GRANADOS Goyescas (Pons)
In purely dramatic terms, Goyescas doesn’t amount to much: its plot is threadbare and its characters are little more than stereotypes. The music, however, is glorious, with most of its thematic material drawn from Granados’s two sets of Goya-inspired piano pieces. Indeed, Fernando Periquet had to do quite a bit of retrofitting in order to write the libretto, and as a result intelligibility can be an issue, particularly in the elaborate choral writing.
This performance was recorded in concert at the Barbican – Goyescas is rarely staged but the hour-long opera is well-suited to the concert hall – and is excellent in every respect. José Antonio López oozes braggadocio as the majo Paquiro, while also applying an oily veneer to his handsome baritone as he goes about his various flirtations. Lidia Vinyes Curtis sings his companion, Pepa, with equivalent hauteur.
As the aristocratic Rosario, Nancy Fabiola Herrera sounds neither as youthful nor as poignantly ingenuous as María Bayo on a superb studio account from Madrid (Auvidis, 5/97), but her creamy tone suggests regal bearing and her entreaties in the love duet convey considerable ardour. Similarly, while Ramón Vargas’s Fernando (captain of the guards and Rosario’s lover) has greater sweetness and ease, the tight vibrato in Gustavo Peña’s upper register gives his voice an attractive glint and he phrases intelligently, playing effectively with light and shade. The pair’s final scene, after Fernando is killed by Paquiro in a duel, is touchingly tender.
Josep Pons wrings a fair amount of drama from the score. Note, for instance, how slowly and inexorably he builds tension in the second tableaux, as Fernando and Paquiro become entangled, keeping the volume down until their long-simmering conflict finally boils over. I prefer the somewhat earthier sound of the choral singing on the Audivis disc but the BBC Singers do a fine job here, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra play with both rhythmic vitality and tonal refinement. I only wish the recording had greater presence. The solo voices come across naturally and with sufficient impact but some choral and orchestral detail is lost in the Barbican’s sonic glare. Nevertheless, this is a most enjoyable disc and I have no hesitation in recommending it.