HISTORICAL ISSUES, 2002
These two recent issues demonstrate to the full the joys and frustrations of the Blue Moon catalogue, though before getting down to detail congratulations are in order - the Bretón CD marks the 50th issue in this invaluable series of classic zarzuela reissues from the 1930's and beyond. They've not done yet - Vives' Los flamencos is in the pipeline, with more to come. The famously elusive Barcelona label is owed a hearty vote of thanks by aficionados the world over.
Yet the latest batch affords only modified rapture. To take the worst wine first, there's no doubt that the Bretón issue (BMCD 7550) is decidedly 'corked'. The material itself is intriguing enough. It features over 20 minutes of extracts from his opera La Dolores recorded in 1930 by legendary tenor Jesús Gaviria, soprano Fidela Campina and bass Aníbal Vela, plus very substantial extracts from La verbena de la Paloma under Daniel Montorio. These were recorded in 1931, with a fine cast including Pepe Romeu as a near-ideal Julian, Sélica Pérez Carpio as Susana (she also sings the Soleares) and Eduardo Marcen as a highly salacious Don Hilarión.
So far, so good. Unfortunately Blue Moon's source material is poor, the music obscured behind a screen of surface mush, and the transfers do little to rectify matters. The Preludio to La verbena has pitch fluctuations so extreme that it is impossible to listen without a prior dose of travel sickness pills. It gives no pleasure at all and should not have been reissued without much more work to correct the flawed original. As for the annotation - we get texts, notes and some attractive original graphics, but precious little about the singers we hear, and no warning at all of the aural perils in store. The curious bon bouche, La Rosa de Madrid - a lugubrious lament by the playwright Luís Fernández Ardavín on the death of Bretón and the passing of the Golden Age, recited by Santiago Artigas in 1927 over a funereal version of the famous Verbena Habanera - ends the CD on an all-too appropriate downbeat.
BMCD 7549 is another matter entirely. It is entirely devoted to lesser known work by Fernando Díaz Giles, a good composer of the second rank nowadays remembered almost exclusively for El cantar del arriero, a strong, lyrical work still awaiting a complete CD release. Here we get his strong 1929 score for El romeral ('The Rosemary Field') a country melodrama written in collaboration with Emilio Acevedo, and a selection of numbers from five other works. El romeral may not be great music, but the generous set of recorded extracts is notable for magnificent singing from soprano Felisa Herrero, the Callas of zarzuela, and tenor Delfín Pulido, a contemporary of Folgar and Vendrell who on his day was a match for either. This was one of those days, and in his Dúo with Herrero "No te acerques, mujer" the vocal sparks fly.
It is almost as exciting to hear Marcos Redondo in two of his most celebrated triumphs, the romanzas from El cantante enmascarado and El divo; and the other 'fillers' hardly fall short either, with Vicente Simón and Conchita Panadés making specially enjoyable contributions. There is an excellent, full biographical essay on the composer, who divided his early professional life - unusually - between the army and the stage; full synopses and texts, good transfers carefully presented, and some evocative supporting graphic material. This disc really has everything you might ever want to know about Díaz Giles beyond El cantar del arriero, and is very positively recommended indeed.
© Christopher Webber