Virgin Classics

Rolando Villazon - Gitano

Rolando Villazón (tenor), Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, Plácido Domingo (conductor)

Sorozábal La tabernera del puerto, “No puede ser”; Vives Doña Francisquita, “Por el humo se sabe”; Serrano La alegría del batallón, “Canción guajira”; Luna La pícara molinera, “Pajarin, tú que vuelas”; Torroba Luisa Fernanda, “De este apacible rincón de Madrid”; Soutullo & Vert El último romántico, “Bella enamorada”; Serrano La dolorosa, “La roca fría del Calvario”; Guerrero Los gavilanes, “Mi aldea”; Guerrero El huésped del Sevillano, “Raquel”; Pérez Soriano El guitarrico, “Suena guitarrico mío” (Jota de Perico); Serrano El trust de los tenoiros, “Te quiero, morena” (Jota); Sorozábal La del manojo de rosas, “Madrileña bonita”; Soutullo & Vert La del soto del parral, “Ya mis horas felices”; Torroba Maravilla, “Amor, vida de mi vida”; Cano Luna, “Un gitano sin su honor”

[ Rec. 11-19 July 2006, Teatro Albéniz, Madrid ]

Virgin Classics 365481 2 8 (CD + DVD extra)
[TT=57:06, plus DVD=48:00]

Review by Andrew Lamb

Even with tenors it’s apparently “buy one, get one free” these days – at any rate so long as one of them is prepared to wield the baton. In fact, the similarity of Villazón’s tone is so similar to Domingo’s that at times it might as readily be Domingo singing and Villazón conducting, if it were not for the accompanying bonus “behind the scenes” DVD. (Another example of “Buy one, get one free”!)

As it is, there’s no better demonstration of Domingo’s crusading spirit on behalf of zarzuela than that he should take the baton to guide a younger tenor through what are mostly – though not quite all – standards of the tenor repertory. With a tenor of Villazón’s quality the results could hardly be less than admirable – a voice that’s strong, passionate, expressive, flexible, and capable of encompassing the higher notes without difficulty. I liked the verbal emphasis in the really excellent Canción guajira and the expressively developed “Pajarín, tú que vuelas”, in which the voice fades away quite idyllically at the end. There’s beautifully clear enunciation and expressive phrasing in the exquisitely paced “Bella enamorada”, and the feeling expressed in “Mi aldea” raises that number, too, to new levels of excitement. Admire, too, the exquisite use of diminuendo in “Ya mis horas felices”! Villazón makes a good case, too, for the number by José Maria Cano, which was completely new to me. Luna, the opera from which it comes, is another for whose exposure Domingo is responsible, and it proves full of the passion and ingratiating melody for which we all treasure zarzuela.

Domingo & Villazon - Gitano (Virgin Classics DVD)

Yet, during little short of an hour’s listening, I do find the Villazón’s dark, full-throated tone at times demanding a little relief. It’s not a voice as lyrically or as limpidly beautiful, or as soothing, as Alfredo Kraus’s, for instance. Ultimately I don’t find myself affected by this Villazón recital as I do with collections of, say, Victoria de los Angeles, Montserrat Caballé or Marcos Redondo – quite apart from those of Kraus. I don’t see this ranking alongside those of as amongst the all-time greatest zarzuela recitals, worthy entrant though it may be into zarzuela’s recording hall of fame.

Placido Domingo and Rolando Villazon

In one respect I do find this collection of exceptional quality. The conducting of these performances seems to me as individually and convincingly conceived as any you will hear. I love the way that Domingo keeps numbers such as the Canción guajira moving along, the changes of pace in “Pajarín, tú que vuelas”, and the feeling that his conducting adds to “Ya mis horas felices”. Even such familiar items as “Mi aldea” and the Guitarrico serenade have a fresh and thoroughly individual feel to them, and I can’t help feeling that Domingo has here distilled his lifetime of intimate experience of this repertory. One may not acquire a vocal recital for the conducting; but is this not the most intelligently conducted zarzuela recital there is?

Overall this is not just one more collection of the standard items of the repertory, but a set of interpretations that should find an honoured place in any zarzuela collection. Christopher Webber’s accompanying note proves predictably authoritative in capturing the essence of the genre and encapsulating the plots of the various shows. Moreover, it deserves a special accolade for managing to incorporate into a piece on zarzuela the name of Lionel Monckton – at any rate in the note’s English, French and Spanish versions. Sadly, such temerity evidently proved a step too much for the German translator!

© Andrew Lamb 2007

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