Zarzuela Arias & Duets
The booklet-note for this disc is all about Caballe, without a single word on what she is singing, which would have been more to the point. As has so frequently been the case, the problem of presenting zarzuela to a public unfamiliar with its repertoire has been ducked. RCA seem unaware, also, that the “Fernandez” credited with writing El cabo primero and the “Caballero” of El duo de La Africana are one and the same; and the translator of the texts obviously not does realize (despite a number of clues) that the plot of this piece revolves round a rehearsal for the Vasco da Gama-Selika duet in Act 4 of Meyerbeer’s
Still, the disc offers an interesting cross-section of various periods and styles of the zarzuela, from the Italianate idiom (complete with final cadenza) of the early Arrieta and the full scoring of Breton, via catchy pieces in Spanish dance rhythms (like the famous gipsy song in El nino judio) to music of greater distinction such as the graceful love-duet from Luisa Fernanda. (All the items, except the Penella, are in one way or another about love.) Caballe was at the top of her form in the 1960s, when these recordings were made: her voice is securely placed throughout, with a lovely purity, a fair range of colour and exemplary enunciation. She doesn’t, however, observe that some of her lines in La Dolores are meant to be asides. Her husband, who partners her in the duets (in fact duo scenes, for they sing independently most of the time, joining together only in unison, except in the Duo de La Africana) is equally clear but gives little sign of thinking of the words’ meaning, and delivers everything with equal robustness. Clinging to every available high note was probably expected by Spanish galleryites, and with only two exceptions every item here ends in a top note held for six seconds or more.'