A Music Lover’s Diary

Madrid, Teatro de la Zarzuela
(November - December 2008)

Ignacio Jassa Haro

Three evenings of zarzuela at La Zarzuela (and another twice frustrated by indisposition) led to many juicy paragraphs impulsively recorded in our Madrid Editor’s diary on the concert nights. Now’s a chance to skim those pages to gain his spontaneous reactions at first hand…

Concert I (Tuesday, November 5)
Carlos Álvarez has been suffering from a sore throat for weeks and was forced to postpone his date at La Zarzuela at the same time cancelling other stage commitments. New date: the 25th of the month.

Concert II (Sunday, November 9)
Fabulous evening tonight ... I am in love with Ismael Jordi ... but also with Blancas, diva absoluta on stage with the support of a revelatory conductor (at least as far as zarzuela goes) – Manuel Valdivielso, attentive and involved to the nth degree. The first half was OK but passed without incident, but the second half was a wow. From the pasacalle of De Madrid a París we moved swiftly to “Adiós, Granada” from Emigrantes (where Jordi almost made me cry), then the romanza from La tempranica (pure theatre!) and the dúo from El gato montés (almost the same as saying “Spain”) created a crescendo of enthusiasm that led to hysterical shouts of “encore”: the romanza “Por el humo…” (contained rather than powerful ... and so different from Kraus or Bros, but quite as good), the heroine’s salida [entry song] from Cecilia Valdés (where Blancas did just that!) and the foxtrot from Me llaman la presumida (encored twice, the second with the singers dancing with the public in the stalls) … I thought I would die of pleasure.

Concert I (Tuesday, November 25)
The concert is definitively cancelled due to Álvarez’s illness. Why no substitute? Do they think the public will feel disappointed by the absence of one singer, who they think is filling the theatre by himself? If the public is told and is given the option of returning their tickets no such need for over-sensitivity, surely? I think it’s much worse to cancel an event like this where we were expecting anything but predictable repertoire (thinking, yes, about Álvarez, but also, honestly, the promised participation of Rocío Ignacio and Luis Dámaso to complement the Malagan’s appearance.) Maybe the main problem is programming around singers rather than being repertoire-led and going for appropriate singers. It’s the conception of the series I disagree with, not with its execution! I read Enrique Mejías’s informed programme notes and think the Teatro de la Zarzuela should have read them too before shaping the bill…

Concert III (Tuesday, December 2)
With Alejandro Roy in reduced vocal health due to a sore throat (which forced an altered programme) and Jorge Lagunes evidently suffering technical problems (not acute, but certainly chronic) the recital tonight was gloomy from the start. With all the experience and know-how of these two along with the presence of Isabel Rey (who grew as the evening progressed) they managed to keep going with a show that had seemed jinxed initially. Nor did the (not over-big) audience help, hardly receptive early on but offering bravos for the encores from the more healthy singers (the canción del sembrador and the carceleras.) Roy made a great effort in his solos (Javier’s romanza from Luisa Fernanda and “Paixarín” from La pícara molinera) which were accurately and at times inspirationally sung, though signs of his vocal problems affected an impressive tonal flow. In two effective dúos (Me llaman la presumida with the baritone colourfully closing the first part and that from El gato montés with the soprano [ed. yet again!] making the official end to the concert) he trumped the “competition”. Lagunes was forced to start each of his romanzas in mezzo voce, but as his instrument warmed, so his potency increased; this was generally a negative but in the serenade from Molinos de viento he found it an expressive resource. On the other hand, he seemed to be having difficulty sustaining tempi. But his lack of knowledge of the tradition (he is a Mexican singer trained in opera) allowed him some original phrasings. We were left with that good encore from La rosa del azafrán.

Rey began quietly as Duchess Carolina, becoming more moving in her reading of the Mirentxu aria in Basque, continuing with a sober and elegant canción española from El niño judío; and after a somewhat anodyne “Marinela” she seduced us with that Andalusian dúo from El gato montés and the famous song from Las hijas del Zebedeo which had an irresistible spontaneity, and which of course made the audience leave in a different spirit from the one they brought in. Cristóbal Soler’s conducting proved uneven. He had serious limitations when it came to controlling the volume of the ORCAM house orchestra, but achieved moments of true inspiration in Mirentxu, the Luna and Serrano fragments, and in Las hijas del Zebedeo. We were surprised with the speed and vibrancy of the intermedio from La boda de Luis Alonso, without losing the nuances we’ve known all our lives; but his reading of the preludio from La verbena de la Paloma lacked oomph although it too had some very original phrasing.

