La del Soto del Parral (Soutullo & Vert)

Angeles Gulin, Antonio Blancas, Francisco Ortiz. Coro Cantores y Orquesta Filarmonía de España, c. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
BMG Alhambra WD 71582

Maria Espinalt, Juan Gual, Jeronimo Meseguer, Conchita Panadés, Enrique Esteban, Oscar Pol. Coro y Orquesta Sinfónica Española, c. Rafael Ferrer
EMI 5 74228 2

Dolores Peréz, Luis Sagi-Vela, Jesús Aguírre. Coros de RNE, Orquesta de Camara de Madrid, c. Daniel Montorio
Montilla/Orfeon 25CDE-223

Manuel Ausensi, Tony Rosado, Carlos Munguia, Teresa Berganza, Gregorio Gil, Manuel Ortega, Coro Cantores de Madrid, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Ataulfo Argenta
Novoson Z-529

One of the classiest issues in the BMG Alhambra catalogue stands head and shoulders above the opposition, with highly involving, musical performances from real-life husband and wife Blancas and Gulin as the married couple at the centre of this popular classic. They are strongly supported by Ortiz, and the comic roles are equally well played. Frühbeck extracts every ounce of colour from Soutullo and Vert's passionate if unsubtle score, and both playing and recording are of unusually high standards for Alhambra.

Ferrer's lively performance on EMI sounds its age, as does Espinalt's acid Aurora. Gual's light almost tenorial baritone, with his distinctive fast vibrato, is a tower of strength as Germán; the supporting cast - notably the much-loved Panadés - are characterful; and this is the only performance to include the scene in which some boys taunt the village idiot. Otherwise it is more heavily cut than the Alhambra, theere are some poor edits, and on balance it must take second place.

The bizarrely mistracked Orfeon issue - we hear Act 2 before Act 1! - features an incomparable Germán in Sagi-Vela, whose father Emilio Sagi-Barba created the role, but with Perez not on her most seductive form, an unsubtle recording and bad transfer, it's not a recommendable first choice.

Novoson have returned the early, mono Alhambra recording to the catalogue, on CD at last. Despite some distracting recording flaws and a streamlined edition of the score the performance is memorable for Argenta's poetic delicacy in the orchestral and choral numbers, Ausensi's brawny but not unaffecting Germán, and a warm Aurora from Rosado in one of her most moving performances on record. This is good to hear reissued again, warts and all.