Ana MarÌa S·nchez: Zarzuela

In 1977 I visited Spain for the first time
as the great days of phenomenal singers at the Verona Arena were over.
Incidentally, it was while listening to a short wave broadcast of Flemish
Radio I heard that Callas had died. But, apart from the magnificent scenery
and important historical buildings, what impressed me most was the astounding
amount of zarzuela recordings by so many wonderful artists and I returned
home loaded with recitals by Aragall, lots of Kraus and tons of LP’s.
In those 30 years the rise of so many good Spanish tenors has made zarzuela a
household world with many vocal buffs, even if they are not able to
understand one word of Spanish. The internet has played its role, too, with
one of the best sites I know, the wonderful hosted by British
director Chris Webber, author of The Zarzuela Companion. It is the
best book in English about the genre and it provides in great detail the
stories of almost all recorded Zarzuelas. As a result, most of the music
nowadays sounds as familiar to me as the operas of Verdi or the operettas of

But not only tenors made their mark with the music. Though most of the
world famous Spanish female singers never sang a zarzuela on the scene, all
of them recorded a lot. Victoria de los ¡ngeles, Montserrat CaballÈ, Teresa
Berganza have recorded several recitals. Maybe the best work of Pilar
Lorengar and Angeles Gulin is to be found in the many complete recordings or
highlights they sang. Only the fabulous spinto MarÌa Rodriguez, and she is a
real zarzuela singer, never got her chance though happily she can be found on
a cheap, but exciting, 12 DVD-set recorded during actual performances.
Therefore, Ana MarÌa S·nchez has some stiff competition as some historical
recordings can hardly be equalled. She probably realized this as well and
found a very acceptable solution. Almost all arias on this record are from
well known zarzuelas; but, with the exceptions of La Tempranica and
La Gran Via, they are not the hits of the genre to be found on the
CD’s of the truly great. This somewhat unhackneyed soprano repertoire
is perhaps the greatest quality of this CD. But there are some drawbacks as
well. S·nchez has a big lyric voice that, like many big voices, doesn’t
record too well (CaballÈ and Domingo always sounded to me far better in the
house than on records). Actually the impression one gets here is of a rather
common voice, lacking somewhat the enveloping warmth the soprano displayed in
her recording of Massenet’s Le Roi de Lahore.

S·nchez is at her best in introspective arias like the one from
Gigantes; but she is too placid the moment some firework is needed
in the Soroz·bal arias because the notorious Spanish temperament is almost
completely lacking. The soprano is not a top note huntress as the voice is
limited. It often spreads above the stave and gets a sour edge. She therefore
stays on the safe side, sometimes even on the too safe side as she opts for
the mezzo-tessitura and then almost has to scrape the bottom of the voice as
happens in the second Tempranica aria. I think Ana MarÌa S·nchez is
foremost an opera singer lacking the lightness of touch and some of the
ability for rapid fire singing that is necessary if one wants to bring this
music completely alive.

Jan Neckers

image_description=Ana MarÌa S·nchez: Zarzuela
product_title=Ana MarÌa S·nchez: Zarzuela
product_by=Ana MarÌa S·nchez, soprano, Orquesta SinfÛnica y Coro de RTVE, Enrique GarcÌa Asensio (cond.), Mariano Alfonso (chorus)
Recorded at the Teatro Monumental de Madrid, 12ñ16 July 2004
product_id=RTVE CD 65225