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, November 24, 2014


Amaia Arberas, Hamid Rodriguez, Pilar Belaval, Rafael Lebron and Ilya Martinez

Thanks to Amigos de la Zarzuela we had the opportunity to hear selections from several zarzuelas written by a number of different composers.  The program defined zarzuela as Spanish musical theater but if you enter zarzuela in the search bar on this website you will be able to read a far more complete description.

We are huge fans of zarzuela for a number of reasons: first of all the Spanish language is enormously singable with pure open vowels that rival those of Italian; secondly,the melodies are memorable; thirdly, one hears interesting major/minor shifts, Middle-eastern turns and much melismatic singing; finally, the predominant subject is love--love yearned for, love achieved, love lost, love renewed, love requited and unrequited. Who doesn't care about love!

The program opened with the ensemble of five singing "Vamos andando por la calle de la fe" by Chueca y Valverde's Agua, Azucarillos y Aguardiente.  It closed with the ensemble performing "Mazurka de la Sombrilla" from the well known Luisa Fernanda by Moreno Torroba.

While all the singers were excellent, we were most impressed by soprano Amaia Arbera (more reviews of her by way of the search function) and mezzo Pilar Belaval who is new to us.  Their duet "Aqui estoy ya vestida" from Barbieri's El Barberillo de Lavapies was absolutely charming; both women have superb stage presence.

Ms. Arberas excelled in her solo "Pensar en el" from Arrieta's Marina and harmonized beautifully with tenor Hamid Rodriguez in the delightful duet "Ese panuelito blanco" from Moreno Torroba's La Chulapona in which they revealed a sympathetic connection.  Ms. Arberas' voice has a lovely vibrato and a soaring unfettered top; she always exhibits a gracious stage manner.

Ms. Belaval has a rich chocolatey mezzo that suited "Cuando esta tan hondo" from Chapi's El Barquillero in which the use of the minor key added depth.  She has a fine command of dynamics.

Mr. Rodriguez garnered huge applause for his performance of the familiar "No puede ser" from Sorozabal's La Taberna del Puerto.  We appreciated the variety of the central section in which he colored the words differentially.

Veteran singers Ilya Martinez, a soprano, and baritone Rafael Lebron contributed to the program a fine duet "Que esta esto muy bajo" from Sorozabal's La del Manojo de Rosas.  That work must be a favorite of Mr. Lebron since he rattled off the humorous patter duet "Quien es usted" (with Mr. Rodriguez) from the same work with admirable facility.

We enjoyed Ms. Martinez' duet with Ms. Belaval "Pobre viejecita, que delicadita" from Fernandez Caballero's La Viejecita.

As if that were not enough, dancer Gabriela Granados contributed two dances complete with chattering castanets and the rhythmic percussive footwork of which we are so fond.  One dance was choreographed to Granados' Suite Iberia and the other to Manuel de Falla's La Vida Breve.

We must mention the excellent piano work of Karina Azatyan who was particularly fine accompanying Ms. Belaval in Turina's soulful "Saeta en forma de salve a la virgen de la esperanza". Their partnership moved us deeply.

We hope that someday Amigos de la Zarzuela will mount a full-fledged production of one of these zarzuelas in its entirety.  We would probably choose El Barberillo de Lavapies.

(c) meche kroop

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