Granados (orch. Ferrer): Tonadillas Nos.2, 7; Montsalvatge: Cinco canciones negras Nos.4, 5; Nin: El vito; Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 - Aria (Cantilena); Turina: Poema en forma de canciones No.3; Giménez: La tarántula (Zapateado) – La tempranica; Calleja/Barrera: Adiós Granada – Emigrantes: Falla: ¡Vivan los que rien! – La vida breve; Torroba: La petenera – La marchenera; Serrano: Marinela – La canción del olvido; Trad.: Ogundé uareré; Bacri: Melodías de la melancolía Op.119. Patricia Petibon (soprano), Daniel Manzanas (guitar), Joël Grare (percussion), Susan Manoff (piano), Orquesta Nacional de España, c. Josep Pons
Deutsche Grammophon 477 9447
As further evidence of the increasing appeal of the Spanish repertoire (including zarzuela) to international star singers, this CD is of some interest. Patricia Petibon is nothing if not communicative, and her disc represents a stark contrast in values with Elīna Garanča’s disc from the same stable. If Garanča was all about musical line and a lovely sound, her French colleague is much more into communicating her sense of the texts, and she’s done her best to make sure that the pronunciation of Spanish [plus various Caribbean and South American variants] is spot on.
Nor is her enthusiasm for Spain and her musical repertoire to be doubted. She was introduced to zarzuela by Plácido Domingo, who included her as Carolina in his La Scala Milan revival of Luisa Fernanda (director Emilio Sagi became another mentor). That, I fear, is where my own enthusiasm must come to a halt. How would Petibon feel, I wonder, if a Spanish singer produced a French album where the sole image was that of an onion seller, in hooped shirt and beret, playing the accordion? The image of Spain she puts across is the tourist cliché of castanets, hand-clapping, strumming guitars and guttural flamenco duende. Very few of the numbers on this disc respond to that sort of treatment – least of all the chastely melancholy little Neapolitan song from La canción del olvido, here bizarrely tricked out with lightly-tapped castanets plus Spanish guitar replacing Serrano’s harp. Adiós Granada is stretched (and shrieked) out of recognition, whilst La tarántula is as coarse and vulgar as anything else on this unconvincing CD.
Another aspect of the problem is Petibon’s threadbare vocal allure. In these sessions at least there’s an uncomfortable sense of spread to the voice at mezzo-forte and above, as witness one of the least ingratiating renditions of La peternera I’ve heard on record. That way with the words – the sudden swoops to pianissimo, the grateful lingering on significant syllables, a whitening of tone at phrase ends – becomes grating, and hardly makes up for the technical deficiencies. Musically the CD has little to commend it, apart from the new set of songs in quite a tough neo-romantic idiom written by the singer’s French composer-colleague Nicholas Bacri. His settings of four poems by the Columbian émigré Álvaro Escobar-Molina find her in more involving form, trying less hard to create a strong “image” and more naturally relaxed than elsewhere. The magic starts to work, but it’s too little too late, and stylistically out of keeping with the rest of the disc. With Josep Pons and the orchestra sounding curiously uninvolved with the singers reelings and writhings, this one is for anyone not already a committed Petibon fan to forget. Melancolía indeed…
© Christopher Webber 2011
28 November 2011