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Amalia Batista (Prats)

Susy Oliva. Orquesta de Gran Teatro de la Habana, c. Rodrigo Prats
Egrem Parnaso CD 0583 [extracts, with selections from María la O and Cecilia Valdés]

Susy Oliva. Orquesta de Gran Teatro de la Habana, c. Rodrigo Prats
Egrem LP LD-3929-2 [complete, 1979 version] [LP only, nla]

Blanca Varela, Armando Pico, Beta Sandoval, Ramón Veloz, Anibal de Mar, Conchita García. Orquesta y Coro C.M.Q. c. Gonzalo Roig
Egrem LP ???? [complete, original version] [LP only, nla]

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Only extracts from Prat's most famous work have made it to official CD. The 14-minute selection of four numbers on Parnaso's Líricos Cubanos Vol.1, which also contains substantial extracts from Alina Sánchez's recordings of María la O and Cecilia Valdés, certainly whets the appetite for more. Oliva may be overblown but sings Amalia with passion, the sound is good and the lively inspiration of Prats' score comes across strongly.

Of the rarely encountered LPs, the revised and expanded 1979 version includes almost twice as many numbers. It is efficiently sung and recorded, and having the composer himself at the helm might be thought authoritative; but on the basis that it's possible to have too much of a good thing, there's much to be said in favour of the terse, punchy original 1930's score. This is well enough transferred from a 1965 Havana TV production, and the soloists - not least the feisty Varela as Amalia, outclass their later rivals (anonymous aside from Oliva.) Roig's conducting is also more pointed and theatrical than the composer's own. Should it ever reappear on Egrem, this and not the bloated 1979 remake would be the clear first choice.