Vicente Sardinero
Vicente Sardinero



12 January 1937
9 February 2002

The Barcelona-born baritone Vicente Sardinero died in the village of Villafranca del Castillo, near Madrid, 9th of February 2002. Although well known around the world as an opera singer, his work in and for zarzuela, both on stage and in the recording studio, was also substantial.

He studied in his native city and learnt his stage craft working in zarzuela in Madrid and Barcelona before making his debut at the Liceu Theatre as Escamillo in Carmen (1964-65) before moving on to study at La Scala Milan with Vladimiro Badiali and winning the Busseto Verdi prize in 1966. His La Scala debut in Lucia di Lammermoor came the following year.

Work at Vienna, London's Covent Garden, New York Metropolitan and many other major opera houses around the world rapidly followed. His range encompassed all the great baritone roles, from Ford in Falstaff, through Germont in La Traviata, to Sharpless in Madam Butterfly, Posa in Don Carlos, Scarpia in Tosca ... and the title role in Rigoletto. As recently as two years ago, he was singing in the operatic version of Las golondrinas at Madrid's Teatro Real.

His opera recordings are mainly of Puccini and the verismo school. They reveal a mellifluous, firm baritone of a particularly Spanish character, fluid and easy at the top, even throughout the range, almost a dry fino in character but none the less generous for that. Occasionally his characterisations could be stiff or bland, but his musical values were always impeccable.

His zarzuela recordings are at least as numerous. Many of them, such as Maruxa, Cançó d'amor i de guerra, El pajaro azul and La villana, were made opposite his great friend and colleague Montserrat Caballé. His Peribáñez in the Vives work is his most extended portrait, and his plain as a pikestaff reading is typically straightforward, honest and unfussy.

His other recordings include La rosa del azafrán (with Isabel Penagos) and two notable Sorozábal recordings: the title role of Don Manolito and - best of all his recorded zarzuela roles - Don Juan in Los Burladores. His partnership here with Teresa Berganza produces heartfelt, touching, musically rich results; and his solo romanza: "Queda flotando en esta estancia" remains one of the most complete pieces of singing in the zarzuela discography - Sardinero's beautifully controlled, lyrical line set off by reserves of power in abundance. For this, and many other fine vocal moments in his recordings, he will be long remembered.

© Christopher Webber 2002

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