El puñao de rosas (Chapí)

Lily Berchman (Dolores Pérez), Delia Rubens, Emila Rincón, Tino Moro, Eladio Cuevas, Santiago Ramallé. Coro de RNE, Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Enrique Navarro
BMG Zafiro 74321 33462 2

Carmen Sinovas, Pura María Martinez, Antonio Blancas, José Peromingo. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Filarmonía de España, c. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
BMG Alhambra WD 74391

Ana María Iriarte, Pilar Lorengar, Teresa Berganza, Gregorio Gil, Manuel Ausensi. Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataúlfo Argenta
Novoson Z-556

One of Chapí's last successes was this unusually direct country comedy drama, for which he adopted elements of the new verismo style. Both performances currently available are good, although the BMG curiously misses out the catchy Intermedio, a rhythmically intoxicating development of themes from earlier in the zarzuela.

Pérez is preferable to Sinovas, more focussed vocally and dramatically; and despite some distortions, the Zafiro recording has the edge in theatrical thrust - the clanking of bells in the Muleteers' Chorus, for example, is a delightful touch. Musically, Frühbeck is subtler, and his male soloists are superior singers; but altogether the Zafiro is gets closer to the beating heart of the piece.

The old Argenta performance - one of the earliest in his great series - has yet to make it onto CD, and as BMG already have Frühbeck in the field it is unlikely to do so. Argenta also omits the Intermedio, and the recording sounded horrible in its last Columbia LP incarnation. However, the performance boasts a magnificent performance from Iriarte at her very firmest. Lorengar contributes a thrilling gypsy song, and the women are very strongly supported by Ausensi and Gil - not to mention Berganza making one of her first appearances on record in a small supporting role. This is infinitely worth seeking out.