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.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


Elizabeth Torras Aguilera, Rosa D'Imperio, Anna Tonna, Ricardo Rosa, Miguel Borrallo, and Francisco Roldan

Readers will recall that we are truly a fan of zarzuela. Listening to this afternoon's recital at Weill Recital Hall we felt as if we were offered a delicious and tempting succession of tapas. It was completely satisfying but we cannot stifle our desire for a full meal, i.e. a full-length production of a zarzuela, complete with scenery.

Zarzuela is the Spanish counterpart of German singspiel, French opera comique, Italian opera buffa, and American musical theater. They involve highly dramatic stories and magnificent music--tuneful and memorable. The Spanish language is splendidly singable with its open vowels.

The four singers we heard are well known in operatic circles, especially abroad. Soprano Rosa D'Imperio has a compelling presence onstage and a bright flexible soprano well suited to the material.  Mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna delights with the warmth of her tone and ability to relate to the audience.

Tenor Miguel Borrallo has a sweetness of timbre that makes him the perfect romantic hero and baritone Ricardo Rosa has a sizable size that fills the hall with sound.

As if this were not enough, dancer Elizabeth Torras Aguilera treated us to dances in several different style with appropriate costuming to match.  In "Fandango" by Luigi Boccherini, an 18th c. Italian composer, she danced in an early style that we have witnessed in dance companies specializing in the Baroque. The steps are graceful and courtly. We enjoyed the guitar accompaniment of Francisco Roldan.

For the flamenco-inflected "Asturias" by Isaac Albeniz, she rocked a red gown with a long train manipulated by kicking, accompanying herself with castanets. The softness of her wrists was impressive, as was the percussive footwork. 

For Enrique Granados' "Doce Danzas Espanolas" Ms. Tonna sang "Danza V", a text written by Luis Munoz Lorente while Ms. Torras danced. It was a perfect pairing of talents. This is the centennial of Torroba's visit to the USA. Sadly, he died on his way back to Spain

In the final number on the program "Mazurka de las sombrillas" from F. Moreno Torroba's Luisa Fernandez, she carried a beautiful lace parasol giving herself a lighter than air impression. .

Accompanist for the program was Maxim Anikushin. He opened the program with solos by Ravel and Shostakovich ("Aborada del Gracioso" and "Spanish Dance". It is no secret that Spanish culture has inspired French and Russian composers, among others. His playing is forceful but the strength of the singers vocalism never allowed him to overpower them.

Among so many splendid selections, it is difficult to choose our favorites! In Ruperto Chapi's "Porque de mis ojos los tuyos retiras?" from La Revoltosa, the tension between the characters resolves into harmony.  Ms. Tonna and Mr. Rosa were outstanding.Ms. Tonna was equally impressive singing an aria of gratitude "Dejame besar tus manos generosas" from Jose Serrano's La Dolorosa, with Mr. Borrallo. 

This tenor was exquisite in "Por el humo se sabe donde esta el fuego" from Amadeo Vives' Dona Francisquita. No matter how rhythmic the accompaniment is, he maintains a fine legato and noticeable artistry in the melismatic passages. His tender timbre was just right for "Bella enamorada" from Soutullo y Vert's El Ultimo Romantico.

Ms. D'Imperio gave a stunning performance of "La maja y el ruisenor" from Enrique Granados' Goyescas. Mr. Anikushin's piano made the sound of the nightingale as beautiful as birdsong. Her performance captivated the audience.

Mr. Rosa's generous baritone was just right for "Diga usted Senor platero" from Francisco Alonso's La Parranda. He knows just when and how long to hold the "money note" and how to make a graceful portamento.  We liked the way he changed vocal colors for the central section and the final crescendo.

It was truly an incredible afternoon! Audience members were so enthusiastic that several numbers got standing ovations. One rarely witnesses such excitement and appreciation at a vocal recital.

(c) meche kroop

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