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La púrpura de la rosa (Torrejón)

Ellen Hargis, Judith Malafronte, María del Mar Doval, Harp Consort and Chorus, d. Andrew Lawrence-King
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 05472 77355-2 (2-CD)

Graciela Oddone, Isabel Monar, Cecilia Diaz. Elyma Ensemble, Coro y orquesta de la Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid, d. Gabriel Garrido
K617 K6171082 (2-CD)

Mieke van der Sluis, Mark Tucker, Pedro Liendo, Luis Alves da Silva, Elisabeth von Magnus, Josep Benet. Ensemble Vocal La Cappella, Clemencic Consort, d. René Clemencic
Nuova Era NEI232587 (1-CD)

The difference between the two excellent complete sets of Torrejón's Peruvian setting of Calderón's distinctive take on the Venus and Adonis story can be briefly summed up: whereas Illari's colourful realisation and Garrido's urgent reading emphasise the dramatic possibilities of the score, Lawrence-King's more intimate, musically sensitive version (made in collaboration with Louise Stein) offers a more reflective, no less valid view.

The balance applies to the singers, too, with Lawrence-King's soloists more small-scale and sweet-toned, Garrido's solidly Hispanic forces making more of the possibilities of Calderón's rich text but also more conventionally operatic in scale. Given that the shorthand of Torrejón's manuscript necessarily entails considerable interpolation and fresh composition, what we have here almost amount to different works, and both recordings of this intriguing New World baroque zarzuela are confidently recommended.

The recently re-released pioneering Clemencic version may only date from 1990, but it sounds impossibly old fashioned in the light of the two more recent versions. Speeds are slow, the playing is rustic, making Calderón and Torrejón's sophisticated music drama sound gawkily provincial. A soprano Adonis is eschewed in favour of a tenor (why?) and though the cast is a distinguished one, Clemencic's insensitive cuts administer a suerte de matar to this quaintly antiquated farago.

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