La tabernera del puerto (Sorozabal) Teatro de la Zarzuela, 2009 ( Jesus Alcantara)
Carmen González, Juan Jesús Rodríguez and José Bros
(whom we didn't see) in a scene from Act 2

Sorozábal · Romero y Fernández-Shaw
La tabernera del puerto

Teatro de la Zarzuela
(Madrid, 31 October 2009)

after Ignacio Jassa Haro

No surprise that Luis Olmos chose to make his production of Tabernera resemble quite literally a “comic opera”: because Romero and Shaw’s libretto had its literary origin in the former’s “Sailor’s Ballad”, a kind of graphic novel in verse (with illustrations by Rogelio Martínez Baldrich) which served as the starting point for Sorozábal’s stage work. Parts of Romero’s original are in fact declaimed by Abel in the zarzuela itself.

Olmos’s staging seems to have matured in the three and a half years since it first saw the light. Then the score had been stripped of its third act Intermedio, but now the director has also cut the comic trio “Marola resuena en el oído” from the second. The main theme of the trio is taken up in the act’s finale, so we don’t lose too much Sorozábal; and the change certainly concentrates dramatic tension and streamlines the action, so perhaps it’s a small price to pay.

Ivan Garcia como Simpson - La tabernera del puerto  (Jesus Alcantara/Teatro de la Zarzuela) Enrique Mejías García praised the original production, and what he said stands. A few comments on the current interpreters: José Miguel Pérez Sierra conducts with the passion and flexibility this eloquent score needs, evoking the sea frets and spumes so indelibly painted by Sorozábal’s score. Carmen González’s voice is now too small to combine well with the disciplined chorus and orchestra, though her performance is still theatrically convincing. In the second act ballad (one of the blandest numbers of the work) her coloratura could not manage a true soft legato. Alex Vicens was a surprisingly strong, natural and lyrical Leandro, despite a rather rough “No puede ser”. His sense of character was unfocussed. Juan de Eguía was the technically flawless but vocally inhibited Juan Jesús Rodriguez. His remarkable acting helped mitigate the effects of his vocal tensions. The night’s big star is still the large-hearted performance from Venezuelan bass Iván García as the English sailor Simpson, whose alcoholic haze doesn’t stop him seeing the moral inadequacy of his old friend Eguía ­– this is something rarely seen in zarzuela. The rest were good, too, especially Pilar Moral’s delicious “breeches” Abel.

A good evening, then: though was it right to trumpet aloud the presence of José Bros in the alternating cast lists, when he was only singing three of the eighteen performances? There’s also a question as to why this particular show was revived, without going on to other theatres too, when so many other pieces still await their chance … but perhaps best not be the fish to take that particular bait!

© Ignacio Jassa Haro 2009
English resumé © Christopher Webber

La tabernera del puerto
Romance marinero in three acts
Music: Pablo Sorozábal
Text: Federico Romero y Guillermo Fernández-Shaw

Cast: Carmen González (Marola), Alex Vicens (Leandro), Juan Jesús Rodríguez (Juan de Eguía), Iván García (Simpson), Pilar Moral (Abel), Marta Moreno (Antigua), Ismael Fritschi (Chinchorro), Aurelio Puente (Ripalda), Abel García (Verdier), Ángel Burgos (Fulgen), Iván Luis (Senén), Juan Viadas (Valeriano); Luis Olmos (dir.), María Luisa Engel (costumes), Gabriel Carrascal (designer); Fernando Ayuste (lighting); Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela (Antonio Fauró, director), Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, José Miguel Pérez Sierra (c.)

Revival of Teatro de la Zarzuela production (2006)

La tabernera del puerto (Teatro de la Zarzuela, 2009)

Spanish review
Complete synopsis
Discography (from 2006 Programme Book)
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