A remarkable achievement: a fan letter to Spanish music (not excluding South America or an excursion to Villa-Lobos’s Brazil) including a new commission from Nicolas Bacri. It’s carried out with aplomb and, as we hear in the Bacri suite of songs and Salud’s aria ‘¡Vivan los que rien!’, without fear of going into challenging or unfamiliar vocal areas. ‘I didn’t want to mimic a Spanish identity, but to feel it without disguising what I am,’ says the singer.
The songs themselves and their sequence are chosen around the ‘melancholy’ theme with especial attention to the often savagely beautiful words. There’s a range of accompaniments – piano and percussion (Ogundé uareré, an invocation of a Yoruba goddess), guitar and percussion (for Joaquín Nin’s flamenco dance El vito) and various sizes of orchestra.
It’s hard to cherry-pick from an album that repays frequent playing complete in one sitting – and that it’s also easy to imagine (in the best possible way) becoming a restaurant favourite. Petibon is especially effective in the zarzuela numbers (Marinela, Marinela, Petenera and the double-edged La tarantula é un bicho mú malo – the singer is bitten by the spider and it’s almost funny, but she’s going to die), Falla’s Vida breve aria (what a resonant piece this is, as we heard in Opera North’s ‘Little Greats’ season) and Bacri’s ‘Hay quien dice’, where the French composer (b1961) takes the soprano right up into her Lulu tessitura.
Throughout, Petibon’s acting and character skills evidently lift each interpretation. The recording, made in Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional de Música in autumn 2010, is superbly natural with precise balance decisions made for the different accompaniments. Hugely recommended.