RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Elina Garanca - Habanera
Francisco Asenjo BARBIERI (1823 – 1894)
El barberillo de Lavapiés
1. Come nací en la calle de la Paloma [3:02]
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
2. Près des remparts de Séville (Seguidilla) [4:41]
Franz LEHÁR (170 – 1948)
3. Hör ich Zymbalklänge [4:34]
Michael William BALFE (1808 – 1870)
The Bohemian Girl
4. I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls [4:55]
Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912 – 2002)
Cinco canciones negras
5. No. 4 Canción de cuna para dormer a un negrito [2:53]
Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946)
El amor brujo
6. Canción del amor dolido [1:30]
Siete canciones populares españolas
7. No. 5 Nana [1:37]
Maurice RAVEL (1875 – 1935)
8. Vocalise en forme de Habanera [3:24]
Ruperto CHAPI (1851 – 1909)
9. Quando está tan hondo [6:08]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918 – 1990)
10. I am easily assimilated [4:00]
José Maria GALLARDO (b. 1958)
11. Canción del amor [3:46]
Manuel de FALLA
Siete canciones populares españolas
12. No. 4 Jota [3:00]
Pablo LUNA (1879 – 1942)
El niño judio
13. De España vengo [6:25]
14. Les tringles des sisters tintaient [4:46]
Fernando J OBRADORS (1897 – 1945)
Canciones clásicas españolas
15. El vito [3:21]
José SERRANO (1873 – 1941)
La alegria del batallón
16. A una gitana presinsa [1:48]
17. L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) Final version [4:43]
18. L’amour est enfant de bohème (Habanera) First version [3:49]
Elina Garanca (mezzo)
Roberto Alagna (tenor)(2), José Maria Gallardo (guitar) (7, 11, 12), Coro Filarmonico del Regio di Torino, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai/Karel Mark Chichon
rec. Auditorium RAI Arturo Toscanini, Torino, March 2010
texts and translations in French, German and English enclosed
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8776 [68:22]
There are a few records every year where everything is right. This is one of them. The recording, the booklet, the playing of the orchestra, the singing of the chorus, the conducting – everything is on the highest possible level. But what makes this disc stand out as something extraordinary is the programme and the singing.
Let’s begin with the programme. The title Habanera immediately signals associations with Spain and the best known habanera is without doubt the one Carmen sings – and Carmen is a gypsy. So gypsy-related music and music with Spanish flavour. Voilá! There are several Spanish composers represented: de Falla, Montsalvatge, Obradors. There are several maestros of the zarzuela – that typical Spanish kind of operetta – but also some Frenchmen: Bizet and Ravel. Add to these a Hungarian: Franz Lehár; an Englishman: Balfe; and an American: Bernstein. In other words a cosmopolitan gathering ensuring contrasts and variety as well as unity. Some of the music is often heard, the three standard arias from Carmen and de Falla’s songs for instance, but a lot more is unhackneyed. There are some things that will be completely new to many readers. The opening number, a bouncy and catchy aria by Barbieri went straight to my heart. I hadn’t heard the aria from Balfe’s The Bohemian Girl either, truly beautiful and soothing. Also it is clever programming to end the recital with two versions of the Carmen Habanera: first the one everyone knows and then Bizet’s first version, which is completely different, heavier and in a way closer to Carmen’s complex character. With more than 68 minutes playing-time this is a generous offering and I am convinced that most readers and potential buyers will find new acquaintances to add to their personal favourite list.
But the main reason to buy the disc is the absolutely stupendous singing of Elina Garanca. The Latvian mezzo, now in her mid-30s, has been a hot name for some years. With this recital she definitely climbs to the top of the list – and there is no shortage of great mezzo-sopranos in our time. Garanca is a real mezzo, neither a pushed-up contralto nor a pushed down soprano. Her tone is creamy but can also be glittering and she has well equalized chest-notes. She is also the possessor of ringing top-notes and tosses off an impressive high C at the end of the Lehár aria. Technically she seems to have no weaknesses but innumerable strengths. Beauty of tone and sure-fire technique are important qualities for a successful singing career but to become really great one needs interpretative abilities as well, abilities to communicate. And this is where her greatness lies. Glorious top notes are one way to impress, but the capacity to turn a phrase memorably, to colour the tone, to whisper and still be clearly heard, to charm, to entice the listener and – as in the Carmen seguidilla – be sexually alluring even without the visual aspects, that is what great singing is all about. On stage as Carmen, where I saw her at the Met earlier this year, her physical presence in combination with her singing is totally engrossing. Also as a pure audio experience all the excerpts from Carmen are absolutely spellbinding. Other Carmens may have had grander voices, few have made the character come so much alive.
In the zarzuela numbers she is up against legends like Victoria de los Angeles, Montserrat Caballé and Teresa Berganza, three singers I admire enormously. Their positions as touch-stones have not been upset but another name has been added to the group: Elina Garanca. The same goes for the de Falla and Montsalvatge songs, especially the latter’s Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito, so breathlessly beautifully sung. Ruperto Chapi’s big aria from El barquillero is a marvellous number and gives her opportunities to display all aspects of her interpretative art and so does an old favourite of mine, Luna’s De España vengo. Garanca milks it for every drop of intensity, even out-singing Victoria de los Angeles.
The two Spanish folk-songs by de Falla are performed with only guitar accompaniment – a splendid idea; Teresa Berganza did it too. The guitarist, José Maria Gallardo, also contributes a composition of his own¸ Canción del amor, where a small combo is added to the guitar in a jazzy bossa nova number. Garanca is equally at home in this cross-over genre.
This is not only my Recording of the Month – it will most certainly be one of my Recordings of the Year when it’s time to close the books in December. Don’t miss it!
There are a few records every year where everything is right. This is one of them.