Doña Francisquita (Vives)

María Bayo, Alfredo Kraus, Raquel Pierotti, Santiago S. Jericó. Coro Polifónico de la Universidad de La Laguna, Rondalla y Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, c. Antoni Ros Marbà
Naïve V 4893 (2-CD)

Ainhoa Arteta, Plácido Domingo, Linda Mirabal, Enrique R. del Portal. Coro Titular del Gran Teatro de Córdoba, Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla etc., c. Miguel Roa
Sony Classics s2k 66563 (2-CD)

Teresa Tourné, Ana Higueras, Pedro Lavirgen, María Reyes Gabriel, Segundo García. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Rondalla y Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, c. Pablo Sorozábal
EMI 5 74209 2 (2-CD)

Alfredo Kraus, Dolores Pérez, Ángeles Chamorro, Enrique del Portal. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Rondalla y Orquesta Manuel de Falla, c. Enrique García Asensio
Carillon CAL 21-22 (2-CD)

María Rosa del Campo, Norma Lerer, Jaime Aragall, Julián Molina. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Filarmonía de España, c. Lamberto Gardelli
BMG WD-71440 (2)

María de los Ángeles Morales, Ana María Iriarte, Julio Uribe, Carlos Munguía. Coro de Cámara del Orfeón Donostiarra. Gran Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataúlfo Argenta
Novoson CDNS 577 (2-CD)

Alfredo Kraus, Ana María Olaria, Dolores Pérez, Santiago Ramallé. Coro de RNE, Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Daniel Montorio
Zafiro 74321 33465 2 [highlights]

Emilio Vendrell, Felisa Herrero, Selica Pérez Carpío, Antonio Palacios. Coros y Gran Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Daniel Montorio
Aria CD 4 / or / Blue Moon BMCD 7501 [highlights]

Bayo crowned her achievements in the Auvidis series (now reissued on Naïve) with as perfect a portrait of "La doña" as we could wish. Her immaculate coloratura, wit and winsomeness have never been heard to greater advantage, and in Kraus she had a partner to match. He sang the role for 40 years, so this is not a Fernando in his first flush; but sheer intelligence, consistently illuminating, sees him around any awkward vocal corners, and his singing exhibits if anything more musicality than in his earlier recordings. Ros Marbá doesn't prettify proceedings. The contrasts of bright sun and deep shadows so special to this score have never been made so vivid - and though Roa's account of the score (with Domingo in full cry and the silvery Arteta) for Sony Classics is exciting enough, his two principals are not ideally matched and the Naïve recording wins the palm as far as modern digital recordings are concerned.

Of the many recordings of Vives's masterpiece, some others stand out. The EMI under Sorozábal has a great asset in the warmly sympathetic Teresa Tourne, though her Canción del ruiseñor lacks Bayo's pinpoint accuracy. Reyes Gabriel is the best Aurora in modern sound, despite Pérez's sterling efforts in two earlier performances with Kraus. His Carillon performance has tremendous raw vitality, and an imperious cast firing on all cylinders - though the forward placing of the voices reduces the orchestral contribution and a dry, linear recording further limits its appeal. The earlier Kraus extracts on Zafiro conducted by Montorio are preferable for those admirers who do not warm to his Indian-Summer Auvidis reading.

Montorio, amazingly, was also at the helm for some substantial extracts recorded in 1930. The Barcelona sound is remarkably lucid for the period, Vendrell's Fernando provides the locus classicus for the role, Pérez Carpío likewise for Aurora. Herrero is far from throat-perfect in the Canción del ruiseñor, but otherwise her strong characterisation contrasts favourably with merely pretty interpreters of the title role. Nobody has equalled Palacios as Cardona, and altogether this set (better transferred by Aria) is a must for anyone wanting to supplement the Auvidis recording with an original interpretation.