La generala (Vives)

Ana María Olaria, Alfredo Kraus, Elsa del Campo. Coros de Radio Nacional de España, Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Enrique Estela
Zafiro 50603037 / or / Novoson Z-563

Pilar Lorengar, Conchita Balparda, Mary Carmen Ramírez, Ginés Torrano, Joaquín Portillo, Coros Cantores de Madrid, Gran Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Odón Alonso
BMG RCA 82876 590512

María Espinalt, Jerónimo Vilardell, Lolita Torrento. Coro Capilla Clásica Polifónica del F.A.D. de Barcelona, Orquesta Sinfónica Española, c. Fafael Ferrer
EMI 5 74340 2

Matilde Rossy, Emilio Vendrell, Mercedes Casas. Gran Orquesta y Coro, c. Antonio Capdevila
Blue Moon BMCD 7523 [highlights]

Dúo: "Mi dulce sueño". Montserrat Caballé, Bernabé Martí, c. Eugenio Marco.
RCA Gold Seal 09026-68148-2

None of the three "modern" recordings is ideal. The EMI is hampered by a shrill and wobbly Espinalt, well past her best in the title role. Vilardell, a poor man's Ginés Torrano, makes a workmanlike if plebeian impression as Prince Pío, and Torrento's Olga is mostly easy on the ear. The chorus and comedy characters are good, Ferrer conducts con brio, the recording is robust but clear.

BMG have finally released the long-absent Alhambra version on CD. Lorengar's supremely agile and crystal-clear soprano is thrilling, especially in her solo numbers, but the the romantically emphatic Pío of Torrano lacks voice and technique to match her. The supporting cast are admirable enough, though, and the recording is much nearer complete than the EMI. BMG's orchestral contribution is also brighter and more forward, with Alonso directing in sprightly fashion; but there is an unpleasantly hard edge to the sound in this CD transfer.

Zafiro's even poorer presentation does not run to notes, the recording is cloudy and one-dimensional, the chorus inadequate. Kraus is a supremely graceful and lyrical Prince; he and his soprano principals easily outpoint most rivals for style and execution, with Olaria's creamy-toned Canción del Arlequín providing a notable highspot. Most of the score is included, more of Vives' elegant poetry comes across with conductor Estela sensitive to every nuance, and on balance the Zafiro does Vives better justice than its two ex-LP rivals.

However, a sweeter still sampler of delights can be had on Blue Moon - about half the score, with libretto - recorded in 1931 under Capdevila, with Vendrell at his most charming as the Prince. Caballé with her husband on their RCA compilation sets the standard in the famous dúo, and should be heard.