Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Gustavo Pena, Lidia Vinyes Curtis, José Antonio López; BBC Singers; BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Josep Pons
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902609 59:33 mins
Following defeat in the 1898 war with America, Spain saw a surge in interest in matters of national identity. Enrique Granados (1867-1916) was one of many artists who – while supposedly eschewing overt politics – was attracted to Goya’s cultural ‘psychology’ and ‘palette’, to which he paid homage in his celebrated piano suite, Goyescas (1909-11). Less well known is Granados’s opera of the same title, utilising themes from the suite and composed in 1915 following its success.
Cast in three tableaux, this live recording from an accomplished BBC Symphony Orchestra under conductor Josep Pons reveals the opera to be really a work of two parts. Tableaux one and two give prominent place to choruses of Majas and Majos (lustily sung by the BBC Singers); ordinary women and men known for their extravagant Spanish dress. Their function is to comment on a fastengineered, verismo-type love conflict involving two couples, Paquiro (José Antonio Lopéz) and Pepa (Lidia Vinyes Curtis), and Fernando (Gustavo Peña) and Rosario (Nancy Fabiola Herrera). Tableaux three focuses exclusively – with echoes of Wagner – on the latter pair, who confirm their love for each other before Fernando is killed in a duel with his supposed rival.
It’s an uneven scheme, not helped by the trite wordiness of Fernando Periquet’s libretto and a lack of tension and character development. However, the cast acquit themselves well, if not with persuasively fandango passion. Granados’s thick scoring sometimes clogs the action but, nonetheless, it’s in the sweeping orchestral interludes that he shines brightest here. Steph Power