Gala Concert of Madrid’s Teatro Real Orchestra  

The Three-Cornered Hat – Suites 1 & 2
Nights in the Gardens of Spain
La vida breve – Interlude and Dance No.1
Iberia – Book I: El Puerto & Evocación; Book II: Triana [orch. Arbós]
Doña Francisquita – Canción del ruiseñor
La tabernera del Puerto – En un pais de fabula
El bateo – Prelude
Nieto & Giménz
El barbero de Sevilla – Me llaman la primorosa

Javier Perianes (piano)

Sabina Puértolas (soprano)

Orchestra of the Teatro Real
Juanjo Mena

3 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 15 September, 2022
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

With this concert, billed as “A Celebration on Spanish Music” and commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Sister City Agreement between Madrid and New York City, the Orchestra of the Teatro Real (Royal Opera of Madrid) made a triumphant and elegant US debut.

The festivities began with a characterful reading of Suite No.1 from Manuel de Falla’s ballet The Three-Cornered Hat. Juanjo Mena brought out all the many colors in the music’s palette and paid fastidious attention to the score’s widely contrasting moods – the irony in ‘La tarde’, the sensuality in ‘Danza de la molinera’, the tenderness in ‘El  Corregidor – La esposa del molinero’, and the frenzied agitation in ‘Las uvas’.

Suite No.2 ended the concert. Mena accentuated the triple dance rhythms of the opening Seguidillas, highlighted the contrasts between the intensity of the strings and the delicacy of the winds and brass in the Farruca, and gleefully danced his way through much of the ‘Danza final’, a fiery and frenetically paced Jota.

Javier Perianes played Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, which the composer originally composed as a set of nocturnes for solo piano and later turned into a piece for orchestra with piano obbligato. Mena conducted a sensuous and spellbinding performance, with Perianes’s expressive playing providing stylish support.

Then came three pieces from Isaac Albéniz’s Iberia (for piano) in the arrangements by Enrique Fernández Arbós. There were many lovely moments, especially the wind interludes in the impressionistic ‘El Puerto’, the enchanting English horn solo at the beginning of ‘Evocacíon’ leading into the passionate passages for full orchestra; and the playful exchanges between the strings and the winds in ‘Triana’.

The second half opened with a virtuosic account of the Interlude and Spanish Dance from Falla’s opera La vida breve. The music’s mysterious opening immediately seduced before metamorphizing into a dazzlingly exuberant dance played with phenomenal precision.

Then zarzuelaSabina Puértolas quickly revealed a lively and charismatic presence in a bright and bouncy rendition of ‘Cancion del ruiseñor’ (Song of the Nightingale) from Amadeu Vives’s Doña Francisquita as her light and agile lyric soprano lovingly embraced each legato line. In her second selection, ‘En un pais de fabula’ (In a Fairytale Land) – a ballad about an old musician in the last moments of his life – from Pablo Sorozábal’s La Tabernera del Puerto (The Port Tavern Keeper), she unveiled crystal-clear diction and great flexibility as her voice moved into the upper tessitura and easily handled the high coloratura. The orchestra played the Prelude from Federico Chueca’s final zarzuela, El bateo (The Baptism). The brass was at its finest in the brief and rhythmically brilliant piece, following which the singer returned – having traded her voluminous and flowery frock for a slinky and sparkling gown – to interpret ‘Me llaman la primorosa’ (They Call Me the Primorosa) from Manuel Nieto and Gerónimo Giménez’s El barber de Sevilla (The Barber of Seville) – a seductive polonaise about a woman whose physical charms men find impossible to resist. Her virtuosic gifts were on full display as she demonstrated complete control of dynamics, melodic line, and timbre in a thrilling performance. In response to a rousing standing ovation, she offered an encore, a flirtatious and fast-paced rendering of ‘Carceleras’ (The Prisoners’ Song) from Ruperto Chapí’s Las hijas del Zebedeo (The Daughters of the Zebedeo).

As an encore, a joyfully energetic interpretation of what is arguably the most popular of all instrumental zarzuela excerpts – the Interlude from Gerónimo Giménez’s La Boda de Luis Alonso (The Wedding of Luis Alonso).

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