lietofinelondon

Aria For … Thursday – El bajel que no recela

In Aria For ..., Classical Music, Opera on June 20, 2013 at 9:33 am

It was in a dusty CD shop tucked behind the Ramblas that I first discovered Nebra and Maria Bayo.

José de Nebra – who lived in the 1760s – is kind of a big deal in Spain. He is seen as the ‘father’ of Zarzuela, and this aria from a dedicated recital disc by Ms Bayo and original instrument ensemble Al Ayre Español – who champion his music – reveals a composer who shouldn’t be overlooked, and not only if you like early Eighteenth century opera.

If my Spanish is up to scratch, El bajel que no recela – from Vendado es amor, no es ciego – with its preceding accompagnato is very clearly a simile aria in the best Metastasian tradition.

This beautifully crafted aria shows what an accomplished composer Nebra was. The expansive introduction with its surging strings and colourful horn writing leads into an aria that stands comparison with any written at the time by those composers being increasingly performed today. Take for example Joyce DiDonato’s excellent Drama Queens recital disc. Yet Nebra lifts it further beyond just being a run-of-the-mill aria with an attention to little details like the delicate scoring for oboe.

And just like Nebra himself, Maria Bayo was a find in that dusty shop all those years ago. She has a finely balanced and clean soprano. In this aria she skilfully negotiates the wide leaps and occasional coloratura with ease while shading the vocal line subtly in the middle section. And in the returning da capo, her ornamentation is both skilful and tasteful.

In fact this disc led me to hunt out all her recordings and I am surprised that we don’t see more of her here in the UK.

This aria brings the entire album back into mind. Somewhere on the disc is an aria with castanets.

Now to hunt it out.

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