Emilio ARRIETA (1823–1894)
Marina (1871) [39:53]
Marina – Maria Bayo (soprano)
Jorge – Alfredo Kraus (tenor)
Roque – Juan Pons (baritone)
Pascual – Enrique Baquerizo (bass)
Alberto/un marinero – Juan Jésus Rodriguez
Teresa – Encarna Santana
Coro de Cámara de Tenerife
Coro del Conservatorio Superior de Música de Tenerife
Rondalla de Tenerife; Orquestra Sinfónica de Tenerife
Victor Pablo Pérez (conductor)
rec. La Orotava, Sala Teobaldo Power, Tenerife in September 1998

Tomás BRETÓN (1850–1923)
La Verbena de la Paloma (1894) [39:07]
Susana – Maria Bayo (soprano)
Julián – Plácido Domingo (tenor)
Rita – Raquel Pierotti (mezzo-soprano)
Casta – Silvia Tro (soprano)
Don Hilarion – Rafael Castejón (baritone)
Don Sebastian – Jésus Castejón (baritone)
Tia Antonia – Ana Maria Amengual
Cantaora – Milagros Martin
Sereno – Enrique Baquerizo
Coro de la Communidad de Madrid; Orquestra Sinfónica de Madrid/Antoni Ros Marbá
rec. Auditorio de la ONCE, Madrid, April 1994

Amadeo Vives (1871–1932)
Bohemios (1904) [21:09]
Cossette – Maria Bayo (soprano)
Roberto – Luis Lima (tenor)
Victor – Santiago S Jerico
Bohemio – Carlos Alvarez
Pelagia – Rosa Maria Ysas; Isabel Monar
Girard – Alfonso Echeverria
Marcelo – Emilio Sanchez;
Coro Polifónico de la Universidad de la Laguna; Coral “Reyes Bartlet” de Puerto de la Cruz; Coral Universtaria de la Laguna;
Orquestra Sinfónica de Tenerife/Antoni Ros Marbá
rec. Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife, September 1993

Amadeo Vives (1871–1932)
Doņa Francisquita (1923) [48:47]
Doña Francisquita - Maria Bayo (soprano)
Fernando – Alfredo Kraus (tenor)
Aurora la Beltrana – Raqual Pierotti
Cardona – Santiago S Jerico
Doña Francisca – Rosa María Ysas
Don Matías – Alfonso Echeverria
Lorenzo Pérez – Ismael Pons
Irene de la Pinto – Mercedes Aleman Herrera
Doña Liberata – Encarna Santana Hernandez
Doña Basilisa – Beatriz Gonzalez Ramos
Juan Andrés – Alfonso Lopez Raymond
Coro Polifónico de la Universidad de la Laguna; Rondalla de Tenerife
Orquestra Sinfónica de Tenerife/Antoni Ros Marbá
rec. Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife, September 1993

NAïVE V5213 [79:00 + 69:56]

These recordings have appeared several times before. The four zarzuelas were originally issued singly by Auvidis in 1994 and 1999 and subsequently issued as a six disc set by Naïve (V5210). I have not seen either of these versions, but presumably the original issues were similar to other Auvidis zarzuela CDs in their very full presentation. Naïve advertise the larger set as including a 194 page booklet containing complete essays and the sung texts. What we have here is very much a poor relation in terms of presentation, although, as I will explain, the content is of very high quality. There is simply a very bald listing of the items included from each zarzuela, sometimes without indicating who is singing or the title or context of the item, and a one page note on each work. These are presumably extracted from the original “complete essays”. They give the history of each work but no indication of their plots or the texts of any of the extracts. It would be a pity if this were to put off any intending purchasers, but you should be aware of what you are getting, and more importantly what you are not getting. Detailed information on the operas and on the genre in general can however be found in Christopher Webber’s invaluable “The Zarzuela Companion” (Scarecrow 2002) and on the zarzuela website (www.zarzuela.net) and these fill the gaps admirably.

However none of this is really important. What matters is that you get a series of highlights from what can reasonably be regarded as the four of the best examples of the genre, extremely well performed by artists who understand the idiom and are fully capable of characterising their roles and the music in general. Maria Bayo is the one singer common to all four works, and fortunately her contributions are particularly captivating. Her upper notes have real beauty and her lower register whilst different in tone is no less beautiful. When you add her ability to characterise each of the four parts you can see why she should have been included in all four recordings.

The trio of tenors in leading roles again all differ from each other but the contributions of Alfredo Kraus and Plácido Domingo (Luis Lima has less to sing) would be good reasons in themselves to buy these discs. The other roles are all well cast, even if the restricted presentation means that I was unable in many cases to say who is singing or what they are singing about at any particular moment this never put me off. Indeed I simply sat back and enjoyed what always feel like real theatre performances rather than a series of concert items.

“Marina” is both the earliest of the four works and is also the least typical. Although it was originally written as a two act zarzuela in 1855 it was subsequently rewritten as a three act opera, and this is the version from which we hear excerpts. It sounds essentially like a Spanish Donizetti, and whilst some zarzuela enthusiasts look down on it as a result I found it immensely enjoyable and worth hearing. The same applies even more to the other three works. Each is full of wonderful numbers, and if you or I might have chosen the “highlights” differently that does not mean any lack of real individuality and life in those that are included here (although it is perhaps another argument for buying the six discs containing all of them complete). “Bohemios” is an oddity in being based on Henri Murger’s “Scènes de la Vie de Bohème”, used also by Puccini and Leoncavallo but treating the source very differently. Listening to it without any clear idea of how the various items fit in to the plot however does not suggest for one moment those other composers; indeed it would be difficult even to guess at the plot if included in a “blind listening” session.

All are well recorded, although the start or finish of some items is a little abrupt in these excerpts. This did not bother me at all. The real enthusiast for zarzuela has probably got the complete recordings already, but if like me you have a general interest in the genre but no real knowledge of it these discs would make a splendid addition to your collection.

John Sheppard

If you have a general interest in zarzuela but no real knowledge of it this will make a splendid addition to your collection.… see Full Review