Marina (Arrieta)

María Bayo, Alfredo Kraus, Juan Pons, Enrique Baquerizo. Coro de Cámara de Tenerife, Coro del Conservatorio Superior de Música de Tenerife, Rondalla de Tenerife, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, c. Víctor Pablo Pérez
Naïve V 4896 (2 CD)

Pilarín Álvarez, Alfredo Kraus, Francisco Kraus, Enrique Yebra. Agrupación Coral Magerit, Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, c. José Olmedo
Carillon CD 1-2 (2 CD Box)

Victoria Canale, Jaime Aragall, Antonio Blancas, Víctor de Narke. Coro de Cámara del Orfeón Donostiarra, Orquesta Filarmonía de España, c. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
BMG Alhambra WD 71586 (2) (2 CD Box)

María Caballer, Luis Sagi-Vela, Fernando Bañó, Joaquín Deus. Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Montorio, Navarro & Estevarena
Novoson Z-554 (2 CD)

Mercedes Capsir, Hipólito Lázaro, Marcos Redondo, José Mardonés. Coro General , Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Daniel Montorio
Aria 1007 (2 CD Box)
/ or / Blue Moon BMCD 7502 (1 CD)

[part digest from the full Auvidis/Naïve review]

For textual fidelity alone the Naïve(originally Auvidis) stands head and shoulders above its rivals. In particular, the restoration of the heroine’s last scene cavatina, and excision of the infamous flute/soprano cadenza, ripped off without much ado from Donizetti’s Lucia, give the conclusion of Arrieta's opera an integrity it lacked in all the alternative recorded versions.

Why then the lingering sense of disappointment? Some of this comes from the work itself. Arrieta couldn’t quite make up his mind whether he wanted a lightweight romantic zarzuela, or a heavyweight Italian opera, and the result is unsatisfactory, despite some stirring passages. Some, too, comes from the stellar cast. Bayo's intelligence sorts ill with such an opaque heroine as Marina, and her singing is bland at best. Kraus no longer had the vocal guns to cope with the demanding tessitura of his role, and Pons is dull. It is left to Baquerizo's boorish suitor to take the vocal honours, and there's little wrong with Pérez's limpid direction of Arrieta's fading flower of a score.

If pride of place otherwise goes to the Carillón, this is solely down to one great performance, with Kraus in his prime as a trumpet-toned Jorge. He brings the music to life most excitingly, and the set is worth the price for this alone. The rest of the cast are not up to Kraus's level, but Álvarez's Marina is secure enough, and Olmedo's direction tight and efficient.

Playing, direction and recording are much better on the BMG set under Frühbeck, and his soloists are a much more consistent team. Canale sings sweetly, but blandly; something of the sort can be said for Aragall, disappointingly tame after Kraus. Blancas is the best modern Roque on CD by some margin, and de Narke is on a level with Baquerizo as Pascual. The bad, old edition rules this out of court as a first recommendation, but in its own way it's an acceptable performance.

The historic 1929, electrically recorded set under Montorio gives us a near-complete version, with singers of the international calibre of Lázaro, Mardones and Redondo. Capsir's Marina doesn't quite come across with the 'face' of her colleagues, but Lázaro in particular sings with a ringing intensity which is unforgettable. The Blue Moon version just fits onto one CD, whilst the smoother but not necessarily superior Aria transfer slides onto 2 discs (with attractive additional later extracts starring Fleta, Revenga and Sagi Barba) and costs more than twice as much.