La tempranica (Giménez)

María Bayo, Carlos Bergasa, Raquel Lojendio Herrera. Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, c. Víctor Pablo Pérez
Deutsche Grammophon 028947668282

Dolores Pérez, Teresita Silva, Luis Sagi-Vela. Coro del RNE, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, c. Enrique Navarro
Montilla/Orfeon 25-CDE 232 [nla]

Teresa Berganza, Rosita Montesinos, Manuel Ausensi. Orfeón Donostiarra, Orquesta Sinfónica, c. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
BC 3301 / ZCC 5027 [LP, nla]

The 2009 DG release is a triumph for Bayo, whose heroine has a touching girlish innocence which is most imaginatively sustained. This is a great performance, and she is admirably supported by Bergasa in the dúo. Though Lojendio Herrera's Grabié may not be quite so boyishly vocalised as Silva for Navarro, the Tarantula Song emerges with a lilting sense of fun too. Given Pablo Pérez's undemonstrative but musical conducting and some really fine choral and orchestral work, this almost-complete version is the benchmark for this seminal score. It only omits the spoken text of the very short melodrama in the Gipsy scene; and a tiny, unaccompanied song for Grabié in the Hunting Scene which both rival versions also ignore.

The poor-quality Orfeon transfer of Navarro's complete recording is spasmodically available through large USA online outlets. This is a shame, as the performance deserves to be more widely available, not just for Pérez's heartfelt María, but for Silva's convincingly streetwise Grabié (the 'breeches' role) and Sagi-Vela's silk-smooth Don Luis. Hearing the score complete, despite some second-rate playing and a dull recording, allows us to appreciate the influence Giménez's masterpiece had on later scores, not least de Falla's La vida breve.

No marks whatsoever to BMG for withholding a CD re-issue of Berganza's proud assumption of the title role under Frühbeck. The recording and playing were amongst the finest accorded to any zarzuela, and despite some irritating minor (and less minor) cuts the LP gained classic status. No other singer has come near Berganza's "Sierras de Granada" for vocal splendour, musical subtlety and depth of characterisation. She is well supported by Montesinos as an agile, boyish Grabié; and by Ausensi as a virile Don Luis. Frühbeck's understanding for the idiom shines through every bar, and the gypsy scenes (featuring a fine flamenco singer) have colour, life and substance. This great record should be a priority reissue.