TORROBA: Luisa Fernanda
ZANDONAI: Francesca da Rimini
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. Concerto for
Three Pianos in F, K. 242. Adagio in E, K. 261. Rondo in G, K.
373. Symphony No. 32 in G minor,K. 318. BEETHOVEN: Third movement of
All his life Plácido Domingo has had a love affair with the Spanish zarzuela, particularly with Federico Moreno Torroba's Luisa Fernanda. This had its premiere in 1932, and Domingo's parents sang the leading roles of Luisa and Vical in a series of performances presented by the composer. When Plácido was 16 and touring Mexico with another zarzuela company, the leading tenor in Luisa Fernanda became ill and thus the young tenor made his debut. This zarzuela is about a young woman in love with the unworthy young man Javier who is convinced by Duchess Carolina to join the army to fight revolutionaries. Luisa then meets the rich landowner Hernando who plans to marry her but when he realizes she truly loves Javier, Hernando leaves and the operetta ends as Luisa and Javier leave together. The production is shared by the Washington Opera, Los Angeles Opera and Teatro Real in Madrid; this performances was recorded there in June 2006. Emilio Sagi was designer and director and chose to update the zarzuela, hence the basic set is white and black "to give it a surgical atmosphere where I could concentrate on the world of emotions...." It works very well indeed .In this production Domingo sings the baritone role of Hernando; the entire cast is splendid, with Nancy Herrera a vivacious Luisa. Video and audio are state-of-the art. This is first-class in every way, sung in Spanish of course, with subtitles in five languages.
Early last year this site covered a DG video of Zandonai's dramatic opera Francesca da Rimini, a 1984 Met production starring Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo (REVIEW). Now we have this performance from the Sferisterio Opera Festival, Macerata, 2004, and it offers no competition whatever to the Met production. The newcomer is staged in a large outdoor theater with minimal sets but ornate costumes. The husband/wife team of Fabio Armiliato and Daniela Dessi is seen as Paolo and Francesca—they also starred in a Liceu DVD Aida taped in 2003 (REVIEW) —and they are as disappointing in Francesca as they were in Aida. No vocal excitement here—for that, get the Met version. In the new one there is no evidence of microphones and that doubtless accounts for the poor audio. There is little clarity or presence, and much of the sound comes from rear and side speakers, instead of from where the singers are, and sometimes there are extraneous sounds. Skip this one.
Self recommending is Opus Arte's new issue of Mozart featuring Martha Argerich recorded in Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo January 27, 2005. These are her only recordings of these two Mozart concertos; in 2003 she recorded the Beethoven Triple in Italy with Renaud Capuçon and Mischa Maisky and Alexandre Rabinovich on the podium. The small Japanese orchestra provides adept accompaniments. The sound of Argerich's piano on these recordings is rather brittle in the upper register; perhaps engineering is responsible for this. Video is adequate. There is an "Extra Feature" that doesn't amount to much—2:29 of Argerich walking into the hall and snippets taped during rehearsals. However, Argerich's fans will welcome this opportunity to watch her perform. Although mentioned on the DVD jacket, it seems odd the DVD booklet doesn't mention that the brothers Paul and Rico Gulda, heard in K. 242, are sons of Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000) who was Argerich's idol and mentor during her early career.
R.E.B. (April 2009)