La reina mora (Serrano)

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

Ana María Iriarte, Pilar Lorengar, Teresa Berganza, Manuel Ausensi. Orquesta de Cámara de Madrid, c. Ataúlfo Argenta
Novoson Z-550

María Espinalt, Lolita Torrento, José Simorra. Orquesta Sinfónica Española, c. Rafael Ferrer
EMI 574341 2

Luisa Vela, Mary Isaura, Emilio Sagi Barba. c. Concordio Gelabert
Blue Moon BMCD 7546

Serrano's romantic Sevillian zarzuela has a mysterious beauty at its heart, nicknamed "La reina mora" (Moorish Queen); and the twenty minutes or so of dark, passionate music he wrote for this one-acter centre around her. EMI have Espinalt, but with the curdled tone customary at this stage of her career she does not suggest the character's magnetic attraction. The recording sounds its age, and the supporting cast are at best adequate.

The 1970 BMG is much to be preferred. Sinovas is steady and full-toned if not especially individual, and Martínez is suitably boyish as a little birdseller. Blancas, the heroine's lover, sings with elegant clarity, and Frühbeck conjures up a real sense of brooding heat from his players. The flamenco scene at the end is a fine bonus not present on EMI. The coupling, Chapí's El puñao de rosas, is much more suitable than EMI's Los cadetes de la Reina.

That isn't quite the end of it. The 1932 version made by husband and wife - the marvellous, teak-timbred Sagi Barba and Vela - exudes authentic atmosphere, some pitch questions over Blue Moon's transfers aside. Isaura is a chirpy birdseller. The couplings are apt - early recordings of Serrano's Los de Aragon and Las hilanderas - and altogether this is an unmissable CD.