BBC Music Magazine - - Reviews -

La vida breve

Nancy Fabi­ola Her­rera, Christina Faus, Raquel Lo­jen­dio, Aquiles Machado, Gus­tavo Peña, José An­to­nio López, Josep Miquel Ramón; Se­gundo Fal­cón (fla­menco); Vi­cente Coves (gui­tar); RTVE Sym­phony Cho­rus; BBC Phil­har­monic/juanjo Mena Chan­dos CHAN 20032 62:08 mins

This record­ing was made last sum­mer, at the end of Juanjo Mena’s tenure in charge of the BBC Phil­har­monic – a fruit­ful part­ner­ship for Chan­dos, for whom they have filled cat­a­logue gaps across a spec­trum of Span­ish and Latin Amer­i­can mu­sic, from Al­béniz and Tu­rina to Gi­nastera and, most re­cently, Ar­riaga, the ‘Span­ish Mozart’. Falla’s one-ac­ter – be­gun in 1904, the same year as Madam But­ter­fly, but not per­formed un­til 1913 – is the quin­tes­sen­tial Span­ish verismo opera, and while there’s plenty of Ibe­rian flavour to this record­ing, in­clud­ing a fla­menco can­tor of prop­erly reedy vo­cal depth, Mena never lets us for­get that the work is in that Ital­ian tra­di­tion. If the set-piece dances don’t quite burst out of the speak­ers, that’s be­cause they are part of a big­ger dra­matic pic­ture.

Salud, the An­dalu­sian gypsy girl who loves Paco and gate­crashes his wed­ding party only to drop dead at his feet, is sung by Nancy Fabi­ola ★er­rera, whose voice is up to every ex­pres­sive nu­ance of the role. She is com­pelling, even if she doesn’t sound as ide­ally fresh as Vic­to­ria de los An­ge­les, the Salud of Rafael Früh­beck de Bur­gos’s record­ing; Fabi­ola ★er­rera’s con­so­nants are quite a way back in her voice, and when her thoughts take a tragic turn she can sound older than Cristina Faus, who plays her grand­mother. Faith­less Paco is sung with the verve of a true rake by Aquiles Machado, and the smaller parts are all well cast, es­pe­cially Gus­tavo Peña singing the Voice from the Forge, an un­seen yet cru­cial role whose re­it­er­a­tions of the opera’s mantra – ‘Wretched is the man born to be an anvil rather than a ham­mer’ – add real char­ac­ter. Erica Jeal PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★


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