Tomás Álvarez


Tomás Álvarez


The death has been announced (in late June 2004) of Tomás Álvarez, described by J. M. de Sagarmínaga as "the last authentic zarzuela baritone." Born in Madrid 24th January 1926, Álvarez made his debut on September 23rd 1947 as Juan de Eguía in La tabernera del puerto by Sorozábal, with whose works and zarzuela company he became closely associated. Seasons with Torroba, in Spain, Mexico and Cuba followed, and Álvarez became as well known in South and Central America as in his homeland.

His repertoire encompassed most of the leading roles in the classic zarzuela repertoire, and included many (now lesser known) works by Torroba, Sorozábal and the other mid 20th century zarzuela composers. Sorozábal also wrote the title role in his unperformed opera Juan José with Álvarez in mind. This, incidentally, was a tenor role - and Álvarez's smooth, brilliant baritone was notable for an unusually high tessitura which enabled him to encompass the leading tenor roles in La dolorosa, Luisa Fernanda and El gato montés. Torroba rewrote the tenor lead in La chulapona for his baritone register.

He made his belated debut at the Teatro de la Zarzuela as Puck, Las golondrinas (1975) opposite Pilar Lorengar and Inés Rivadeneira, going on to make many appearances with the company, most lately in small character roles in Chorizos y polacos and La del manojo de rosas (as Don Daniel, also seen in Rome and Paris.) He appeared at the Teatro Liceu as Don Matías in Doña Francisquita (in 1988 with Alfredo Kraus and Enedina Lloris) and also in José Tamayo's famous touring company.

Amongst many honours he received the Medalla de Oro del Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (1962) stands out. He can be heard on CD in Bard's operetta La duquesa del Tabarín (Montilla); and voicing Felipe (opposite Ángeles Chamorro's Mari-Pepa) in a film version of La revoltosa. His death removes one of the last great singers of the Golden Age of zarzuela from the Madrid stage.

© Christopher Webber 2004

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