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Arias de zarzuela barroca
José Melchor de Nebra BLASCO (1702-1768)

from Para obsequy a la deydad, nunca es culto la crueldad, y Iphigenia en Tracia (1747) Overture
Llegar ninguno intente
Suspéndete, tirano
Piedad, Señor
from Amor aumenta el valor (1728)
Triste cárcel oscura
¡Ay Amor¡ ¡ay, Clelia mía!
Adiós, prenda de mi amor
Más fácil sera al viento
Vincente Martín y SOLER (1754-1806)

from La madrileña o el tutor burlado (1778)
Inocentita y niña
Antonio Rodriguez de HITA (1724-1787)

from La Briseida (1768)
Amor, sólo tu encanto
Deydad que las venganas
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)

from Clementina (1786)
Almas que amor sujetó
María Bayo (soprano)
Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
rec. May 2003, Lycée Fénelon Sainte-Marie
Texts and translations included
NAÏVE E8920 [70.18]


Experience Classicsonline

Some of the names here are relatively unfamiliar; but if you have enjoyed Maria Bayo’s work on recital discs of Handel, Mozart and Rossini, or in any of her many other recordings, you will probably feel confident (and rightly so) that there is much pleasure to be had from this disc too. If you are interested in the development of that distinctively Spanish form of the zarzuela you will probably regard this reissued anthology (it was formerly Naïve E8885) as a compulsory purchase. With material from operas ranging in date from 1728 to 1786, it offers a valuable (if necessarily brief) survey of the early history of the form. But this is no mere exercise in historical documentation – there is much lovely music here.

Relatively little of the zarzuela repertoire survives from the early years of the eighteenth century and the arias from two works by José de Nebra Blasco are of particular interest. Nebra Blasco was principal organist of the convent of Descalzas Reales and of the royal chapel in Madrid from 1724; he later became head of the royal choir school. His writing of zarzuelas (and related works) belongs to two main periods, 1723-30 and 1737-51; he wrote over fifty such works. Antonio Soler studied with Nebra Blasco. Nebra Blasco’s writing here is both impressively various and accomplished. The dignity and grand elegance of an aria such as ‘¡Ay Amor¡ ¡ay, Clelia mía!’ make it a match for all but the greatest of Nebra Blasco’s contemporaries elsewhere in Europe; it is ravishingly sung by Bayo, with instrumental support beautifully judged.

Like much of the music on this CD, José de Nebra Blasco’s work is not obviously ‘Spanish’, belonging rather in the mainstream of the Italian-influenced idiom which largely held sway in Spain as elsewhere. It was primarily in the middle years of the eighteenth century that the zarzuela began to express Spanish reaction against the prevailing dominance of Italian and French fashions. In some of these later works, the distinctively Spanish idioms are more pronounced – notably in the music from La madrileña o el tutor burlado by  Nebra Blasco’s pupil Soler. Violante’s seguidilla ‘Inocentita y niña’ enacts the encounter of Italy and Spain in its music – and in its text:
                       An innocent little girl
                       I come from Italy
                       to encounter the rogues
                       one meets in Spain.
                       What will become of me? Oh!
                       Shall I be ruined? What?
                       Shall I be deceived? No!
                       Shall I be the deceiver? Well,
                       if anyone would like to come closer
                       I’ll tell him!

Whatever plans Violante the Italian girl may have for her dealings with Spanish men, musically speaking it is Spain that comes out on top in this delightful short aria, the quasi-folk elements pronounced but attractively sophisticated in some subtle vocal and orchestral writing.

Everywhere on this disc there is delight to be had – certainly it whets the appetite for hearing more of the music of composers such as Nebra Blasco and Antonio Rodriguez de Hita, whose music doesn’t come our way too often. In the cases of Soler and Boccherini, more familiar names, Rousset and Bayo have recorded relatively unfamiliar music, very well worth hearing.

Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset, provide vivid and sensuous accompaniment throughout and Maria Bayo, a very fine soprano, is spectacularly at home in this music. She sings, too, with a kind of evangelical zeal in the rediscovery of the neglected. In a note contributed to the CD’s booklet she complains that “Music historians in Spain have been very unfair to these composers, who have been no more than glimpsed, at best, in the odd set of organ pieces, and are completely unknown in the regular concert circuit”. Her own claim is that, in performance many of these arias reveal an  “emotional content … equal to that aroused when we listen to Handel, Gluck or Mozart”. Whether or not one would want to go quite that far, it is surely true that sung as well as they are here – Bayo’s lucidity and brilliant coloratura alike make a forceful case – these are arias which would surely give great pleasure to admirers of any of those composers.

Glyn Pursglove




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