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Torroba Luisa Fernanda

Vidal Hernando: Plácido Domingo
Luisa Fernanda: Nancy Herrera
Javier Moreno: José Bros
Duchess Carolina: Mariola Cantarero
Mariana: Raquel Pierotti

Madrid Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Jesús López Cobos
Stage Director: Emilio Sagi

Opus Arte DVD OA 0969 D

Zarzuela is not an established entertainment in UK, and judging by two reports of this production as seen in Washington, it isn't popular fare in USA either; described there as "a kind of Spanish popular opera, not unlike the operettas that graced European and American stages in the early 20th century. Occupying the transition zone between classical and popular staged music productions, zarzuela looks back, as do operettas, to the old German "singspiels" and forward to the Broadway musical".

Helped immensely by Sagi's elegant stylish settings, with costumes mostly in white, together with the luscious melodic music of Luisa Fernanda (Frederico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982) captivated me from the first minutes and allowed the simple formulaic story to hold attention. It is given to a rapturous reception in Madrid by distinguished opera singers, who seem to be necessary to encourage suspension of disbelief; the singing is the core of zarzuela.

Sceptics would do well to orientate themselves to the unfamiliar genre first with the "extra" interviews, and will respond to the lifelong involvement of the director and Placido Domingo with Torroba's tunes, which everyone got to know and sing before the days of mechanical reproduction, tracing back through several generations. He was distinguished by his skill in orchestration (other zarzuela composers shared the job).

Domingo in the baritone lead is in towering form, with Nancy Herrera and the other chief singers taking their parts with distinction. Afficionados of Gilbert and Sullivan and of Offenbach operettas should find this introduction to what is acknoweldged to be one of the best zarzuelas rewarding, and I welcome Opus Arte's DVD as 'something different'; well worth making its acquaintance.

Peter Grahame Woolf