Compositors de les Illes Balears
Júpiter y Danae
The story of Jupiter and Danae has inspired several operas down the centuries, of which Richard Strauss's Die Liebe der Danae (1940) is the best known. For this particular amorous exploit the King of the Gods took the imaginative form of a shower of golden rain, and Danae - unusually for one of Jupiter's conquests - not only gave birth to the demi-God hero Perseus but survived into ripe old age. Perhaps these facts account for the story's suitability for more comedic treatment than, say, the parallel tale of Semele.
The zarzuela in three acts Júpiter y Danae (1700, author unknown) is a tantalising curiosity. Only part of Antonio de Literes's score remains, and there is no complete libretto or spoken text. What's come down to us is in a more thorough-going Spanish style than the composer's later works, such as Júpiter y Semele. There are recitatives for the Gods and "serious" mortal characters, but instead of Italian-influenced arias or arietas, but have solos and dúos in the native verse/refrain estrabillo y coplas form; whilst Danae's last-act solliloquy "Dulce Pajarillo" (Sweet little bird) is in the form of a villancico. The brief, bracing seguidillas-style choruses and music for the comedy rustics are equally in the graceful, fluent Spanish style found in Torrejon's La purpura de la rosa.
The music is lively and of high quality throughout. Sadly, musicologist and director Carles Magraner was working with something akin to a ruined tapestry, the fragmentary state of which precludes much in the way of narrative momentum or sense of shape. Nor does the solo singing in this recording, made in conjunction with a 1999 performance in Mallorca, do much to personalise the characters - though Olga Pitarch's sweetly pitched Danae gives gentle pleasure. The instrumental accompaniment from Magraner and his Capella de Ministrers features the piquant sounds of theorbo and guitar and does a great deal to bring the torso to life.
Júpiter y Danae is cleanly recorded, with excellent notes in Spanish, Catalan and English; but the lack of sung texts is a drawback, though there is a full guide to what is being sung and by whom, and this set is unlikely to have much appeal for the general listener. Anyone keen to sample the delights of baroque zarzuela should turn instead to Literes's Júpiter y Semele or Acis y Galatea, both available complete on Harmonia Mundi with more impressive soloists and equally stylish accompaniments.
© Christopher Webber 2004