Two Spanish mezzo-sopranos stand out in the distant and not so
distant past: Conchita Supervia and Teresa Berganza. Each was
a legendary Rossini singer – Supervia was the one who restored
roles like Rosina and Angelina to the mezzo range. Each was also
a prominent Carmen interpreter.
Here now comes Valencia-born
Silvia Tro Santafé. She excels as both Rosina and Carmen – natural
choices since this is a concept album entitled “Spanish Heroines”.
One might have expected her to include at least one ‘genuine’
Spanish role, for instance Salud in de Falla’s La vida breve,
which should be within her reach. However someone has played
safe with better known arias, even though neither of the Massenet
offerings is exactly standard fare.
voce poco fa is an excellent calling card, revealing a dark
mezzo – almost contralto – but with impressive upper reach and
fluent coloratura. She is even more impressive in Contro
un cor where her dark tones are truly magnificent, reminding
me of Kerstin Thorborg, the ‘Caruso of Contraltos’ as she was
soubriqueted during her years at the Met in the 1930s and 1940s.
Her build-up of the Rossinian crescendo is stunning.
As Donna Elvira
she is initially a little hard in tone in the recitative but
then makes a finely nuanced reading, though the tessitura of
the aria proper may be too high for total comfort.
Leonora’s aria from
La Favorite (sung in the original French) is one of the
best things here. There is real gusto in the cabaletta and the
top note at the end has a superb ring.
Eboli also sings
her two songs in French. In the lyrical Chanson de voile
she is excellently assisted by Susanna Puig I Ferrés in the
duet. O don fatale is powerful and majestic, and then
’Adieu, Reine’ is inward and warm. She is a thrilling singer
with a wide expressive range.
From Carmen we
get the whole Habanera, including the opening male chorus.
I wouldn’t have objected to also having the concluding duet
with Don José from the Seguidilla. That would have involved
hiring an able tenor and I am grateful for what we do get. Silvia
Tro Santafé is probably a fine Carmen on stage, even though
she doesn’t have the raw animal intensity of a Marilyn Horne.
pleurez mes yeux is a fine aria that is too seldom heard.
I still treasure the complete opera in a recording from the
1970s – originally on CBS – with Grace Bumbry a strong Chimène
opposite Domingo. Santafé has little to fear from a comparison
with her predecessor. The final number is an even rarer acquaintance:
Dulcinée’s Alza! Alza!, where she enters on a balcony
and sings of her effect on all men. Tim Coleman in his liner-notes
draws a parallel with Carmen’s first appearance, and with fiery
rhythms, an incisive chorus and clattering castanets. This is
as enticing an entrance as any for a good mezzo – and it is
certainly the most overtly Spanish of all the items in this
highly appealing recital.
The Orquesta Sinfónica
de Navarra, the oldest of the Spanish orchestras, accompany
well. There is a good chorus and Julian Reynolds conducts with
obvious relish. The recorded sound cannot be faulted and besides
the sung texts – though no translations – there are quite extensive
notes on all the numbers. These are written with a nice helping
Though Silvia Tro
Santafé is no newcomer in the recording stakes this was my first
encounter with her and this recital has definitely whetted the
appetite for more.