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Voces de Zarzuela
see end of review for full details
No texts provided. Notes in Spanish only.
RTVE MUSICA 65280 [60:01 + 62:26]

More than a few members of the audience at the opera gala held as part of Bryn Terfel’s Faenol Music Festival in August 2007 felt that the outstanding performer had been the charismatic Spanish baritone Carlos Alvarez. Many seemed particularly to enjoy his performance of the aria ‘Los cantos alegres de los zagales’ from La del soto del parral: an equally fine performance of the same aria, by Alvarez, opens this very enjoyable anthology of music from the Spanish zarzuela
If, like me, you are already an enthusiast of the zarzuela – Spain’s native form of opera/operetta, incorporating a certain amount of spoken dialogue – then you will surely relish this collection of some of the finest modern singers of zarzuela performing some of the genre’s finest arias and duets. If you are not already an aficionado of zarzuela, be warned – listening to this two CD set may go a long way towards making a convert of you. New or old, admirers of the zarzuela will find their pleasure much enhanced by regular consultation of the excellent website - - run by Christopher Webber, a name familiar to readers of these pages.
Not everything here is perfect. Some of the performances by Alfredo Kraus, recorded very late in his career, admittedly show signs of vocal wear and tear, but the singing has enormous passion, an utter oneness with the idiom and a wonderful sense of phrasing. Still, for all the occasional moments of strain, it would be a hard-hearted listener who remained unmoved by his interpretation of ‘No puede ser’ from Sorozábal’s La taberna del Puerto, for example.
Placido Domingo’s contributions are those of a masterly exponent of a genre for which he has often expressed his admiration and enthusiasm and quite a number of whose major works he has recorded. This collection offers four examples of his work. We hear him in a resolute interpretation of the march-flavoured piece ‘La Cancíon de la espada’ from Guerrero’s El huésped del sevillano, one of the many fine works in the zarzuela idiom which were premiered in the 1920s; in a jota from Bretón’s La Dolores, in which Enrique Asensio’s direction of the Orquestra Sinfónica de Madrid is particularly attractive. Domingo is heard at something like his most seductive in ‘Bella enamorada’ a gorgeous love song from El último romántico, in which he gives perfect vocal expression to the text’s bitter-sweet celebration of a “dama misteriosa”. Domingo is joined by Maria Rodriguez in a duet from Chapí’s La Revoltosa of 1897, extracted from the fine complete recording issued on RTVE Música 65150.
The spinto tenor of Antonio Ordóñez is heard to good effect in his single contribution (from Guerrero’s Los gavilanes) not especially lyrical, but tonally strong; Manuel Sirera is a long established favourite amongst lovers of the zarzuela, utterly at home in the idiom – something very evident in his performance of ‘Por el humo se sabe donde esta el fuego’ from Doña Francisquita by Amadeo Vives, a warm and articulate reading of the aria.
Of the lower male voices, that of Alvarez largely steals the show. ‘Los cantos alegres de los zagales’ is sung with grace and authority, every phrase imbued with an appropriate poignancy, as Germán sings of how his own pain is increased, pain he must conceal, as he hears the songs of the happy young men around him. In ‘Suena guitarrito mío’ the simple list-like lyrics are invested with a degree of unforced sincerity and the music shaped rather beautifully. Despite some intrusive audience coughing at the beginning, his performance of Simón’s aria ‘La lluvia ha cesado’ from Chapi’s La tempestad has an arresting power, the character’s guilt powerfully expressed; this is zarzuela at something like its nearest approach to nineteenth-century Italian opera, and Alvarez does it full justice. Deservedly, it gets a rapturous reception from the audience.
Amongst the women, I would have liked to have heard more of the marvellous Maria Bayo. As it is, we have to make do with the ‘Cancíon de Ruiseñor’, another item from Vives’s Doña Francisquita. Bayo sings with characteristic warmth and agility, and in this ‘Song of the Nightingale’ we are treated to many a beautiful “trina”(trill) and “gorjeo” (warble), to quote the libretto by Frederic Romero and Guillermo Fernández Shaw. A delight! I have to confess that Pilar Lorengar was never a personal favourite, and I got rather less pleasure from her contributions here, while recognising that this may well be a critical blind spot of mine. Her performance of Barbieri’s ‘Como nací en la calle de la Paloma’ is a bit too heavy on the vibrato for my taste; her sheer weight of voice works better in Antonio Litores’s ‘Confiado jilguerillo’, arranged from his Azis and Galatea (1708/9) and sung with piano accompaniment, even if the performance is most respects stylistically altogether inappropriate.
