La niña del boticario (Julián Santos Carrión)

Ángeles Blancas, Slivia Leivinson, Carmen Claure, Aurelio Puente, Luis Dámaso, Rodrigo Esteves, Marco Moncloa, Álvaro Lozano, Javier Alonso. Coro de la Compañía Lírica "Julián Santos", Urals Philharmonic Orchestra, c. Julián Molina
EMI 7243 5 75608 2 5

This is a curiousity. Jumilla-born Santos was a pianist-composer and winner of the 1951 RNE Prize for his zarzuela Los gerifaltes. Of his many stage works La niña del boticario is considered the most important. Written in 1968 but first performed under his pupil, the well-known tenor Julián Molina, as late as 1988, it sounds for all the world as if it had been written three generations before that. A Madrid comedy set in the reign of Philip IV, La niña ... begins promisingly, but its antique charm soon palls. Such musical ideas as do occur tend to be short-winded, and on the evidence of the synopsis (EMI provide no libretto) there's nothing in the storyline to excite the horses. La niña ... proves a simulation, not a stimulation for the genre.

Molina's homage to his late teacher's memory is a labour of love, and the performers are commendable. Blancas, strong in vocal personality, generally copes well with the technical demands posed by the title role, and as rivals for her hand mellifluous baritone Dámaso and the wierdly Domingo-like tenor of Esteves are well matched. Moncloa's Corregidor is outstandingly strong. The Russian orchestra plays strongly if without subtlety, and proceedings are held firmly if cautiously together by Molina. The recording was partly put together in Ekterinburg, of all places! It's tempting to conclude that the place which consigned the Last of the Czars to history was highly appropriate to dispatch this near-Last of the Zarzuelas.