Ibs Classical

Lide ta ixidor (IBS)

Lide ta Ixidor

Lyric tale for children (1910)

music: Sancho Inchausti
libretto: Alfredo Echave

Christopher Webber

Cast: Marta Ubieta (Lide), Maite Maruri (Ixidor), Olatz Saitua (Old Lady), Larraitz Navas (The Blue Fairy), Gorka Unamuno (Satanito), Bilbao Choral Society, Basque National Orchestra, c. Juan José Ocón. Ibs Classical IBS82022 (One CD)

[Recorded Sociedad Filarmónica de Bilbao, September 2021]

IBS Classical IBS 82022 [1 CD, 50:10]

Following the mild pleasures of Maitena, Euskal Opera’s previous revival of a forgotten Basque opera, comes the Christmas tale Lide ta Ixidor (1910), with a text by Alfredo de Echave which owes much to Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel. According to Pello Leiñena Mendizabal’s notes, the libretto is written in a mixture of ‘Bilbao dialect’ and Spanish (reserved for the wicked Satanito!), with only portions of the choruses employing formal Basque of the period. The plot is simple and clear, with a fluid mixture of spoken dialogue, melodramas (speech over music), solos and duets for the four principal singers and featured choruses, mainly for children.

The brother-and-sister fairy story is set in a farmhouse where Christmas food and drink are in short supply. Their kindness in offering what little they have to an Old Lady – not a witch, but firmly on the side of the angels – is rewarded by their translation to the magnificent Zubialdea Palace, where they find themselves dressed in fine clothes and in possession of a magic wand which enables them to conjure an enormous cake. When threatened by Satanito (spoken role), a little devil disguised as a cat, the children banish him by making the sign of the cross with a broken sword, and are rewarded by the Blue Fairy with a vision of the Christ Child lying in the manger, and the arrival of the Shepherds and Kings. Then comes an Epilogue: waking up back in the farmhouse, the children find the table groaning with delicacies, as their parents return home to celebrate Christmas.

Santos Inchausti The unpretentious, two-act score is by Santos Inchausti (1868-1925), assistant director of the Bilbao Choral Society under Aureliano del Valle. His musical tapestry draws freely and effectively on local melodies, as it seems did his later opera Itxasondo, and certainly it never strays far from Basque dance forms, notably the zortzico and espatadanza. A brightly confident villancico (Christmas carol) is among the choral highlights, while a pretty pantomime of flowers and butterflies for the dreaming children inevitably brings to mind Humperdinck’s familiar classic. Although the choral and solo writing is undemanding, easily encompassed by the amateur forces for whom it was written, Inchausti proves an adept theatre composer. Lide ta Ixidor encompasses a surprisingly wide variety of moods, from honest fun through gentle melancholy to elevated Christian sentiment, and the results certainly spring off the page with consistent vitality. Although only spasmodically performed after its successful premiere at Bilbao’s Teatro Campos during May 1910, his little opera still has a good deal of life about it, and thoroughly deserves this revival.

Lide ta Ixidor - Maria Teresa Badenes and Celia badenes (1911 production)

Quite what has been revived is an open question. Though Inchausti’s manuscript is missing, enough orchestral and vocal parts have survived to allow Jesus Mari Sagarna to reconstruct the fifty-odd minutes of music on IBS Classical’s recording. Apart from a sprinkling of the melodramas, the spoken dialogue – present in the published libretto to which I’ve had access, through the courtesy of Mario Lerena – is omitted, so what we have is essentially a concert arrangement. Given that the sung texts differ considerably from those in the libretto, and that Juan José Ocón’s piano-based chamber orchestrations are in very fresh modern style, one wonders just how deeply his ‘revision and adaptation’ have gone. But when the results are so pleasing, it is hardly worth fretting about authenticity.

The recording, made at Sociedad Filarmónica de Bilbao during September 2021, is in keeping with Inchausti’s inspiration – honest, intelligent and uncomplicated. Everyone involved seems to be approaching the task with relish, and their affection communicates. Marta Ubieta’s light-voiced, gentle Lide works well with Maite Maruri’s more forthright and boyish Ixidor, and their central duets go with a swing. Olatz Saitua’s motherly Old Lady and Larraitz Navas sugar-toned Fairy offer smiling support, which Gorka Unamuno has fun in the brief role of the feline devil Satanito. The choruses are done with enthusiasm and expertise. Ocón’s confident direction never puts more weight on the sunny drama than it can bear, always bringing out the score’s spry rhythms and melodic distinctiveness.

Lide ta Ixidor - The 2021 recording

Ibs’s production obtains a close balance of vocal, choral and orchestral forces which proves very satisfying for home listening; and despite the absence of printed sung texts Mendizabal’s Spanish, Basque and English notes offer sound introductions to the work and its composer, as well as a brief synopsis. In repeatedly rendering ‘hermanos’ (siblings) as ‘brothers’, the translation is in danger of causing gender-based confusions where none exist, but otherwise Euskal Opera’s CD is beautifully presented in gatefold style, with good graphics including two, evocative original production photos. Lide ta Ixidor does not pretend to the musical substance of Usandizaga’s Mendi-Mendiyan or Guridi’s Mirentxu, but on its own terms this bold revival creates a distinctive artistic and spiritual world which we may enter with delight.

© Christopher Webber and zarzuela.net, 2023

 cd magazine
 zarzuela homepage