El dúo de La africana (Caballero)

María Rodríguez, Guillermo Orozco, Luis Álvarez, Trinidad Iglesias, Pedro Miguel Martínez, Coro y Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, c. Jesús López Cobos
Deutsche Grammophon 0028947630036

Ana María Iriarte, Carlos Munguia, Joaquín Roa, Rafael Maldonado. Coro Cantores y Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Ataulfo Argenta
Novoson Z-547

Cora Raga, Felipe Santagostino, Pablo Gorgé, Augusto Gonzalo. Orquesta y Coros, c. Antonio Capdevila
Blue Moon BMCD 7520

Deutsche Grammophon's set is presented in luxurious double format: one CD has the complete zarzuela with dialogue, the other is music only but includes as bonus the "auditions" that impresario Cherubini gave to four outstanding singers at this New Year's Eve gala from Madrid's Teatro Real. Although his principal singers are workmanlike rather than brilliant, López Cobos cashes in wonderfully well on the live theatricality of the event, and there is little reason not to make this absolutely complete new version the clear first choice.

Choice between the 1929 and 1950's sets is not straightforward. Argenta's performance is a strong one, and though Iriarte may seem squally after Raga's powerfully focussed assumption this is hardly inappropriate for such a histrionic opera diva as La Antonelli. Munguia as the amorous tenor sings with his customary musicality and wit, though the little-known Santagostino brings a heroic dash to the part which is delightfully funny. Gorgé and Roa are equally good as the luckless Italian impresario in the male duet, and both conductors are at their sharpest in this highly spontaneous score. The Novoson transfer is hardly ideal, and the 1929 Barcelona sound amazingly well-balanced for its age. What's more, Capdevila includes the final scene, with its helpings of Mayerbeer and farcical action. Coupled with substantial extracts from El Rey que rabío this Blue Moon is altogether superb value, unlike the BMG which at less than 33' offers very short measure indeed.