VIVES:  Bohemios
Maria Bayo (Cossette); Luis Lima (Roberto); Santiago S. Jerico (Victor); Carlos Alvarez (Bohemio); Rosa Maria Ysas (Pelagia); Maria JosÈ Martos (Juana); Isabel Monar (Cecilia); Alfonso Echeverria (Girard); Emilio Sanchez (Marcelo); Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife/Antonio Ros Marbà, cond.
NAIVE V 4894 (F) (DDD) TT: 42:49
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GRANADOS-FERRER:  Danzas Espanolas
Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orch/Salvador Brotons, cond.
NAXOS 8.555956 (B) (DDD) TT:  58:50
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Two delightful CDs, the first a fine introduction to the world of the zarzuela, the second an imaginative set of arrangements of music by Enrique Granados originally written for piano.  Naxos already has a splendid CD of Granados' Spanish Dances in tasteful—and highly effective—arrangements by Peter Breier for guitar and orchestra, played by guitarist Norbert Kraft with Breier conducting (see REVIEW). Now they have this set of transcriptions of the same works orchestrated by composer, violinist and conductor Rafael Ferrer, who obviously has keen understanding of the genre. It all works very well, and the performances by the "Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra" (the orchestra began life as "Municipal Orchestra of Barcelona;" in 1994 it began its representation of two regions) are excellent by any standards, as is recording quality.  I find Breier's guitar arrangements more appealing, but both versions are delectable listening experiences of music described by CÈsar Cui as "excellent, charming as much for the melody as for the harmonization"—and both are budget-priced. 

Bohemios is based on a novel by Henri de Murger, the same one that inspired Puccini to write La BohËme in 1896, Leoncavallo his opera of the same name the following year. It is an early work by Vives composed in 1904, nineteen years before his famous Doña Francisquita.  A setting of simple Bohemian life, Bohemios takes place in Paris instead of the usual Spanish location of most zarzuelas, with a libretto by two of the composer's favorite collaborators, Guillermo Perrin and Miguel de Palacios. The plot is quite inconsequential, focusing on Robert, the composer, who is writing an opera based on his friend Victor's text, and their neighbor, the young girl Cossette, who is auditioning for the stage. In the final scene all three achieve success with Cossette and Roberto singing of their mutual love—no tragedy, no poignant death scene, simply a string of captivating tunes. A highlight is an intermezzo unique for its use of pizzicatti in its opening and closing sections. Bohemios has always been a hit with audiences; in the 14-year period since its premiere it was performed about 18,000 times. This recording is excellent in every way although Maria Bayo's voice hardly suggests a young singer at the beginning of her career. Profuse program notes and a complete libretto in French, Spanish, English and German are included.

R.E.B. (July 2002)