footnote or a nota [notification] by the playwrights began to appear routinely on the back of the first page of printed sainets, alerting the reader ←xx | xxi→to the fact that this written phonetical model version was the convention employed in the play. An example of this type of notification, signed by ‘The Editor’ – this one from a sainet written in 1917 – specified that ‘to facilitate the theatre fan of any class a better reading, pronunciation and interpretation, this play is printed with a preference for the phonetic side of the word, not the orthographic’.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (March)
Valencian playwrights Socio-political issues in Valencian time Valencian socio-cultural identity Valencian sainet Socio-cultural identity Valencian language Drama and theatre Performativity Social space Cultural narratives Cultural capital Censorship The Valencian Sainet Olga Celda Real
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2023. XXVIII, 368 pp., 23 fig. col., 6 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Olga Celda Real (Author)

Olga Celda Real is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at King’s College London. She is the Academician of the Real Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana in London and a member of the academic board for the research journal ITAMAR. Olga holds a BA (Hons.) in Performing Arts by the ESAD (University of Valencia), a BA (Hons.) in Drama by the University of Manchester, an MA in Performance and Culture: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Goldsmiths, University of London) and a PhD in Spanish Cultural Studies (King’s College London). Her professional career encompasses theatre research, American drama programs, teaching, drama translations and collaborations as a dramaturg and as theatre practitioner across disciplines.


Title: The Valencian Sainet
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398 pages