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
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
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