The multitalented Spanish musician Federico Moreno Torroba began his musical studies with his father, José Moreno Ballesteros, who was an organist and teacher at the National Conservatory of Music in Madrid. Moreno Torroba eventually attended the Conservatory, studying composition with Conrado del Campo. His earliest compositions were for orchestra, such as the Cuadros castellanos (c. 1920), but he soon moved to writing operas using Spanish styles and subject matter; in the mid-1920s he turned his attention to the zarzuela, the traditional form of Spanish comic opera. His first zarzuela was La mesonera de Tordesillas (1925); he went on to write almost 80 such works in his long career, perhaps the best known of which is Luisa Fernanda (1932). He also became a champion of the form as a conductor and impresario. At one point he managed three different opera houses, and in the 1930s and 1940s he led a touring company which performed zarzuelas all over the world.
Guitar music was another major focus of Moreno Torroba's career. He was the first to respond to the young Andrés Segovia's request for new guitar works by modern composers, producing his Nocturno and Suite castellana for him in 1926. He went on to write many more works for Segovia over the next four-plus decades, and for other guitarists like the flamenco master Sabicas and the guitar quartet Los Romeros. By the end of his life he had composed over 100 works for the guitar, many of them strongly influenced by Spanish folk music.
In 1975, at age 84, Moreno Torroba became the president of the Sociedad de Autores Españoles. He continued composing right to the end of his life, even producing an opera at age 90, El Poeta (1980), for tenor Plácido Domingo, with whose parents Moreno Torroba had worked decades earlier.