Concert IV (Tuesday, December 9)
A beautiful night to close of series. And this despite the fact that the gremlins had struck yet again, as Ángel Ódena had to cancel for health reasons 24 hours before the concert. The game substitution of Juan Jesús Rodríguez meant that things were hardly affected, with only three pieces – albeit those of special-interest – biting the dust. Still, we could enjoy “Amor de nido” from Katiuska, rarely heard in these latitudes. Likewise it would be churlish to judge the man from Huelva’s baritone too severely, somewhat fatigued though it was in the more exposed parts. Tenor Celso Albelo, for his part, surprised us with elegant production and phrasing, which together with the beauty of his timbre made for a most pleasant impression (and an indescribable emotion) in such a fantastic piece as the romanza “Mitztilán, Mitztilán” from Don Gil de Alcalá. But a quick glance at the other excerpts chosen by this Canaries singer reveals something that looks like a virtue but turns out a sin … our tenor has gazed with such intensity into the mirror of Kraus (in breathing, phrasing, projection) that he sends up looking like an imitation quite without the force of his countryman. Mariola Cantarero is just the opposite ... her personality is so overwhelming, that we do not mind the heterodox of roles interpreted “her way”, such as the protagonists of Francisquita or Marina, full of charm without tweeness. In the polaca from El barbero de Sevilla offered as an encore she offered an alternative to the gameplan Granada’s Ángeles Blancas offered in Concert II, whose Cecilia Valdés’ salida closed the first show. Curiously in both numbers each diva did better in her encore than her rival had in the “official” program itself. If Blancas sprinkled much delectable Caribbean sugar over Roig’s work, Cantarero left her “adversary” well behind in the piece of pseudo Rossini.

© Ignacio Jassa Haro 2008
translation © Christopher Webber 2008

Concierto II (9 November 2008) Primera parte: La Gran Vía (Chueca y Valverde): Introducción y polca de las calles - Coro general; El barbero de Sevilla (Giménez): Polaca - Ángeles Blancas; El huésped del Sevillano (Guerrero): «Mujer de los negros ojos…» - Ismael Jordi; La Gran Vía (Chueca y Valverde): Mazurca de los marineritos - Coro femenino; Los gavilanes (Guerrero): «Flor roja como la sangre…» - Ismael Jordi y Coro femenino; El carro del sol (Serrano): Canción veneciana - Ángeles Blancas; El bateo (Chueca): Gavota - Coro general; Me llaman la presumida (Alonso): Dúo «Hace tiempo que he leído…» - Ángeles Blancas e Ismael Jordi. Segunda parte: Agua, azucarillos y aguardiente (Chueca): Pasodoble - Orquesta; El último romántico (Soutullo y Vert): «Bella entre las bellas…» - Ismael Jordi; La marchenera (Torroba): Petenera - Ángeles Blancas; De Madrid a París (Chueca y Valverde): Pasacalle - Coro general; La tempranica (Giménez): «Sierras de Granada…» - Ángeles Blancas y Coro general; Emigrantes (Calleja y Barrera): «Adiós, Granada, Granada mía...» - Ismael Jordi; La Gran Vía (Chueca y Valverde): Pasodoble de los sargentos - Coro masculino; El gato montés (Penella): Dúo «Vaya una tarde bonita... Torero quiero sé…» - Ángeles Blancas e Ismael Jordi. Propina 1: Doña Francisquita (Vives): «Por el humo se sabe donde está el fuego…» - Ismael Jordi. Propina 2: Cecilia Valdés (Roig): Salida de Cecilia - Ángeles Blancas y Coro general. Propinas 3 (y 4): Me llaman la presumida (Alonso): «Yo soy una mujer…» - Ángeles Blancas e Ismael Jordi

