Vidal Hernando –
Plácido Domingo; Luisa Fernanda – Nancy Herrera; Duquesa Carolina
– Mariola Cantarero; Javier Moreno – José Bros; Mariana
– Raquel Pierotti; Aníbal – Javier Ferrer; Rosita –
Sabina Puértolas; Don Luis Nogales – Federico Gallar; El Saboyano
– Ángel Rodríguez; Vendedor – Juan Antonio Sanabria;
Vendedora de cocos – Montserrat Muñumel; Bizco Porras –
David Rubiera; Don Lucas – Tomeu Bibiloni; Don Florito
Fernández – José Antonio Ferrer; Pollo primero –
Miguel Borrallo; Pollo segundo – Julio Cendal; Un hombre del pueblo
– José Manuel Cardama; Un capitán – Juan Navarro; Un
vareador – Joseba Pinela. Coro y Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid;
Jordi Casas Bayer (chorus dir.); c. Jesús López Cobos
When it was announced almost a year ago that the (Italian)/Hispanic/American production of Luisa Fernanda was to be recorded during its Madrid run, for this writer at least natural expectations were tempered by a certain fear: namely, that the reduced zarzuela catalogue recorded by Auvidis during the 1990’s, with the sponsorship of Fundación Caja Madrid, was not being extended but merely repeated, in that company’s latest social-minded adventure – albeit now under the seal of DG’s universally famous “yellow label”.
Still, in the case of Luisa we must acknowledge that the return match was at least justified by the choice of cast: Plácido Domingo in the role that means more to him, the zarzuela baritone Vidal instead of the (equally zarzueloid) tenor Javier; and María José Montiel at the peak of her powers, in an interpretation which has received well-merited bravos at La Scala Milan and Washington Opera, and was provoking paroxysms of enthusiasm from the Madrid audience. Added to them would be José Bros, a Javier with an extraordinary impulsion uninfluenced by Domingo on Auvidis, and the better than average Elena de la Merced, so effective a Carolina in Emilio Sagi’s beautiful staging. What a surprise, then, to discover that the Leading Lady had been shunned in favour of the 2nd cast substitute, the emergent Nancy Herrera. Carolina has also changed horses: but in this case Mariola Cantarero has left for posterity one of the most lively Granadine Duchesses I’ve heard, in what is – I accept – a successful move by the CD’s producers.
For the rest, the disc itself is a model production. The score is recorded [ed. not quite complete] from the critical edition by Torroba’s son, who in some passages incorporates the “up to date” orchestrations, harmonies and modulations which his father provided in place of the familiar originals, changes already well-known from his own Hispavox recording at the end of the Fifties. The work gains winning fluidity under the inspired baton of Jesús López Cobos. The Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Chorus chart the score’s progress with amazing rhythmic and dynamic fidelity, so that continuous listening is made to seem very natural.
As for the singers, Domingo is resplendent, as far as the suitability of his vocal equipment to the role allows (and he’s not so far distant either from Sagi Vela in his vivid recording for the Zafiro five decades ago). His wonderfully natural vocal acting and seductive ability to “breathe” this music will convince the most sceptical. Herrera draws a strong Luisa, her liquid timbre and sufficiently clear diction proclaiming her class in solo moments; she does not fill out the ensembles quite so well, with the exception of the shining dúo with Bros in the last act. This Catalan tenor is in my opinion the best Javier on disc – discounting the Vendrell-Arregui-Folgar triumvirate in their extracts from the 1930’s, pioneers in the rich tradition of what is possibly the most recorded zarzuela in history. Arrogant, but with a scintilla of humanity that many others miss, he achieves magic moments in his two dúos, his 1st Act romanza and the final scene of the 2nd. Cantarero hits that sense of the aristocratic maja which the Duchess needs, excelling in the 2nd Act “raffle” scene. The rest are well interpreted by an excellent extended cast in which Raquel Pierotti’s Mariana and Sabina Puértolas’ Rosita stand out.
The sound is direct, suitably undemonstrative, excepting the eruptions of applause which greet several numbers. The set’s presentation consolidates the positive impressions made by the initial issue of El dúo de La africana, likewise captured in the Teatro Real. When will the Deutsche Grammophon microphones enter the Teatro de la Zarzuela to extend this brilliant series? It’s a move which should not be long postponed.
© Ignacio Jassa Haro 2007