El asombro de Damasco (Luna)

Lina Huarte, Toñy Rosado, Manuel Ausensi, Gerardo Monreal, Arturo Diaz Martos, Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataulfo Argenta
Novoson Z-546

Dolores Pérez, Luis Sagi-Vela, Antonio Martelo, Santiago Ramallé. Coro de la Radio Nacional de España, Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Enrique Navarro
Orfeon CDE 231

Argenta's beautiful account from Alhambra LP has finally made it to the official CD catalogue (6/04) in a good transfer from BMG (now reissued on Novoson.) It's not perfect - there are some irritating clicks in Munguia's offstage muezzin calls, and a lazy failure to join up the original LP side turn in the middle of the Act 1 finale - but the mono sound is bright and clear. Both Rosado and Ausensi are on top form in the romantic roles, and with strong vocal support from Monreal (who does not fall into the trap of overdoing Ben-Ibhen's comedy silliness), Diaz Martos and Huarte this remains top recommendation, despite some frustrating cuts and skimpy, text-free presentation.

Navarro gives us the uncut score in a lively if not especially subtle reading, notable for the suavely plausible Nuredhin of Sagi-Vela and Pérez's dramatically involved Zobeida. What is missing is the warm phrasing that Argenta brought to Luna's most lyrical score; not to mention Rosado's nobility and Ausensi's breathtaking vocal heft. BMG's supporting cast are markedly superior, too, and on balance the older version remains clear first choice. The dubious Montilla/Orfeon CD transfer listed above is theoretically available in the USA, but does scant justice to the admittedly two-dimensional Zafiro LP pressings.