Júpiter y Semele
Marta Almajano, Virginia Ardid,
Lola Casariego, Soledad Cardoso, Marina Pardo, Jordi Ricart, Jose
Hernández. Al Ayre Español, dir. Eduardo López Banzo.
Harmonia Mundi HMI 987036.37
This impressive zarzuela may not quite rival Handel's
great English masterpiece Semele, but then it does not aim at the same
mark. Where Handel is centrally concerned with delving into the all-too human
emotions of his characters, Literes moulds an essentially distanced,
baroque zarzuela mix of high allegory and low comedy, though his
characterisation is certainly not without its own interest.
Semele here is not a singing role, and in this atmospheric
and urgent live concert recording she is played by Ardid, a first-class
actress whose scenes with Jupiter make for gripping drama - rarely has even
Almajano given such a magnificent performance as she does here, and her
beautiful lament after Semele's death is a highspot. The villains of the piece,
Cupid and Juno, are played with spiteful verve by Casariego and
Cardoso, the supporting cast are excellent, and Banzo and his
group can now play this fine music for all its considerable worth.
It's complete with full dialogue, good notes and texts,
including useful translations into French and German - just as well, as the
lamentable English version makes very little sense and contains a host of
howlers. The whole is also most attractively packaged by Harmonia Mundi;
and altogether this represents the most vivid recording to date of any baroque
zarzuela. Very highly recommended.