Maruxa (Vives)

Montserrat Caballé, Vicente Sardinero, Ana Riera, Pedro Lavirgen, Víctor de Narke. Coro Orfeó Gracienc, Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, c. Enrique García Asensio
Alhambra WD 71584 (2)

Dolores Pérez, Luis Sagi-Vela, Josefina Cubeiro, Julio Julián, Chano Gonzalo. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Lírica Española c. Federico Moreno Torroba
EMI 5 74212 2

Toñy Rosado, Manuel Ausensi, Pilar Lorengar, Enrique de la Vara, Luis Corbello. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Ataúlfo Argenta
BMG RCA 74321 35970 2 / or / Novoson-Z-553

Ofelia Nieto, Carlo Galeffi, Ángeles Ottein, Jaime Ferré, Aníbal Vela. Orquesta y coro del Gran Teatro del Liceo de Barcelona, c. Antonio Capdevila
Aria SL 1031 (2-CD) / or / Blue Moon BMCD 7530 (2-CD)

[digest from the comparative and historic reviews]

As so often with zarzuela on record, choice between the current versions of Vives' sweet pastoral romance isn't as easy as it ought to be. The EMI recording has its origins as the sound track of a 1969 film for Spanish TV. The sound is less murky than in the first CD tranfer, but the orchestral playing is dire, and the score is cut down from 108' plus to about 70'. Unlike the competition, it's all on one disk; and there's a fire about the performances and Torroba's direction which makes the piece utterly compelling.

The 1974 version on Alhambra is much better recorded and played, and gives us twenty minutes more of the complete score. With Caballé's sumptuous Rosa and a straightforwardly rustic Pablo from Sardinero this makes a safer recommendation, though Asensio's conducting is bland. If you want a nearly uncut Maruxa the top choice has to be the 1954 mono recording recently reissued by BMG and conducted by Argenta. Again, it's the Rosa (Lorengar) who steals the show, though Ausensi's orgasmic wails towards the end of their duet are equally unforgettable. Rosado is a strong, but mature Maruxa.

The historic 1930 set is remarkably vivid, with as full a text as any other version. Real-life sisters Nieto and Ottein vie for vocal honours with visiting Italian star Galeffi, and Vela sings the finest Rufo on record. The performance sounds smoother and fuller in the excellent Aria transfer, and they also include the very substantial original 1914 cast recordings, again with Nieto, as a superb bonus. This, rather than the Blue Moon, is the version to have of an undoubted classic version.