This is a 2006 World Premiere studio recording of the first complete rendition of Isaac Albéniz's lyric comedy (although I would take issue with the comedic aspect of this opera, thinking of it more as a romantic drama) "Pepita Jimenez."
Sung in English as it was intended to be performed -- although when it was first sung it was translated into Italian -- this version of Albéniz's work is most true to what the composer initially intended. It is the third and final version of this work. (The first version contained one act, 1895; the second version, 1896, contained two acts with an expanded orchestral element; and the third revision, circa 1899-1904, contained additional enhancements to the orchestral work.) There is a detailed history of how this opera came about, its many revisions and the difficulty of finding a home for Spanish opera "Opera Espanola" for a population that preferred the lighter zarzuela to what many considered a genre better suited for Italian, German or French audiences.
Based on a novel of the same name by Juan Valera, the libretto by Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, tells the tale of Pepita Jiménez's (Carol Vaness) infatuation with a young seminarian Don Luis de Vargas (Plácido Domingo) and of his mutual feelings for her, inhibited by his commitment to the life of a priest. In the end love conquers.
Conducted by José de Eusebio, leading the Orquesta y Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid, I found everything in this offering exactly what I look for in opera, as explained rather exactly by the publisher's notes. The opera combines three major trends in music style: the storyline, of course, is regional in its orientation, borrowing from zarzuela; the lyricism is, indeed, Pucciniesque, lending rich, lush and romantic orchestration to support the text and finally, there is a strong a hint of Wagnerian-like passages that reinforce the more dramatic elements and give this opera its musical depth. The short version of all this is simple: this is a wonderful and expressive operatic score that contains moving melodies accompanied by solid and rich orchestral flourishes throughout. I listened to this opera for the first time and liked it from the outset, which is a lot more that can be said for many of the current offerings that require time to appreciate, if appreciated at all.
The sound is decidedly Spanish and at times majestic in its presentation. The sound quality if superb. As an aside, I much prefer the studio versions (which this is) to live recordings. As for the singing it is solid and expressive. It's always reason to celebrate when a long lost work is introduced; the question is always: is it worth buying. In this case, Isaac Albéniz's "Pepita Jiménez" is definitely worth owning. My guess is, you will listen to it often because of its moving, melodic score. It's what all good opera sounds like. This review appeared at OperaOnline.us.