The Basque soprano Ainhoa Arteta is represented here by three contributions. All display her light and lyrical voice at something like its best, a voice which, for all its freshness and sparkle, is also capable of darker colours when required. In ‘Al pensar en el dueño de mis amores’ from Chapí’s Las hijas del Zebedeo she sings quite beautifully Luisa’s affirmation of her love, a perfect statement of innocent passion. The petenera from Torroba’s La Marchenera is full of stage-Andalusian charm, sung with both delicacy and climactic power. Her performance of Rosina’s (offstage) song from Serrano’s La canción del olvido is exquisite; Arteta’s ability to sustain melodic lines beautifully, while interpreting text very subtly much in evidence.
Susana Cordón is a relatively new name – although she has already attracted a good deal of praisein Riossini as well as in zarzuela – and she sings impressively in a duet with the Brazilian Rodrigo Esteves, ‘Acude al reclamo de tu capitán’ from Guerrero’s La alsaciana, in which Esteves also acquits himself very well. So far as duets are concerned particular highlights of the collection come in two items, one by Penella and one by Barbieri, sung by soprano Ana María Sánchez and mezzo María José Montiel. Their voices blend delightfully, not least in the habanera ‘Todas las mañanitas’ from Don Gil de Alcalá, a gorgeous affirmation of daylight’s power to take away the worries of the la noche triste y traidora (the sad and treacherous night)  in which the women of the RTVE chorus are also heard to very good effect. Sánchez is heard on her own in a nicely characterised version of Pilar’s ‘Esta es su carta’ (from Caballero’s Gigantes y cabezudos), sung with rather heavyweight passion, and in a vivacious account of ‘La tarantula é un bicho mu malo’, a fine piece of theatrical gipsy music by Gerónimo Giménez. Montiel is heard in two solo items too. The first is a rich performance of that quintessential affirmation of Spanish identity, ‘De España vengo’ from Luna’s El niño judío, where her voice is well complemented by the work of RTVE Orchestra under Enrique G. Asensio. The second is a lilting aria from Caballero’s El dúo de la africana, in which Monteil sings commandingly, especially at the bottom end of her register.
Throughout these two CDs the singers benefit from the work of orchestras and conductors who are soaked in the musical language of the zarzuela. In one or two of the live performances there are some mildly irritating extraneous noises and the balance of the recorded sound is always perfect. But these are very minor quibbles; taken as a whole this is over two hours of splendid music, splendidly sung and guaranteed to lift the spirits,
Glyn Pursglove

Track details
Reveriano SOUTULLO (1884-1932), Juan VERT (1890-1931)
‘Los cantos alegres de los zagales’, from La del soto del parral (1927); Carlos Álvarez (baritone), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Juan José Ocón [5:26]
Ruperto CHAPÍ (1851-1909)
‘Al pensar en el dueño de mis amores’, from Las hijas del Zebedeo (1889); (Ainhoa Arteta (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [4:36]
Manuel PENELLA (1880-1939)
‘Todas las mañanitas’, from Don Gil de Alcalá (1932); Ana María Sánchez (soprano), María José Montiel (mezzo), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [2:46]
Tomás BARRERA (1870-1938), Rafael CALLEJA (1870-1938)
‘Adiós ranada’, from Emigrantes (1905); Alfredo Kraus (tenor), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [3:55]
Francisco Asenjo BARBIERI (1823-1894)
‘Como nací en la calle de la Paloma’, from El barberillo de Lavapiés (1874); Pilar Lorengar (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica de Sevilla/Antonio G. Navarro [3:16]
Jacinto GUERRERO (1895-1951)
‘La Cancíon de la espada’, from El huésped del sevillano (1926); Plácido Domingo (tenor), Orq. Sinfónica de Madrid y Coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [2:39]
Amadeo VIVES (1871-1932)
