Teresa Berganza – 70th Birthday Tribute
This four-CD set, issued to coincide with Teresa Berganza’s 70th birthday, is a mostly satisfying and joyful celebration of her long career, as well as her association with DG. As Berganza explains in an interview with Rafael Banús in the booklet, the foundation of her technique was always based on traditional bel canto methods, drawn from 17th- and 18th-century arias. She never strayed from roles or music that were right for her temperament, but within the limits she imposed on herself, she had a wide range of dramatic and vocal resources.
The first disc is devoted to Falla and starts with brief but exhilarating snippets from The Three-Cornered Hat, Berganza superb as the Miller’s Wife, accompanied by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony. Four extracts from El amor brujo, this time with the LSO under García Navarro, act as a prelude to a complete La vida breve.Berganza never sang the part of Salud on stage, but with José Carreras as her faithless lover, Paco, and splendid recording, again the LSO under Navarro from 1978, it is a full-blooded account of this tricky work. At the end is a brief extract from Penella’s El gato montés, Berganza’s final DG recording in 1991 with Plácido Domingo and a large cast.
Disc Two is opera extracts, including the 1977 Carmen and 1971 Il barbiere di siviglia, both conducted by Claudio Abbado, as is Rossini’s La cenerentola. Berganza as Cinderella, in her white wedding gown, singing the final rondo is one of the brightest memories of Jean-Pierre Ponelle’s much-travelled production. Perhaps the most beautiful items of all, though, are Sesto’s two arias from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. This, under Karl Böhm, was Berganza’s second recording of the part (the first had been for Decca with Kertész). Although her Mozart roles par excellence, Cherubino and Dorabella, are not here, she makes Sesto noble and passionate. This disc ends with extracts from Abbado’s recording of Pulcinella, and then Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs, with Narciso Yepes providing the guitar accompaniment (and also features on the last disc in García Lorca’s traditional song settings, Berganza sounding refined and charming).
The third disc starts with arie antiche, old favourites such as Pergolesi’s ‘Se tu m’ami’ and Scarlatti’s ‘Le violette’ juxtaposed with rarer items, including Cavalli’s wonderful ‘L’alma fiacca svani’ – Casandra’s lament – all accompanied by Ricardo Requejo.
The one drawback here is the absence of any texts or translations, especially vexing where a group of 16 medieval songs is concerned.While Berganza sings them with exquisite tone and emotion, one really needs to know what the poems are about, even though some, such as Alfonso X El Sabio’s Santa Marìa and Rosas das rosas, speak for themselves. That aside, the set is a splendid tribute to this much-loved mezzo. The final item is Montsalvatge’s Canciones negras, and as so often in concert, Berganza is accompanied by her husband, Felix Lavilla. The composer autographed her score with a dedication, to his ‘perfect interpreter’.