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.

Friday, December 11, 2015


Diane Lesser, Gustavo Ahualli, Anna Belén Gómez, Anna Tonna, Borja Mariño, and Anna de la Paz
Enrique Granados died tragically and prematurely a century ago; he spent the last months of his life right here in New York City, a time period which saw the premiere of his opera Goyescas at the Metropolitan Opera. (Bare Opera presented this work just a couple weeks ago and our review can be found by typing Goyescas in the search bar.)

The Hispanic Society of America presented a delightful evening of his music and dance in a program entitled "From Barcelona with Passion: Enrique Granados in New York". There is a strong connection--the society awarded him the Silver Medal; he donated an autographed manuscript of Goyescas to the Society's library; and he autographed a column in the great room of this magnificent building, which houses a most worthwhile art collection.

The program included a great deal of his music with which we were familiar, but presented the way Granados originally wrote it.  For example, the first of Doce tonadillas al estilo antiguo, "La maja de Goya", opens with a recitation accompanied by piano--a somewhat picaresque story (probably apocryphal) about the famous painter who knew how to appreciate female beauty. It was delivered dramatically with appropriate emphasis by mezzo-soprano Anna Tonno. We'd never heard it before.

With the exception on "El majo olvidado" which was sung by Argentinean baritone Gustavo Ahualli, the remainder of the tonadillas were sung by Ms. Tonno alternating with soprano Anna Belén Gómez. Both women have lovely voices and the ability to get across the emotional tone of the song. Singing without scores, they were able to make great contact with the audience.  Unfortunately Mr. Ahualli was on the book the entire evening, relying solely on his powerful instrument. We were surprised to learn that he sings opera because we did not feel a dramatic connection.

Our favorite part of this group was the light-hearted and satirically titled duet "Las currutacas modestas" sung by Ms. Belén Gómez and Ms. Tonna. We have never heard this sung as it was written and were delighted by the mellifluous harmonies and the flirtatious nature of the performance.

Ms. Tonna gave a superlative performance of "Callejeo", a song about a desperate maja who cannot find her majo.

We also enjoyed the contribution of the English Horn, played by Diane Lesser, which added greatly to the beauty of "La maja dolorosa, No. 1". Borja Mariño's piano was exceptionally fine throughout with much marcato and staccato playing that successfully imitated the guitar.

We also heard Canciones amatorias, of which our favorite was the lively "Iban al pinar", sung by Ms. Belén Gómez. Mr. Mariño's piano was particularly lovely in "Mañanica era".

His piano also stood out in "La boyra", excerpted from Four Songs for Male Voice. We wanted so much to experience a little more drama from Mr. Ahualli, especially in "Dia y noche de Diego ronda" which seemed to cry out for a show of personality.  Perhaps if he sang "off the book" he would be freer to be more expressive.

The presence of dancer Anna de la Paz was an unexpected treat. Her first number was "Danza de los ojos verdes" which Granados composed for the dancer Antonia Mercé, known as "La Argentina" because her parents were dancers on tour in Argentina when she was born. An interesting tidbit is that her costume was designed by Ignacio Zuolaga, a famous Spanish painter. This very dress was reproduced for Sra. de la Paz for tonight's performance. She danced with a fan, but for her second number, the "Intermezzo" from Goyescas, she employed castanets and percussive foot work which was thrilling to hear. She is a dancer of great grace and style!

As encore, the three singers performed Elegia eterna with its gorgeous melodies.

Due to the fact that Granados' death was a century ago, and his birth a century and a half ago, there will be many more celebrations of his oeuvre. Information can be obtained from the City University of New York Foundation for Iberian Music.

(c) meche kroop

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