Marina, a tenor's opera
Despite the fact that Marina has a female protagonist it has always been considered a "tenor's opera" given the brilliance of the parts written in this key and the outstanding possibilities they give the performer. The tenor's arias are those most remembered by the public.
Fortunately three outstanding tenors of the period covered by our collection recorded Marina. In this album we present versions by two of these artists (Lázaro and Fleta). The third, José Polet is not included as we intend to dedicate an album to his work.
The version recorded by Hipólito Lázaro with Mercedes Caspir, Marco Redondo and José Mardones is the most complete (considered complete at the time of recording) and is valued as a work of reference given that it includes the voices of the best possible cast of artists of the era.
As an appendix we include a fragment of the first act sung by the bass José Mardones and the chorus which appears in the original 78 recordings but is not available in modern scores.
Having examined various original 78 r.p.m. recordings we have found that they all present distortions most evident in the fortes and which we have been unable to remove.
MARINA, genesis, development and content.
Marina, well-kown in Spain, is a zarzuela-opera or rather, an opera-zarzuela and the sole cause of the posthumous fame of its author Pascual-Emilio Arrieta (1823 - 1890), one of the many composers to emerge in 19th century Spain due to the enormous influence of Italian opera. Arrieta studied in Italy under the now forgotten Nicola Vaccai. In Italy he achieved one of his goals:he successfully premiered the opera Ildegonda in Milan (1849) with libretto by the celebrated writer, composer and adventurer Temistocle Solera. He also won a prize for composition in a competition held by the Scala Theatre in Milan. Armed with these triumphs he returned to Madrid where he was presented to Queen Isabel II. (It is said that he became her lover).
Arrieta and the Opera.
Isabel II named Arrieta Director of the Teatro del Real Palocio which had opened in 1849 in the royal palace given the queen's impatience caused by the interminable building works of the Teatro Real which had been started in 1818. The first performance given at the small theatre in the palace was Ildegondo to coincide with the arrival in Madrid of Temistocle Solera as official librettist.
Together Arrieta and Solera wrote an opera for the new theatre: La conquista di Granata (1850) and the composer seemed set on the road to operatic glory. This early success was probably the cause of his scornful attitude towards the young composers Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, Joaquin Gaztambide, Rafael Hernando, Jose Ynzenga and Cristóbal Oudrid who had just successfully "unearthed" the traditional zarzuela form and had formed the "Sociedad Artistica" with the object of exploiting the success that the newly discovered zarzuela was obtaining in Madrid and the rest of Spain. Arrieta considered himself above the "zarzuelistas"but in 1850, when the "Teatro Real" finally opened in Madrid Arrieta lost his position of favour in the court and finally he affiliated himself to the "Sociedad Artistico". Of all Arrieta's zarzuelas the only one to really survive (despite the relative fame of El Domino Azul (1853) and El Grumete (1853) is the celebrated Marina (1855) written with libretto by the Catalan poet Francesc Camprodon. Conceived originally as a zarzuela Marina was premiered in the Teatro Lírico in Madrid on September the 24th 1855 and was an acclaimed success. Marina formed part of the theatre's repertory of zarzuela until 1871 when the tenor Enrico Tamberlick persuaded the theatre to accept the operatic version of the work. Arrieta and Ramos Cárrion restructured the zarzuela, removing most spoken texts and converting others into orchestrated pieces; they also added duos for soprano and bass, tenor and baritone and tenor and soprano and a rondo for the protagonist, at which point the famous cadenza of the madnss scene in Lucia di Lammermoor is generally introduced. The operatic version of Marina was premiered at the Teatro Real on March 16th 1874 with the tenor Enrico Tamberlick and the soprano Angiolina Ortolani. The success of this version was even greater than that of the zarzuela and it was to become the most successful opera in Spanish repertory, the only 19th century Spanish opera to have survived to this day.
In Catalanya Marina was immensely popular. To enhance the Catalan character of the work a Sardana (Catalan folkloric dance) was often introduced. In 1893, Marina was first performed at the Liceu as a zarzuela and then as an opera with Jose Palet on December the 5th in 1914, and performed in successive opera seasons. In 1929 the historical recording now offered was made with the best contemporary performers: Mercé Capsir, Hipòlit Lázaro, Marcos Redondo and Jose Mardones.
Although some negative criticism was received (Isaac Albéniz said that in the entire score there was "not one silent semi-quaver that could be considered Spanish") Marina is an attractive work which opens with an impressive instrumental prelude; followed by the first choral intervention, Baracola. Marina, in love with Jorge, a ship's captain, thinks constantly of her beloved and expresses her love in a first aria "Pensar en él" both pieces of clear Italian inspiration. There follows the presentation of the bass Pascual, Marina's rustic suitor, described as rough and ready by Arrieta in in the duet between Pascual and Marina "No, tosco y rudo trabajador".
Captain Jorge's ship arrives in Lloret from Cuba, and on arriving in Catalunya he salutes his homeland; in the original version he sings "Costa la de Levante, playa la de Lloret" however after the Civil War the anti-Catalan stance temporarily changed the lyrics to 'playas las que llore",thus removing the only Catalan reference from Francesc Camprodon's libretto. The aria is famous for its luminosity and the possibilities it gives the tenor to make an impact on the listener reaching high notes not included in the score but traditional in performances of the opera. The aria continues with a second part which evokes a maritime scene ("Al ver en fa inmenso llanura del mar"). Marina and the chorus join the tenor in a conventional ending. There follows a quartet in the Italian style for the four lead voices: tenor, soprano, baritone and bass and the act ends with with a tenor-baritone duet, here the tenor's phrase "Feliz morada" is intoduced by a harp. The baritone enters a little later and ends on a considerably high note.
The second act begins with the chorus's baracola: "Marinero",which gives the scene a rhythm which the audience associated with maritime scenes. Pascual enters and convinced that he will marry Marina sings his heart out, however Marina is sad and an oboe solo expresses her her pain which seems to be denied by the lively tone of her next aria. Pascual and Jorge are affected by the energy trasmitted to the fishermen by Roque the baritone.
The third act starts with a prelude intentionally painful and profound including a trumpet solo evidently influenced by including Don Pasquale. There follows the famous drinker's chorus led by the tenor Jorge's solo. After a second piece presented by Roque the cast returns to the opening theme. In the tercet performed by Jorge, Marina and Roque the latter's comical ideas lighten the sadness of the lovers who have not yet declared their love. Marina sings a short passage, Jorge and the chorus then enter accompanied by a clapping of hands; this is the only scene with a distinctive Spanish feel. Roque and the chorus sing the famous Havanera "Dichoso aquel que tiene la casa a flote".
An oboe solo accompanies Jorge and Marina's duo leading to their reconciliation. This duo is reminiscent of Italian romantic productions.
The opera should end here but a final scene was added for the soprano Angiolina Ortolani. This scene ends with a cadenza traditional in the finale of the madness scene of Lucia de Lammermoor, performed by soprano and solo flute.
Thus ends Marina an attractive and entertaining opera which allows its performers a great range of possibilities despite weaknesses in both plot and structure.