The air still echoes to the sound of the excellent work accomplished by the Chorus of the Teatro de la Zarzuela in the production of Los sobrinos del capitán Grant (December 2001 -January 2002). A fantastic professional body, highly skilled, mixing youth and experience, they are under the charge of director Antonio Fauró.
Antonio Fauró studied in the Senior Music Conservatory of Madrid, broadening his studies with Martin Schmidt, Johan Dujick and Laszlo Heltay. He served as assistant chorus director with maestros José Perera, Roman Gandolfi, Ignacio Rodríguez and Valdo Sciammarella; and as a member of the Chorus of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, appearing as a soloist on tour. He directed the Choir of the University of Chile and from 1994 has been directing the Chorus of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, where he has worked with musical directors of the stature of Peter Maag, Antonì Ros Marbá, Michael Gnaw, Alberto Zedda, Lorin Maazel, David Parry and Luis Remartínez; and with stage producers such as Sagi, Marsillach, Bieito, Pizzi, Del Monaco and John Cox.
Antonio, why did you become a chorus director?
I always wanted to direct an orchestra or chorus, but as I was already part of the theatre chorus, it was easier to stay in the place I already occupied.
How do you motivate a large group of professionals such as the members of this chorus?
I am certain that the chorus is a key component within any music theatre staging, more perhaps in the case of a zarzuela that in that of an opera. I believe it is vital to expose its role as protagonist of the drama. This is one of the factors which makes the members feel really involved and motivated by their work. In any event, it seems me indispensable that one must believe in what one is doing and know how to transmit that to the rest of the group; this is another key to their motivation.
What are the qualities necessary to a member of a zarzuela chorus?
The voice is very important, but in addition to that they need "stage presence", to know how to act, to know how to move on the stage. Humility must be also an important part of the personality of a chorister. In zarzuela, the chorus must be "extrovert", a little gossipy and chatty; in opera on the other hand it's quieter, more "introvert".
The text sung by a zarzuela chorus must be understood, the information they communicate is often key to following and understanding the work, so it is necessary to have good vocal abilities.
How much rehearsal does the chorus need for a zarzuela of average scope?
A lot, as a rule, but the experience and the vocal blend of an established choir makes work easier. As always, there are limits to possible rehearsal hours, economic and statutory. Nevertheless, the average time would be about eighty hours, over one month working four days per week. During that time rehearsals cover not only musical preparation but also staging.
The score has to be memorized, as much from the musical point of view as from the textual, as such things as dynamics also need learning. Much of the work is in moving the chorus around, we are not talking about one solid choral mass; and all this requires time and rehearsal.
Who decides the numbers and composition of the chorus?
It is team work. The conductor, the stage producer and the director of the chorus should talk about it together and make the decisions.
Do you hold auditions in the Teatro de la Zarzuela?
Not many; logistic difficulties, the organisational structure, economic limitations do not allow all the auditions that would be necessary; and that allows us to have a budget to fill the vacancies that occur in the chorus and that would produce imbalance between the different voices.
What zarzuela have you most enjoyed rehearsing?
As a rule anything by Barbieri, who is my favourite zarzuela composer for many reasons, not least for his polyphonic and well-structured choral writing, a feature that is not common to many composers. I remember with pleasure the rehearsals for Pan y toros, El barberillo de Lavapiés, Jugar con fuego, Gloria y peluca.
Fernández Caballero is also in that tradition.
What aspects of zarzuela are currently in need of attention?
New compositions are unlikely, perhaps for lack of interesting libretti, but it's important to investigate the many that have been written. In any case and to answer the question clearly, I believe that an effort has to be made to find great singers as soloists, to attract large audiences. In the case of the soloists, it is simpler to find a good singer who can act, than a good actor who can sing.
Which tenors come to mind?
Alfredo Kraus, Plácido Domingo, Carlo Bergonzi, Fritz Wunderlich.
Carlos Alvarez, Renato Bruson, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, Hermann Prey.
Angeles Chamorro, Victoria de los Angeles, Montserrat Caballé, María Callas, Elizabeth Schwarkopf
Raimondi Ruggiero, Nicolai Ghiaurov.
What opera chorus would be for you the greatest challenge?
Aida! Or Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Though I do not note down any further questions, we continue talking on the topic. I find that Antonio has huge respect towards zarzuela and towards his chorus - all power to him!
We speak of Chapí, of Vives, of Guridi, of Sorozábal, of Gaztambide, of Luna and many others. Antonio reminds me that there are many composers without the necessary technique to allow them to explore the limitations and possibilities of the human voice. Because of this, sometimes two or three different voices would be needed for one character. The zarzuela baritone in particular sometimes has a hard time because of this.
We were in agreement over the need for a greater annual number of productions in our Teatro de la Zarzuela. At length we recall a phrase of a great Spanish stage producer who died a few months ago, Adolfo Marsillach, who when once asked about the lack of money for a staging, replied that "the lack of money must be compensated for by imagination".
Antonio Fauró - an excellent professional, a fine man loved and respected by all. Given his youth and talents, we have a chorus director who will give us to many years of pleasure through his work.
© Pedro Gómez Manzanares 2002