We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Maestro Jorge Parodi and cast of Zarzuela

This was indeed a weekend of discovery.  Yesterday we wrote about the operas of Carlos Gomes deserving more recognition and now we are writing about the thrill of discovering more about zarzuela than we did before.  Zarzuela was Spain's 19th c. answer to Italian opera (although it continued onto the shores of El Nuevo Mondo and into the 20th century) and shares a number of the features that make Italian opera so exciting--interesting stories about love, passion, betrayal and loyalty, supported by lavishly melodic music.  The music is accessible and sounds familiar, even when it is not.

The Spanish Lyric Theatre brought an afternoon of zarzuela to the Centro Español de Queens; judging by the appreciative applause the largely Spanish speaking audience enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

Eighteen members of the flexible Metamorphosis Chamber Orquestra provided the music and they were in the good hands (no, the great hands) of star conductor Jorge Parodi who needs no baton.  He conducts with his dancing hands and his entire body.  He kept the orchestra perfectly balanced with well-articulated winds emerging over a lovely carpet of strings.

The stage design was simple but effective--a cocktail lounge in which men and women came together, interacted and shared their stories. The singers, without exception, threw heart and soul into the passionate arias, duets and ensembles.  The words we heard sung most often were "mi amor", mi vida", "tus ojos" and "mi corazon".  You get the picture!  What emotions other than love require us to burst into song!

One of our favorite sopranos, Amaia Arberas, served as Program Director and deserves accolades for putting together a program drawn from several works by different composers and uniting them into a cohesive whole.  Perhaps our favorite work would be Barbieri's El Barberillo de Lavapies which shares just a little with Rossini's Barber of Seville--only the contrast between the working folk and the aristocracy.  

In "The Entrada de Lamparilla" tenor Antón Armendariz (who also served effectively as Stage Director) used his pure sweet tenor and excellent dramatic skills to limn a character of outsize personality. When Ms. Arberas joined him for the duet of Paloma and Lamparilla it was clear that two enormously skilled artists were onstage together in a number that permitted delightful interaction.

Ms. Arberas also excelled in the rapid patter of "Zapateando" from Gimenez' La Tempranica. and the flamenco-influenced "Las Carceleras" from Chapi's Las Hijas del Zebedeo; accompanying her on the piano was the superb Ainhoa Urkijo.

Her duet with soprano Virginia Herrera "Niñas que Venden Flores" from Barbieri's Los Diamantes de la Corona was filled with high spirits; the two sopranos harmonized magnificently.  Ms. Herrera also excelled in the aria of suffering "Romanza" from Lecuona's María la O, accompanied by Ms. Urkijo's lilting piano.

There were only two works on the program that we have heard many times before.  Lara's "Granada" was well rendered by tenor Hamid Rodriguez as was the bitter "No Puede Ser" from Zorozabal's La Tabernera del Puerto.

Bass Eliam Ramos showed dramatic depth in "Despierta Negro" from the same zarzuela and, accompanied by Ms. Urkijo, delivered a heartfelt rendition of "Sasibil" from Guridi's El Caserío .

Tenor Cesar Delgado joined Ms. Amaia for "Este Pañuelito Blanco" from Torroba's La Chulapona, which had a fine clarinet introduction; he has a real inclination for Torroba as he demonstrated in his fine solo "De Este Apacible Rincón de Madrid" from Luisa Fernanda.

Rafael Abolafia played the part of the bartender with great style and narrated the action.

Other zarzuelas on the program included Arrieta's Marina, Caballero's El Duo de la Africana ( a humorous one), and Serrano's La Alegría del Batallon.

High on our wish list would be an opportunity to see one or more of these works performed in its entirety, staged and costumed.  Is anyone else interested?

© meche kroop

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