Notes and Editorial Reviews
La verbena de la paloma
Miguel Roa, cond; José Antonio López (
); Amparo Navarro (
); María José Suárez (
); David Rubiera (
); Federico Gallar (
); Communidad de Madrid O
DECCA 074 3262 (DVD: 75:00) Live: Madrid 2006
Interviews with the director and conductor
La verbena de la paloma
is possibly the most popular zarzuela in the
(that is, the light operetta style). Composed to a libretto by Ricardo de la Vega and premiered in 1894, it centers on the activities of a working class community in the Lavapiés district of Madrid, specifically in the Calle de Paloma where an annual street festival takes place. The various characters flirt, argue, dance, and scuffle with each other, prior to and during the festivities. In its representation of a lower social class, the piece has parallels with Gershwin’s
Porgy and Bess
, and in centering its interweaving plots on a party it recalls Nielsen’s
—later works, both, and much grander in scope.
La verbena de paloma
contains several hit numbers of the genre, including the habanera “Dónde vas con mantón de Manila?” and the celebratory seguidilla “Por ser la Virgen de la Paloma.” Both of these are quoted in the orchestral Prelude, an attractive overture that has been recorded several times. The full score may also be heard on an excellent 1994 recording from Auvidis (still available, I believe) with Domingo and María Bayo. That CD is your best bet for musical values, but the singing in this new production runs it pretty close.
Director Marina Bollaín has updated the action to the present day—although the retro look of the colorful costumes actually suggests the 1970s or 1980s—while keeping the original libretto and orchestration intact. Rather than recreating a traditional town square, she has relocated the characters in a see-through tenement building constructed out of scaffolding and spanning three levels. This enables us to spy on these people in their natural habitat, as it were—literally in the case of the chemist Don Hilariôn, who sings his
of sexual conquest while taking a bath.
Another amusing transposition in scene 2 allows Casta to sing her sultry
while under the dryer in the hairdresser’s salon on the ground floor; the character of Uncle Antonio has been similarly transformed into a swishy hairdresser. I presume this scene originally took place outside a bar, where it was accompanied solely by a honky-tonk piano. In this production the piano remains (no longer honky-tonk), but for no obvious reason. I think the director should have bitten the bullet and commissioned an appropriate orchestration, particularly as she was prepared to bring in a jazz combo for the pop songs interpolated into the street party in the final scene.
Performances are good all round. López is appropriately intense as the young lover Julián, and Rubiera is enjoyably sleazy as Don Hilariôn. The latter is no longer the stock aging roué of the 1890s (and long before!) but a younger Lothario: another plausible updating. Soprano Amparo Navarro who plays Susana (the main love interest) combines a strong voice with real stage presence, although her days as a soubrette are numbered, at least in close-up. Cristina Luar, who sings Severina (the artiste who performs at the street party), has a strident Spanish pop voice in jolting contrast to the rich operatic voices around her. The chorus members throw themselves into the dance moves in the usual way of opera choruses: cautiously. Nevertheless, there is a nice sense of fun about the production overall, and the experienced Maestro Roa moves everything along with vim. Sound quality and filming are both of high quality.
The DVD also comes with a short documentary, in which the conductor and stage director discuss their approach to the piece.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Sound: LPCM Stereo / DTS 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese Read less
Works on This Recording
La Verbena de la Paloma by Tomás Bretón
José Antonio Lopez (Baritone),
Maria José Suárez (Alto),
David Rubiera (Baritone),
Emilio Sanchez (Tenor),
Amparo Navarro (Soprano)
Madrid Community Orchestra
Written: 1894; Spain
Date of Recording: 2006
Venue: Madrid, Spain
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