‘Cancíon de Ruiseñor’ from Doña Francisquita (1923); María Bayo (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [4:57]
Agustin Pérez SORIANO (1846-1907)
‘Suena guitarrito mio’ from Guitarrico (1900); Carlos Álvarez (baritone), Orq. Sinfónica de Castilla y León/Miguel Ortega I Pujol [3:42]
Pablo LUNA (1879-1942)
‘De España vengo …’ from El niño judío (1918); María José Montiel (mezzo), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [5:47]
Jacinto GUERRERO (1895-1951)
‘Acude al reclamo de tu capitán’ from La alsaciana (1921); Rodrigo Esteves (baritone); Susana Cordón (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [6:26]
Amadeo VIVES (1871-1932)            
‘Por el humo se sabe donde esta el fuego’ from Doña Francisquita (1923); Manuel Sirera (tenor), Orq. Romanza Española/Benito Lauret [3:56]
Manuel Fernández CABALLERO [1853-1906)
‘Esta es su carta’ from Gigantes y cabezudos (1898); Ana María Sánchez (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica de Madrid/Jesús López Cobos [5:16]
Tomás BRETÓN (1850-1923)
‘Jota para tenor y coro’ from La Dolores (1895); Plácido Domingo (tenor), Orq. Sinfónica de Madrid y coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [7:07]
Pablo SOROZÁBAL (1897-1988)
‘No puede ser’, from La tabernera del Puerto (1936); Alfredo Kraus (tenor), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [3:10]
Francisco Asenjo BARBIERI (1823-1894)
Duet from El barberillo de Lavapiés (1874); Ana María Sánchez (soprano), María José Montiel (mezzo), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Enrique G Asensio [4:06]
Ruperto CHAPÍ (1851-1909)
‘La lluvia ha cesado’, from La tempestad (1882); Carlos Álvarez (baritone), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Juan José Ocón [6:23]
Federico Moreno TORROBA (1891-1982)
‘Tres horas antes del dia’ from La marchenera (1928); Ainhoa Arteta (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [3:09]
Reveriano SOUTULLO (1884-1932), Juan VERT (1890-1931)
‘Bella enamorada’ from El último romántico (1928); Plácido Domingo (tenor), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [4:08]
Antonio LITERES (1673-1747)
Confiado jilguerillo (1709); Pilar Lorengar (soprano), Miguel Zanetti (piano) [3:48]
Gerónimo GIMÉNEZ (1854-1923)
‘La tarantula é un bicho mu malo’, from La tempranic (1900); Ana María Sánchez (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [1:46]
Francisco Asenjo BARBIERI (1823-1894)
Preludio y entrada de Lamparilla from El barberillo de Lavapiés (1874); Jesús Castejón (bass baritone), María de las Mercedes García (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [7:31]
Manuel Fernández CABALLERO (1895-1951)
‘Yo he nacido muy chiquita’, from El dúo de la Africana (1893); María José Montiel (mezzo), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [2:53]
Jacinto GUERRERO (1895-1951)
Escena de la flor, from Los gavilanes (1923); Antonio Ordóñez (tenor), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [5:20]
Ruperto CHAPÍ (1851-1909)
‘¿ Porqué de mis ojos…?’, from La Revoltosa (1897); Plácido Domingo (tenor), María Rodríguez (soprano), Orq. Y Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid/Miguel Roa [5:54]
José SERRANO (1873-1944)
‘Marinela’, from La canción del olvido (1916); Ainhoa Arteta (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [2:22]
Jota, from El trust de los tenorios (1910); Alfredo Kraus (tenor), Orq. Sinfónica de RTVE y Coro Amici Musicae del Auditorio de Zaragoza/Enrique G. Asensio [2:51]
Jacinto GUERRERO (1895-1951)
Duet of Adriana and Rosaura, from Los gavilanes (1923); Inmaculada Egido, Milagros Poblador (soprano), Orq. Sinfónica y coro de RTVE/Enrique G. Asensio [4:56]
Federico CHUECA (1846-1908)
‘Soy el rata …’ from La Gran Vía (1886); Ricardo Muñiz (tenor), Francisco Matilla (baritone), Miguel Sola (bass-baritone), Orq. y Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid/Miguel Roa [4:01]


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