Enrique GRANADOS (1867 – 1916) María del Carmen - Opera in Three Acts (1898)
Diana Veronese (soprano) – María del Carmen; Larisa Kostyuk (mezzo)
– Concepción; Silvia Vázquez (soprano) – Fuensanta; Jesús
Suaste (baritone) – Pencho; Dante Alcalá (tenor) – Javier;
Gianfranco Montresor (baritone) – Domingo; David Curry (tenor)
– Don Fulgencio; Alberto Arrabal (baritone) – Pepuso; Stewart
Kempster (bass) – Migalo; Ricardo Mirabelli (tenor) – Antón;
Alex Ashworth (baritone) – Roque; Nicholas Sharratt (tenor) –
Andrés; Vicenç Esteve (tenor) – Un cantaor huertano; Wexford Festival
Opera Chorus, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Belarus/Max Bragado-Darman
rec. live, Theatre Royal, Wexford, Ireland, 23, 26, 29 October 2003.
Previously issued on Marco Polo 8.225292-93.
The Spanish libretto is available online NAXOS 8.660144-45 [43:33 + 59:48]
Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados and Manuel de Falla are regarded as
the most significant representatives of Spanish nationalism in music
during the late 19th century and the early 20th
century. Granados is probably best known for his piano compositions
and songs, but he also wrote music for the stage. The last and most
famous of these was the opera Goyescas, based on his piano suite with
the same title. This was inspired by the paintings of his compatriot
Goya. That work, completed in 1915, was intended for the Paris Opéra,
but due to the war this wasn’t possible and instead it was premiered
at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 28 January 1916. With names
like Giovanni Martinelli and Giuseppe De Luca in the cast and presented
in a double bill with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci it was
a great success. Granados himself attracted a lot of attention, including
an invitation from President Wilson to play at the White House. As a
result of this he was unable to catch the boat for his return voyage
to Spain and instead took a passage to England, and then went by ferry
across the English Channel to Dieppe in France. The ferry was torpedoed
by a German submarine and Granados drowned when he tried to save his
wife - a bitterly sad end to a successful visit.
Granados' first opera, Maria del Carmen, was also a
success, at least at the premiere in Madrid on 11 November 1898, where
it ran for nineteen performances. When it arrived in Catalonia, half
a year later, it met with strong protests from the locals who disliked
Granados, himself a Catalan, but one who had distanced himself from
Catalan culture. Maria del Carmen had neither Catalan plot
nor Catalan music. In spite of this it had a run of eleven performances
and was even briefly revived at the end of the year. It was also played
a few times in Valencia, but then it wasn’t seen anywhere until
1935, when it was produced in Barcelona with Conchita Badia in the title
role. The rest is silence, presumably until 2003, when this recording
was made during performances at the Wexford Festival.
Granados regarded Maria del Carmen as his best opera and Queen
Maria Cristina awarded him the Charles III Cross after the initial run
in Madrid. It has been described as a Spanish version of Cavalleria
rusticana with a happy ending. It is set in the region of Murcia
in a village where a poor farmer Pencho is in love with Maria. In a
fight over water rights Pencho has wounded the wealthy landowner Javier
and has fled to Algeria. Maria nursed Javier during Pencho’s absence
– and Javier has fallen in love with her: the traditional love
triangle. When Pencho returns Maria tells him that she has promised
to marry Javier to save Pencho from prosecution. He can’t accept
this and at a fiesta the two men meet and agree to a duel. When the
duel is about to start the doctor arrives revealing that Javier is dying
of tuberculosis. Nothing can save him. Javier is then reconciled with
Pencho and Maria and helps them to escape.
It is almost 120 years since Maria del Carmen created such
a controversy in Barcelona. Today we need not bother about whether the
flavour of the music is Catalan or just Spanish in a more general sense.
The score is atmospheric and rich with melodies and the Prelude, which
adds a chorus for the last couple of minutes, is a fine piece, which
could be an attractive part of a programme with both orchestra and chorus
present. The Prelude to act III is also good, possibly the most beautiful
number in the opera. Maria’s entrance, Canción de la Zagalica
(CD 1 tr. 7) is another highlight.
The singing is good with some of the participants standing out. David
Curry as Don Fulgencio, the doctor, is a strong personality. Dante Alcalá,
(Javier) sports a beautiful tenor and Gianfranco Montresor (Javier’s
father, Domingo) is a pleasure to listen to. Silvia Vázquez (Fuensanta)
is another memorably good singer. The powerful choral contributions
should also be mentioned.
Spanish-speaking readers will find the libretto available online. Those
with limited or no knowledge of Spanish will be fully satisfied with
the detailed synopsis in the booklet.
While Maria del Carmen is hardly an indispensable opera it
still has a great deal to offer and lovers of Spanish music of the period
should definitely give it a try.