La Gran Vía (Chueca & Valverde)

Plácido Domingo, Milagros Martín, Marta Moreno, María José Montiel. Orquesta y Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid, c. Miguel Roa
RTVE Música 65150

María Bayo, María Rodríguez, Manuel Lanza, José Julián Frontal. Coro de Cámara de Tenerife, Coro Infantil del Conservatorio de Música de Tenerife, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, c. Víctor Pablo Pérez
Deutsche Grammophon 0028947630593

Nati Mistral, Antonio Blancas, Pura María Martínez. Coro Cantores de Madrid y Orquesta Filarmonia de España, c. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
BMG Ariola España WD 71587

Teresa Tourné, Renato Cesari. Coro Cantores y Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, c. Pablo Sorozábal
EMI 5 74152

Inés Rivadeneira, Luis Rodrigo, Santiago Ramallé, Pascual Bloise, José Granados. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Enrique Estela
Zafiro 1013-2

Marcos Redondo, Amparo Saus. Coro y Orquesta del Gran Teatro de Liceo, c. Antonio Capdevila
Blue Moon BMCD 7513

Manuel Ausensi, Ana María Iriarte, Toñy Rosado. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataúlfo Argenta
Novoson Z-551

The RTVE recording sweeps all before it: Domingo turns in the louchest, most mellifluous Caballero de Gracia on record, Montiel the grandest and most operatic Elíseo, and Roa's relaxed but theatrically aware direction captures Chueca's spirit as no other recording since Capdevila's pioneering 1930 account. The text is a full one, including Doña Virtudes' riposte to the Maidservant's Tango as well as the substantial later editions to the score also found on DG and BMG. With La revoltosa as the generous coupling, this is now a clear outright choice.

We are indebted to DG for giving us the first recording to feature every single bar of Chueca's mould-breaking masterpiece, with some tiny vocal vignettes and instrumental interludes making it to disc for the very first time. Some of these - notably the orchestral pantomimes for Oil, Gas, Electricity and an exploding candle - are well worth hearing. Unfortunately the performance itself is monochrome, with Víctor Pablo Pérez's plodding tempi failing to inspire the party spirit. Of the customarily excellent soloists, only Bayo's prissy Elíseo and Rodríguez's imperious Doña Virtudes inspire much interest. Still, with an excellent El bateo as coupling this issue is self-selecting for serious collectors.

The BMG recording is more characterful than the EMI alternative coupled with Agua, azucarillos y aguardiente. Nati Mistral's Tango is outrageously over the top - inimitable and delectable, worth the price of the disc alone. Martínez is contrastingly restrained as Elíseo, and Blancas graceful by name and nature as the Caballero de Gracia. Orchestral standards are good, the variety and diversity proper to what is really an early revue are well marked. Two rare later additions to the score, a Waltz and Pasodoble for Policemen, are included. The appropriate coupling is Serrano's humorous one act sainete Alma de Dios, given an equally stylish rendition.

EMI give us the standard score without additions, but with its indispensible coupling zarzueleros are likely to acquire it anyway. Not so the rarely spotted Zafiro, desirable for Rivadeneira's stately Elíseo (her Tango is a touch matronly) and Estela's well pointed direction. With no coupling to speak of, it doesn't seriously threaten the Frühbeck version.

Blue Moon offer the historic Barcelona sessions under Capdevila from 1930, coupled with early selections from Don Gil de Alcalá and El Cantar del Arriero. If you can live with the inevitable limitations of the recording - very good indeed for its vintage - the rewards are considerable. Redondo's Caballero has an appropriate touch of raffishness missing from smoother accounts, and Amparo Saus gets the best of all worlds in a Tango as well sung as it is acted. The delectable Midshipmens' Chorus is pruned, but otherwise the text is as full as the Hispavox, if not the DG or top-rated RTVE and BMG versions.