Elina Garanca - Habanera
Elina Garanca (mezzo)
Roberto Alagna (tenor), José María Gallardo del Rey (guitar), Coro
Filarmonico del Regio di Torino, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della
Rai/Karel Mark Chichon
rec. March 2010, Auditorium RAI “Arturo Toscanini”, Torino.
texts and translations in French, German and English
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8776 [68:22]
Francisco Asenjo BARBIERI (1823
Como nací en la calle de la Paloma (from El barberillo de Lavapiés) [3:02]
(1838 – 1875)
Près des remparts de Séville (Seguidilla) (from Carmen) [4:41]
Franz LEHÁR (1870
Hör ich Zymbalklänge (from Zigeunerliebe) [4:34]
Michael William BALFE
(1808 – 1870)
I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls (from The Bohemian Girl) [4:55]
(1912 – 2002)
Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito (No.4 from Cinco canciones negras) [2:53]
Manuel de FALLA
(1876 – 1946)
Canción del amor dolido (from El amor brujo) [1:30]
Nana (No.5 from Siete canciones populares españolas) [1:37]
Maurice RAVEL (1875
Vocalise en forme de Habanera [3:24]
Ruperto CHAPÍ (1851
Cuando está tan hondo (from El barquillero) [6:08]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918
I am easily assimilated (from Candide) [4:00]
José María GALLARDO DEL REY
Canción del amor [3:46]
Manuel de FALLA
Jota (No.5 from Siete canciones populares españolas) [3:00]
Pablo LUNA (1879
De España vengo, ¡soy española! (from El niño judio) [6:25]
Les tringles des sisters tintaient (from Carmen) [4:46]
(1897 – 1945)
El vito (from Canciones clásicas españolas) [3:21]
José SERRANO (1873
A una gitana presiosa (from La alegría del batallón) [1:48]
L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera from Carmen) - Final version [4:43]
L’amour est enfant de bohème - First version [3:49]
This disc is like a comet – bright, fascinating and a rare occasion. It is well conceived and excellently performed. All facets of Garanca’s sensual voice shine, and the accompaniment is the perfect foil. The recording quality is first class. In brief, this is pure delight, from the first note to last. The program mixes two themes: the Spanish and the Gypsy. Some numbers are purely one or the other. The crossroads of these two paths is the role of Carmen, and we get four arias from the opera, including the first version of Habanera, very different from the one we all know.
The overall mood is very upbeat. There are glimpses of the tragic side – as in de Falla’s Canción del amor dolido with its tormented ¡Ay!-s – but they are few. For the most part, this is the colorful whirl of gypsy skirts, happy dance with castanets, and unquenchable joie de vivre. There are islands of serenity. Arlene’s aria from Bohemian Girl is wide-flowing and dreamy. It is one of those “absolute” melodies that seem to exist like diamonds, and the composer’s task is to frame them and avoid damage. Montsalvatge’s Cradle Song is full of soft shine and loving humor. And de Falla’s tender Nana never seemed so regrettably short! A sudden change of accompaniment to a single guitar produces a magical effect.
Ravel’s Vocalise is static and sensual. Over the soft rocking motion of the accompaniment, Garanca weaves exotic arabesques. Sometimes her voice descends to its lowest reaches, and I have the feeling it is not very comfortable there. From the world of German operetta we get Lehár’s infectious Csárdás from Zigeunerliebe. Its fiery accelerando is done with heart-quickening intensity. Every bit as good as the operetta, but lamentably less known, is its Spanish form – the zarzuela. Garanca loves this genre, and has included several zarzuela pieces in the program. They are all very Spanish in character. Chapí’s Romance is probably the most serious: it is quite operatic, with mood switches, effective vocal leaps, and noticeable influence of flamenco. What I loved the most is Paloma’s Song from El barberillo de Lavapiés, which opens the album: the tune is instantly catchy, and is sung with poise and open-heartedness. Garanca sings Spanish repertoire with the feeling of authority that reminded me of Victoria de los Angeles.
There are surprises on the way. One is the Old Lady’s number from Bernstein’s Candide. As Garanca says in her interview, fun is not a question of age. She clearly has great fun getting into the skin of this character! I guarantee you’ll have four minutes of healthy laugh. Another nice surprise is Canción del amor by José María Gallardo del Rey - who was also the arranger of some of the songs here. A guest from the less “classical” world, it is light as a butterfly, refreshing as spring water, and radiates the happy aura of a newborn bossa-nova.
So what about the role of Carmen? I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Garanca live in it, and I was surprised by the complete absence of any flashiness, any over-the-top showing off in her interpretation. It was not just singing, but great acting – as if Bizet was the first verismo composer. Garanca’s Carmen led us through her life, as opposed to performing a sequence of numbers. As the singer herself described her treatment of the role: “… you should experience every kind of feeling for her. You should love her, hate her, feel sorry for her, laugh with her, and feel that you want to embrace her like a little child and say: It’s going to be alright tomorrow.” And she really delivers all of this. In my opinion, Elina Garanca is currently the best Carmen, period. You can’t seduce by shouting, and her Carmen was sensual and seductive, but her voice did not force the “powerhouse” qualities – I guess, intentionally. On this disc, however, she could release herself from this overall dramatic purpose, and so her singing is more extrovert and brilliant.
This album also gives us the opportunity to hear the first version of the Habanera. Garanca thinks that “it would be fascinating, even a little shocking, to have a production with the first one”. Shocking, indeed – but I would hate to have to do without the final version. Bizet was right: its lazy voluptuousness perfectly fits its place in the opera; it enthralls, attracts, seduces. The rejected version has some menacing witchery, for the lack of a better phrase. It may be that it shows better the multifaceted character of the heroine, but the first meeting was not a good moment for it. If I were Don José, I’d be frightened away.
This disc is an ever-changing picture. Garanca changes the singing styles like gloves, and they all fit. By the way, she is quite persuasive in the flamenco mode of Canción del amor dolido. The accompaniment goes from full orchestra to solo guitar, and then to chamber ensemble. The conducting is lively and sympathetic; the orchestra is proficient and supporting. The chorus is friendly, and Alagna’s Don José is impressive. The recording is exemplary, as is the booklet, which contains an interview with the singer and complete texts in four languages. All in all, a superlative recording!