|BRUNO PEÑA, AMAYA ARBERAS, ALBERT CARBONELL AND CORO CASA GALICIA|
We spent a most satisfying evening yesterday at Casa Galicia in Astoria, Queens. Not only were we royally entertained and well fed but we managed to learn something new about Spain. Galicia is in the northwest corner of the country, bordering Portugal, and retains its own identity. Half of the inhabitants speak Galician which is close to Portuguese. Casa Galicia is a home away from home for Galician folk in New York and provides a center for cultural identity, maintaining a music school for the youth.
Two stars of the musical firmament provided the excellent entertainment. The excellent soprano Amaya Arberas opened the program with selections from Händel's Nine German Arias, HWV 202-210. This work is said to be the inspiration for Haydn's Die Schöpfung, inasmuch as the text refers to the creation of the universe. We particularly enjoyed the aria about the creation of flowers and the one about the rolling of the waves. There were multiple melismatic passages of great beauty.
Ms. Arberas, whose Spanish singing we have reviewed several times, showed her facility in German; following this group of songs she sang in Italian--a lovely aria by Claudio Monteverdi "Quel sguardo sdegnosetto", offering the opportunity to show off her ease with fioritura. Accompaniment by Albert Carbonell was by electronic keyboard since a harpsichord was nowhere to be seen or heard. It sufficed.
Bruno Peña was onstage to contribute some gorgeous pieces for violin. He performed "Meditación" from Jules Massenet's Thaïs with great sensitivity and Pablo Sarasate's "Playera" with suitable Spanish passion. Many phrases concluded with the rhythmic "fa-mi-do" we love so well, often heard in flamenco guitar.
Although our taste favors the Classical, we confess to enjoying the second half of the program in which our versatile Ms. Arberas gave the jazziest rendition of James Lord Pierpont's "Jingle Bells" we have ever heard, overcoming our fatigue with Christmas music. The chorus of Casa Galicia entertained with a program of Christmas carols from many lands, sung mostly in Spanish. The audience favorite was clearly José Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" the melody of which has been running through our head all night, as good melodies tend to do.
What a privilege to spend an evening exploring another culture! If we were a food critic we would go on and on about the generous meal that followed but we will close here and wish our readers a very Happy Holiday season. There will most likely be a break in reviewing until the new year. We have enjoyed sharing our opinions with you during 2014 and look forward to the many fine musical events coming up in 2015.
ⓒ meche kroop