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FREDERIC SOLER, PITARRA

Frederic Soler i Hubert was born in Cremat Street, La Ribera quater, on the 9th of October in 1839. His father was a carpenterand Frederic soon started helping him in the woodwork, while he was just learning to read. Frederic's mother died when he was three years old. When Frederic was nine years old, he went to live with his mother's brother, Carles Humbert, who was the owner of the watchmaker's shop at 80, Escudillers Street (now it is at 56, Avinyó Street, in front of Gignàs Street).

'Per un casament' (1856, 'For a weeding') was Soler's first work, and it was how his bright career as a playwright started off. He reached great success with 'Don Jaume El Conqueridor' ('Lord Jaume The Conqueror'), an implacable satire about the historical dramas, using a common and even daring language.

Whe Frederic's oncle died, he took charge of the watchmaker's, where a French watchmaker and a shop assistant were working. Frederic Soler began to be known by a pseudonimous that turned to be very popular: 'Pitarra'. He used to meet a group of writers and artists in the back room of his shop. Anselm Clavé was among them; he lived in Ample Street and, as he lived close to Pitarra's shop, they used to spend a long time together talking about the news of the day. Pitarra and Clavé used to bring the youngsters together. Clavé set up the choirs that have his name, and Pitarra performed, with some friends, the plays he was writing, after closing the shop. When finishing, they had an snack becouse it was usual to invite some girls. Then, Pitarra, showing off his wits again, created some phrases that became popular all around Catalonia: "Paga, que és gata" ("Pay becouse it's a she-cat") and "Tants caps, tants barrets" ("So many heads, so many hats"). With these phrases, he meant everyone had to pay his part of the whole expenses. José Zorrilla, his great friend, also stayed in his shop when visiting Catalonia, even during the four years he lived in Barcelona.

The performances of plays in Catalan began with 'L'esquella de la Torratxa' ('The Torratxa cowbell') on the 24th of February in 1860. La Gata (The She-cat) section was the one that started off to show plays in a humorous style, such as the 'Gatades' ('Cat things') and some parodies written in "the Catalan that is spoken now". This fact, although it was not very important in that time, takes an extraordinary value now becouse it marks the begining of The Catalan Theatre Art. 'La botifarra de la llibertat' ('The sausage of freedom') and 'Les píndoles de Holloway' ('The pills of Holloway') or 'La pau d'Espanya' ('Spain's peace') were also performed for the first time in 1860. The campaign leaded by Prim and the Catalan volunteers was satirized in these works. 'El castell dels tres dragons' (The castle of three dragons', 1865) is a typical parody of his first period, which is formally critical and the author demythologizes the hero figure. This work is one of the most personal the author has. Since 'Les joies de la Roser' ('Roser's jewellery', 1866) was performed for the first time, became the main representative author of The Catalan Romantic Theatre.

The Romea theatre was first open, with an absolute solemnity and with the attendance of an exclusive audience, on the 3rd of October in 1867. Frederic Soler was the impresario of this theatre and he opened it with the first permfomance of his work 'La Rosa Blanca' ('The White Rose').

Among his most outstanding successes we can underline 'Les heures del mas' ('The ivies of the farm', 1869) and 'L'àngel de la guarda' ('The Guardian Angel', 1872). 'La dida' ('The wet-nurse', 1872) belong to his second period and it is an ambitious work, where the author tries to show the wealthy peasants' life.

Pitarra was one of El Centre Català (The Catalan Centre) founders in 1885. His authority as an author was acknowledged by La Academia Española (The Spanish Academy). He was awarded for his 'Batalla de reines' ('Queens' battle') drama in 1888.

As a poet, he tried to be recognized by Els Jocs Florals; he won La Flor Natural in 1872 and La Flor Natural and La Engalatina in 1875. He also was proclaimed master in Gai Saber in 1875. Finally, he was asked to chair those in 1882.

Frederic Soler published several poetry volumes: 'Poesies catalanes' ('Catalan poems', 1875), 'Nits de lluna' ('Moonlight nights', 1886), but he got much more divulging as a satirical  poet. As a narrator, he published a small article with the title 'L'any 35' ('The year 35') in 'La Renaixença' in 1874. In this year, la Biblioteca Catalana (The Catalan Library) publishead a narrations volume for him.

The king Amadeo I attended when 'Las francesillas' ('The little French girls') was first performed at the Romea theatre in 1870. The king Alfonso XII visited Frederic Soler in his shop when he came to Barcelona on the 2nd of December in 1876. The king showed interest towards the Catalan authors and he attended the Romea theatre, where 'El ferrer del tall' ('The blacksmith of the cutting') was being performed, at night.

His heard started to fail in 1889 becouse of so much work, and he decided to give up the watchmaker's in December of this year. Then, the watchmaker's became a restaurant and Pitarra decided to devote himself to the Romea theatre. He moved to 64, Carme Street, where he died on the 4th of July in 1895.

La Plaça del Teatre (Theatre Square) and Pitarra's Monument were inaugurated, by popular subscription, in the middle of La Rambla in 1905. El Parlament Català (The Catalan Parlament) and all the town authorities attended them. Frederic Soler was the best talented playwright of his generation and his works settled the basics of the Modern Catalan Theatre. The one-time watcmaker's became Restaurant Cisco on the 1st of January in 1890. It was transferred taking the name of Restaurant Sogas in 1953. It was acquired by Jaume and Marc Roig brothers in 1987, and it works under their management nowadays, having recovered its former name, Restaurant Pitarra.

 

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