Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Lyric Drama in three acts and an epilogue
Basque libretto by Fr. José de Arrué
after the novel by Navarro Villoslada
Marco Polo CD box set: 8.225084/85 [2 hr 17 min]

Amaya - Rebecca Copley, Amagoia - Marianne Cornetti, Plácida/Olalla - Itxaro Mentxaka, Teodosio - César Hernández, Asier - Rosendo Flores, Miguel/Messenger/2nd Squire/2nd Shepherd - Carlos Conde, Uchin/1st Shepherd/Servant/A Voice - Angel Pazos, An elder - Gorka Robles
Bilbao Choral Society (Gorka Sierra, Chorus Master), Bilbao Symphony Orchestra,
conducted by Theo Alcántara

Jesús Guridi (1886-1961) is not at all widely known beyond his native Spain, so this recording of one of his major works has to be a welcome addition to the catalogue. He is certainly an important figure in 20th century Spanish music, best known internationally for his songs (Teresa Berganza featured some of them on her recent British tour, for example), but he wrote several operas and the larger scale forms were probably his artistic priority.

Having said that, this opera - Amaya - stands practically no chance of entering the international repertory, despite the high quality of its music. The reason is the language, for it is sung here in the original version, which is in Basque dialect. All credit, then, to the efforts of the mixed Spanish-American cast for learning their parts so thoroughly, in order to produce so fluent and committed a performance.

The story-line concerns the ancient, perennial conflict between the Christians the the Moors, alongside the conventional operatic tension between love and duty: who will win the love of Amaya? Completed in 1920, the opera is based on the stuff of legend, with a musical style that is unashamedly Wagnerian, the orchestra holding the bulk of the melodic interest, and the singers delivering a dramatic parlando and arioso, as the case may be. The most compelling part of the score, the dance ensemble which builds powerfully towards the end of the Second Act, uses the local flavour of Basque folk music. Surely this is no coincidence.

The performance is Bilbao-based, and acquits itself well. The singing is generally good, though not outstanding, and Theo Alcántara directs with a sure sense of ensemble and line. The recording likewise is more than adequate, though it is by no means a sonic spectacular. Since you will not glean much information from other sources - even the new New Grove - the booklet takes on an extra importance. And it is certainly informative, with an introductory general essay, a full synopsis and texts and translations. However, the print is very small (ie smaller than usual, even for CD notes) and some of the printing is very faint. So do check before you buy.

Terry Barfoot

See further review and detailed discography by Christopher Webber

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit