Interview with...


Pedro Gómez Manzanares

(Madrid, 22nd March 2012)

Lola  Casariego
Lola Casariego

It’s a rare pleasure to hear such a voice as Lola Casariego’s. We’d spoken several times previously, but not for long enough for me to get to know one of the great singers of Spanish lyric theatre, whose vocal worth is matched by her excellent qualities as an actress.

It was at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in La chulapona where she first piqued my interest. After that I heard her singing, on the same stage, Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Then came other zarzuelas, operas, baroque music, as well as audio and video recordings such as El barberillo de Lavapiés, Goyescas, Los elementos, Acis y Galatea, Júpiter y Semele, El hijo fingido, Agua, azucarillos y aguardiente, Three Portraits with Shadow [ed. CD of music by the Halffters and Bautista] … Her voice has evolved from mezzo soprano to lyric-spinto soprano, a great development for Spanish lyric theatre.

We met for a relaxed conversation at her house, in a room boasting a controlled humidifier – she drank water and covered her shoulders in a light shawl.

Lola  Casariego as Manuela in La chulaponaLola, we all remember Manuela in La chulapona, your first performance at Teatro de la Zarzuela.
I was doing a course in Salzburg when I got asked to go to a casting at Teatro de la Zarzuela. Miguel Roa said “Lolilla, the role is yours, so you can start work.” I had doubts whether my Asturian origins might cause difficulties in playing such a pure madrileña, but it was not a problem. Everything went as I dreamt. After that first experience I realized that the stage was my life.

How was your visit to Edinburgh?
It was a cold August. We reproduced the same production of  La chulapona and had great success. The Edinburgh public loves music and has great musical knowledge. They applauded to the rooftops and the press wrote rave reviews for the work as well as my colleagues and myself.

How do you feel singing works by the zarzuela composers?
I enjoy everything I can sing, although I recognize that musical training and experience allow some of them to write specially well for the voice, as is the case with Sorozábal, Barbieri, Torroba…

Lola  CasariegoYou risked recording baroque zarzuelas by Literes in authentic, original versions. What was your motivation?
Eduardo López Banzo, director of the then newly-formed Al Ayre Español dedicated to the Spanish Baroque – and in particular the music of Antonio de Literes – saw me in La chulapona and asked me to sing a principal character in Los elementos with his group. It was an incredibly high-quality musical group, he did his job with love and then I myself fell in love with this music. Baroque is a very demanding style from which you learn a lot.

How do you think of Teatro de la Zarzuela?
I feel at home here. My first experience was in the reinforced chorus for a season of opera, then I did some small roles before my debut as a soloist in La chulapona. After that, Alberto Zedda chose me to sing in Barber of Seville. This led me to sing opera, more zarzuela, oratorio, recitals and concerts in various theatres in many countries. As for zarzuela, there I have also sung Pan y toros, Los diamantes de la corona… and I hope soon the role of Salud in La vida breve.

How has your voice evolved? Is your voice high mezzo, lyric-spinto soprano or dramatic soprano?
In reality my career has developed in time with the history of music, from baroque to contemporary music, through classicism, romanticism, verismo... The vocal character of Salud in La vida breve revealed to me my spinto capabilities. But really it was the Argentine tenor Daniel Muñoz who saw the possibilities in the top of my voice, and during the last five years I’ve been progressing from mezzo to lyric-spinto soprano, the register that I feel most comfortable.

Lola  Casariego in Los diamantes de la corona

You’ve talked about the music of zarzuela. What do you think of the texts?
True, we speak about the composer but hardly remember the name of the librettist. Some librettos are really less good than others, but it’s also true that in many works the text is important. We must not forget that a large part of zarzuela is spoken. Thinking about some of the works I’ve  played, I can say that we really enjoyed the verse-dialogue of Los diamantes de la corona. I also greatly respect the texts of  La chulapona and Pan y toros.

How do you view the current state of zarzuela?
I have the impression that a major new reassessment of the genre is beginning. I see openings for a range of singers, mainly at Teatro de la Zarzuela, and that's a positive sign.

You say that baroque music has influenced your interpretation of zarzuela?
The baroque style is very expressive. You have to be constantly demonstrating “affects”, “contrasts”, changing moods of joy, sadness… In that sense there’s a relationship. But zarzuela has more to do with verismo than with the baroque: and in any case, the baroque was a stage in my professional career that is far behind me. Now my voice has larger projection, for bigger auditoriums and to carry over large orchestras. Baroque music is designed for smaller halls and small orchestras.

How do you feel most comfortable zarzuelas singing now?
Really I’m led by my voice. I am currently identified with Luisa Fernanda, La del soto del parral, La del manojo de rosas, Gigantes y cabezudos, El gato montés… and in the operatic field Aida, Leonora in La forza del destino, Tosca…

Lola  Casariego in Amadeu

What do you see in the medium term for zarzuela?
In the past 20 years much more has been risked in opera than zarzuela theatrically; they’ve wanted to break with everything classical, sometimes intelligently and sometimes not so. I sense a return to classicism, or rather a return to what’s classical from a modern perspective. In my opinion, the staging should not leave the music in the background but enhance it. It has to be recognised that action and music should go hand in hand. Sometimes the director wants to be the protagonist and that’s not positive. Actors, musicians, singers, directors as the interpreters they are – whilst being innovative we must all be faithful to what the composers and writers wanted to say.

Lola  Casariego

We talked again about her possible return to Teatro de la Zarzuela with La vida breve, and her forthcoming performances in Amadeu at Teatros del Canal, following its triumph last season. The sun has sunk and the night appears through the windows, time passes so very quickly when the company is good...

© Pedro Gómez Manzanares 2012
tr. © Christopher Webber 2012

en español
Lola Casariego website
Júpiter y Semele (Literes)
zarzuela front page