Falla: La vida breve

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Manuel de Falla
LABELS: C Major DVD
ALBUM TITLE: Manuel de Falla: La vida breve
WORKS: La vida breve
PERFORMER: Christine Gallardo-Domâs, Sandra Fernández (sopranos), Maria Luisa Cornacho, Natalia Lunar (mezzo-soprano), Jorge de Léon, Antonio Lozano (tenors), Isaac Galan (baritone), Felipe Bou (bass); Cor de la Comunitat Valencia; Orquestra de la Comunitat Valencia/Lorin Maazel; dir. Giancarlo del Monaco (Valencia, 2010)
CATALOGUE NO: 710708 (NTSC System; dts-5.1; 16.9 Picture Format)

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Despite its inspired and heady mixture of disparate elements – Andalusian folksong and dance, French impressionist orchestration, zarzuela tradition and verismo theatricality – La vida breve (Life is Short) is a stark and unified drama. Director-designer Giancarlo del Monaco’s almost stifling conception turns it into an interior exploration of the young gypsy Salud’s psychology. In the role, Cristina Gallardo-Domâs is vocally dominating and gives a remarkable study in physicality and sexual frustration. She is trapped within her hopeless passion for her higher-class lover, and the single set is reduced to massive, claustrophobic walls that exclude her from happiness. Almost throughout, the stage lighting roils in the colour of blood.

In one striking innovation, the normally male flamenco singer of Act II’s wedding scenes is replaced by a female singer, Esperanza Fernández, made up to resemble Salud, triggering the fantasy that she is officiating at her rival’s nuptials.

While the result perhaps sacrifices something of the richness of Falla’s work, it does reinforce his achievement as a musical tragedian. Jorge de León as the faithless Paco and María Luisa Corbacho as the Grandmother are also powerful presences; the staging of De León’s duet with Gallardo-Domâs brings out the near sadistic side to his sexual subjugation of the gypsy girl. Lorin Maazel conducts with fire, and the ensemble dances are vividly staged. A short, unhappy life, magnificently rendered.

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Calum MacDonald