Zarzuela is the Spanish equivalent of Viennese operetta, but whereas the Austrians liked to hear about the aristocracy, the Madrileños enjoyed plots about everyday people. The genre went into decline after its heyday at the turn of the last century until it was briefly revived by the popularity of Doña Francisquita, Vives's masterpiece, first performed in 1923. With a well-written libretto based on a play by Lope de Vega, it has a conventional plot about a young girl pretending to be in love with an older man to arouse a young man's jealousy, and of course it ends happily. There isn't much of the 20th century here – the music is a throwback to 19th-century style – and it bubbles along merrily, full of good tunes and charming ensembles.
This production is pretty good, though much of the spoken dialogue is omitted, so sometimes the plot doesn't make much sense. The principals are fine: Maria Bayo's soprano is in good shape, and she sings sweetly and clearly, and while I'm not fond of the metallic edge to Alfredo Kraus's voice, it's strong, accurate, and virile. The secondary roles are weaker. There's a lot for the chorus to do, and the Tenerife forces are richly blended and do it well. Ros-Marbá and the Tenerife Orchestra (in the Canary Islands, Kraus's birthplace) play idiomatically and effectively. Good sound, good notes, and libretto. It all adds up to a cheerful and thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours.
Copyright © 2003, Alexander Morin