Concierto III (2 December 2008) Primera parte: El bateo (Chueca): Preludio – Orquesta; Luisa Fernanda (Torroba): Dúo «Para comprar a un hombre…» - Isabel Rey y Jorge Lagunes; Luisa Fernanda (Torroba) «De este apacible rincón de Madrid…» - Alejandro Roy; Los gavilanes (Guerrero): «¡Mi aldea…!» - Jorge Lagunes; Doña Francisquita (Vives): Fandango - Orquesta; Mirentxu (Guridi): Romanza de las flores - Isabel Rey; Me llaman la presumida (Alonso): Dúo «¿La has hablado?…» - Alejandro Roy y Jorge Lagunes. Segunda parte: La verbena de la Paloma (Bretón): Preludio – Orquesta; El niño judío (Luna): «De España vengo…» - Isabel Rey; Molinos de viento (Luna): «¿Qué tienes en la mirada…?» - Jorge Lagunes; La pícara molinera (Luna): «Mi locura no tié cura… Paxarín, tú que vuelas…» - Alejandro Roy; La boda de Luis Alonso (Giménez): Intermedio - Orquesta; La canción del olvido (Serrano): «Junto al puente de la Peña…» - Jorge Lagunes; La canción del olvido (Serrano) «Marinela, Marinela…» - Isabel Rey; El gato montés (Penella): «Vaya una tarde bonita... Torero quiero sé…» Isabel Rey y Alejandro Roy. Propina 1: La rosa del azafrán (Guerrero): Canción del sembrador - Jorge Lagunes. Propina 2: Las hijas del Zebedeo (Chapí): Carceleras - Isabel Rey.

Concierto IV (9 December 2008) Primera parte: Cádiz (Chueca y Valverde): Preludio - Orquesta; Luisa Fernanda (Torroba): «Luche la fe por el triunfo…» - Juan Jesús Rodríguez; Don Gil de Alcalá (Penella): «¡Mitztilán, Mitztilán…!» - Celso Albelo; La tabernera del puerto (Sorozábal): «En un país de fábula vivía un viejo artista…» - Mariola Cantarero; La tabernera del puerto (Sorozábal): Dúo «¡Todos lo saben! Es imposible disimular…» - Mariola Cantarero y Celso Albelo; La revoltosa (Chapí): Intermedio - Orquesta; El trust de los tenorios (Serrano): «Te quiero, morena…» - Celso Albelo; Marina (Arrieta): Escena y dúo «¡Se fue! ¡Se fue la ingrata!…» - Celso Albelo y Juan Jesús Rodríguez. Segunda parte: Bohemios (Vives): Intermedio - Orquesta; Doña Francisquita (Vives): «Era una rosa que en un jardín…» Mariola Cantarero; Doña Francisquita (Vives): «Por el humo se sabe donde está el fuego…»; Katiuska (Sorozábal): «Amor de nido…» - Juan Jesús Rodríguez; La marchenera (Torroba): Preludio - Orquesta; Cecilia Valdés (Roig): Salida de Cecilia - Mariola Cantarero; La del soto del Parral (Soutullo y Vert): «Los cantos alegres de los zagales…» - Juan Jesús Rodríguez; Doña Francisquita (Arrieta): Dúo «¡Le van a oir!» - Mariola Cantarero y Celso Albelo. Propina 1: El barbero de Sevilla (Giménez): Polaca - Mariola Cantarero. Propina 2: Marina (Arrieta): «No puede ser. En las alas del deseo…» - Mariola Cantarero, Celso Albelo y Juan Jesús Rodríguez

Ficha artística: Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid; Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela (Concierto II), Antonio Fauró, director del coro (II); Ángeles Blancas, soprano (II); Ismael Jordi, tenor (II); Isabel Rey, soprano (III); Alejandro Roy, tenor (III); Jorge Lagunes, barítono (III); Mariola Cantarero, soprano (IV); Celso Albelo, tenor (IV); Juan Jesús Rodríguez, barítono (IV); Manuel Valdivielso, director (II); Cristóbal Soler, director (III); Miquel Ortega, director (IV)

en español
zarzuela homepage

14 December 2008