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Recordings

Ana María Sánchez: Zarzuela
05 Jul 2006

Ana María Sánchez: Zarzuela

During the fifties and sixties, it was almost impossible (or horrendously expensive) to collect the hundreds of recordings of zarzuela outside Spain and some Latin American countries.

Ana María Sánchez: Zarzuela

Ana María Sánchez, soprano, Orquesta Sinfónica y Coro de RTVE, Enrique García Asensio (cond.), Mariano Alfonso (chorus)
Recorded at the Teatro Monumental de Madrid, 12–16 July 2004

RTVE CD 65225

$16.99  Click to buy

In 1977 I visited Spain for the first time as the great days of phenomenal singers at the Verona Arena were over. Incidentally, it was while listening to a short wave broadcast of Flemish Radio I heard that Callas had died. But, apart from the magnificent scenery and important historical buildings, what impressed me most was the astounding amount of zarzuela recordings by so many wonderful artists and I returned home loaded with recitals by Aragall, lots of Kraus and tons of LP’s. In those 30 years the rise of so many good Spanish tenors has made zarzuela a household world with many vocal buffs, even if they are not able to understand one word of Spanish. The internet has played its role, too, with one of the best sites I know, the wonderful www.zarzuela.net hosted by British director Chris Webber, author of The Zarzuela Companion. It is the best book in English about the genre and it provides in great detail the stories of almost all recorded Zarzuelas. As a result, most of the music nowadays sounds as familiar to me as the operas of Verdi or the operettas of Lehar.

But not only tenors made their mark with the music. Though most of the world famous Spanish female singers never sang a zarzuela on the scene, all of them recorded a lot. Victoria de los Ángeles, Montserrat Caballé, Teresa Berganza have recorded several recitals. Maybe the best work of Pilar Lorengar and Angeles Gulin is to be found in the many complete recordings or highlights they sang. Only the fabulous spinto María Rodriguez, and she is a real zarzuela singer, never got her chance though happily she can be found on a cheap, but exciting, 12 DVD-set recorded during actual performances. Therefore, Ana María Sánchez has some stiff competition as some historical recordings can hardly be equalled. She probably realized this as well and found a very acceptable solution. Almost all arias on this record are from well known zarzuelas; but, with the exceptions of La Tempranica and La Gran Via, they are not the hits of the genre to be found on the CD’s of the truly great. This somewhat unhackneyed soprano repertoire is perhaps the greatest quality of this CD. But there are some drawbacks as well. Sánchez has a big lyric voice that, like many big voices, doesn’t record too well (Caballé and Domingo always sounded to me far better in the house than on records). Actually the impression one gets here is of a rather common voice, lacking somewhat the enveloping warmth the soprano displayed in her recording of Massenet’s Le Roi de Lahore.

Sánchez is at her best in introspective arias like the one from Gigantes; but she is too placid the moment some firework is needed in the Sorozábal arias because the notorious Spanish temperament is almost completely lacking. The soprano is not a top note huntress as the voice is limited. It often spreads above the stave and gets a sour edge. She therefore stays on the safe side, sometimes even on the too safe side as she opts for the mezzo-tessitura and then almost has to scrape the bottom of the voice as happens in the second Tempranica aria. I think Ana María Sánchez is foremost an opera singer lacking the lightness of touch and some of the ability for rapid fire singing that is necessary if one wants to bring this music completely alive.

Jan Neckers

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