José de Nebra: Arias and instrumental arrangements from Iphigenia en Tracia, and Amor aumenta el valor; Sebastián Durón: Song ‘El picaro de Cupido’, Juan Hidalgo: Songs ‘Esperar, sentir, morir’ and ‘Ay que si, ay que no’.
Continuo Classics [1-CD, CC777.731, 47:18 minutes]
It is good to welcome another recording devoted to José de Nebra’s masterly theatre music, supplemented here with short songs by Durón and Hidalgo. Eleonora Deveze (also known as Eleonora de la Peña) is a French soprano whose repertoire covers the operatic field from Baroque to Berg, in addition to recital work at venues across Europe, including the Fundación Juan March in Madrid. Her sunny, light lyric soprano provides the perfect weight for de Nebra’s writing, and she communicates well. There is urgent drama in the voice for the pulsating arias of Orestes and Iphigenia from Iphigenia en Tracia, and just the right hint of boyish melancholy for Horacio’s aria ‘Ay amor, ay Clelia mia’ from the collaborative opera Amor aumenta el valor. Hidalgo’s teasing ‘Ay que si, ay que no’ reveals a smile in the voice too. Only the last scintilla of individual personality is absent – for that you’ll need to return to María Bayo or Raquel Andueza in these repertoires.
Sadly other aspects of the recording don’t share Deveze’s robust charm, with neither Christian Mendoze’s sluggish tempi nor the playing of Musica Antiqua Mediterranea coming up to scratch. I’ve not heard such lumpen and scrawny historically informed string playing on disc since the pioneering days of the 1970s: the woodwind are a little better, but only the excellent natural horns really pass muster. The effect is to render de Nebra’s elegant scoring graceless. For example, it ought to have been a pleasure to hear an instrumental version of the Seguidillas comedy duet from the zarzuela, but dividends are diminished by the mechanical tempo, lack of dynamic contrast, spiritless violins and too-liberal application of castanets. Given the very short running time and lack of texts, Continuo Classics’s admirably recorded disc can only be recommended for Deveze’s likeable singing.
© Christopher Webber and zarzuela.net, 2021