Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


LUISA FERNANDA Music by Federico Moreno Torroba. 2006. Opus Arte. Directed and designed by Emilio Sagi. Conducted by Jesus Lopez Cobos. Luisa Fernanda (Nancy Herrera); Duchess Carolina (Mariola Cantarero); Javier Moreno (Jose Bros); Vidal Hernando (Placido Domingo); Anibal (Javier Ferrer); Rosita (Sabina Puertolas).

Staged at the Teatro Real in Madrid, this is a production of the early 20th century zarzuela by Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba. [A Spanish zarzuela is a combination of opera and musical theater with spoken dialogue sections.] Luisa is supposedly engaged to the man-about-town Javier, but she has another suitor in the middle-aged Vidal, who hopes to acquire her for himself. Meanwhile the Duchess Carolina uses her wiles to try to win both men to her cause, but they wind up on opposite sides of a struggle between patriots and revolutionaries -- or something along those lines. Cut from three acts to two with cuts in dialogue, this stream-lined production with its stylized sets is sometimes hard to follow. Luisa Fernanda is very popular and famous in Spain, although it's never made major inroads in the U.S. While Herrera and Cantarero are fine in the major female roles, the two tenors Bros and Domingo [Domingo actually singing a baritone role] are simply superb. Torroba's music is lilting and pleasant including such highlights as Javier's act one aria, the duet between Luisa and Vidal, and Vidal's aria of love to Luisa in the final act. Fans of this work may find much to quibble about in the stark modern approach which eschews colorful sets and literal interpretations in favor of admittedly sometimes striking black and white light shows. Still the music and singing put this over.

Verdict: Domingo still has the spark! ***.

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