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Vicente Martin y Soler: La Madrilena
21 Jan 2007

MARTIN Y SOLER: La Madrilena

Although the name of Vicente Martin y Soler is no longer obscure, most opera lovers still know him best due to Mozart quoting his opera ‘Una cosa rara’ during the Don’s last meal in Don Giovanni.

Vicente Martin y Soler: La Madrilena

Olga Pitarch (Violante), Miquel Ramon (Pipo), Antoni Aragon (Caballero), Patricia Lorens (Menica), Santiago Santana (Fabricio),Ricardo Sanjuan (Anselmo), Capella de ministrers conducted by Carles Magraner

Dahiz Productions CDM 0410 [CD]

$17.99  Click to buy

Martin y Soler was a Valencian who as a child heard the exciting news that this magnificent city once more had a theatre thanks to the king. Some years before his birth the archbishop had pulled the theatre down, believing that the immorality of some plays was responsible for earthquakes sent by god as punishment. As a young man the future composer experienced the visit to the theatre by such luminaries as Piccinni, Gallupi an Boccherini. Martin y Soler started composing operas at an early age. Up to now nothing has been found of his first opera ‘I due avari’, but the score of his first three-act opera ‘Il tuttore burlato’ still can be found in the Bibliotheca Historica of Madrid. The composer was only twenty at the time of its première in the capital. The libretto as was usual is in Italian and so were the singers. Three years later an impresario reworked the score, had the Italian text changed into Spanish and replaced the recitatives by spoken dialogue. The new title became ‘La Madrilena’ and the opera was transformed into a zarzuela. (Vice versa was possible too: Emilio Arrieta’s most successful zarzuela ‘Marina’ was changed into an opera). Lovers of the genre should pay a little attention however and look at the dates. There is nothing in the music resembling the romantic scores of Chapi, Chueca, Barbieri, Valverde and other masters of the well known romantic zarzuelas of the 19th century.

This is still a rococo score and as can be expected the music by such an inexperienced maestro is pleasing though not very original. One is somewhat reminded of the not very scintillating works of very young Mozart like ‘La finta semplice’ or ‘Mitridate’; one aria following another one with a few ensembles thrown in for good measure. The singers of this recording too are probably adapt in singing young Mozart as the modern custom requires white, small and even sexless voices. Olga Pitarch is a charming though impersonal Violante. Antoni Aragon employs the same small sound. Tenor (?) Ricardo Sanjuan is almost voiceless and would never be acceptable in roles like Ruiz or Gastone. Only baritone Miquel Ramon in the important role of Pipo shows natural vocal talent. Carlos Magraner and the ‘Capella de ministrers’ are the best of the lot thanks to his lively though not hurrying conducting that avoids boredom in this immature work.

Jan Neckers

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