Notes and Editorial Reviews
Zarzuela, that vaguely undefinable type of musical theater particular to Spain, is an amalgam of opera, operetta, and what we know as musical comedy. Some songs can be sung by actors who sing, but most need singers who can act. In any case, many are rhythmically and melodically interesting, and when sung by healthy operatic voices with an understanding of the essential Spanish flavor and style, they're as handsome and varied as anything in Italian opera. Here are re-releases of some albums recorded in the mid-'70s by two great Spanish singers: José Carreras and Teresa Berganza. Berganza's mezzo is lightish and agile, with a Mediterranean warmth and a nice, full lower register. She can sound innocent or suggestively coy and sophisticated. In 1975 Carreras' tenor was at its peak--the most beautiful sound ever heard, burnished, with a dark hue and a gleaming top, every note produced evenly.
Fans of the tenor should leap to hear this despite the fact that Carreras rarely colors his tone to suit the individual character or situation, and his volume level tends to remain the same throughout. It is a tribute to the beauty of his tone, his impeccable diction, smooth-as-silk legato, and what at first hearing seems to be an involvement in the text, that his CD (he gets one disc, she gets two) never bores or tires the ear. The "passionate" songs come off best, due to the tenor's natural ardency, but he does manage some nice energy in "Jota" from La Bruja by Ruperto Chapi, and he's almost playful in Serrano's "Cancion guajira", with its repeated "la la las" and well-placed grace notes.
And Berganza is just sensational: the famous "Cancion Espanola" from El nino judio by Pablo Luna is gorgeously sung, with just the right elegant turns and decorations, and the love songs are all understated and caressed with a wide dynamic range. Each CD contains a few orchestral interludes as well. The accompaniments are ideal (from a British ensemble!) and the sound is warm and natural. There are no texts or translations, but we do get intelligent, informative notes. This is a delightful collection, at a giveaway price.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com