Aria 1029 - Martierra

highlights from Jacinto Guerrero's 1928 zarzuela
(with Luis Almodóvar and Tino Folgar
- zarzuela songs and duets)

Aria Les nostres veus retrobades 22
[Aria SL 1029]

No.22 in Aria Recording's Recovered Voices series is of exceptional interest, a welcome reissue, glowingly transferred, of the more-or-less original cast recording of Guerrero's neglected full-length zarzuela. The set features tenor Tino Folgar, best known to non-Spanish audiences for his Duke in EMI's first electrical recording of Rigoletto, and baritone Luis Almodóvar. They play the leaders of two rival factions in the imaginary village "between the mountains and the sea" which gives the zarzuela its name.

Though written between El huésped del Sevillano and La rosa del azafrán, with the composer at the height of his popularity and powers, Martierra has failed to hold the stage. In his admirably full and clear synoptic notes (in English as well as Catalan and Spanish) Joan Vilà i Miró suggests that the far from happy ending, with the tenor apparently doing a Peter Grimes and sailing off to suicide in his boat, was more operatic than zarzuela audiences could take. In truth he hits the nail more squarely on the head when he says that "Martierra is a typical product of the zarzuela genre, neither better nor worse than others ...".

The music is theatrical, fluent and tuneful. A quartet, with Almodóvar in magnificent voice, stands out, as does a splendidly funny jota for two old village gaffers. What Martierra really lacks, from the evidence of the 35 minutes committed to record, is a real showstopper of the sort that pushes, say, La montería out of the second and towards the front rank of Guerrero zarzuelas. The plot, centred on the appearance of an emotionally disruptive interloper, has something in common with the earlier, consistently inspired Los Gavilanes - represented later on the disk by the tenor song Flor roja in Folgar's matchless 1929 version, cruelly to demonstrate just why Martierra is unlikely ever to be resuscitated.

Although the main work is reason enough to acquire this generous Aria CD, the fillers are even more satisfying. Almodóvar contributes two substantial duets from Vives's Maruxa, though his burnished tone is not matched by either of his undernourished soprano partners. The Folgar items are perhaps most to be treasured. His light, cultivated tenor is inimitable, though many have tried to do just that with disastrous results. Aria's transfers are notably better than those on a similar selection of Folgar's zarzuela songs currently available on the Pearl label as fillers for the famous Rigoletto. Occasionally Folgar can be mannered, and his tone hardens unpleasantly under pressure, as in the title song from Serrano's Los de Aragón. But surely nobody has ever sung Flor roja more delicately; nor Paxarin, tu que vuelas from Luna's La pícara molinera anything like so musically.

For the duet Mala mujer from Vives's Los flamencos, another zarzuela from the class of '28, Folgar is joined by Selica Pérez Carpio. Witty, verbally and musically engaging, delectably put across by tenor and soprano, this is the showstopper that Guerrero couldn't quite rise to in Martierra. This tantalising glimpse makes one pine for a long-overdue complete recording of Vives' last great zarzuela, but thanks are due to Aria for giving us such sweet icing atop the Guerrero cake.

© Christopher Webber 1999

Aria Recording

SL 1029 Martierra etc.

other issues in the series of particular interest to the zarzuela:
SL 1008 Los nostres veus retrobades - Vol.1 (zarzuela and opera anthology)
SL 1011 Doña Francisquita (Vendrell, Pérez Carpio, Herrero, Palacios)
SL 1007 Marina (2 CD complete - Capsir, Lázaro, Redondo, Mardones; plus highlights with Fleta, Revenga, Sagi Barba)
SL 1016 Mercedes Capsir (including some rare zarzuela songs)
SL 1015 Bohemios / Los Gavilanes (Redondo, Raga, Vendrell)
SL 1018 Marcos Redondo (zarzuela duets)
SL 1022 Los nostres veus retrobades - Vol.2 (opera, zarzuela and songs)
SL 1024 La Sarsuela Catalana
SL 1027 El Dictador - La Dogaresa
SL 1028 Miguel Fleta - Vol.3 (zarzuela and songs)

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