WORKS: Cristóbal Colón
PERFORMER: José Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, Carlos Chausson, Victoria Vergara; Chorus & Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona/Theo Alcántara
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660237-38
The Spanish-born (in 1933), later American composer Leonardo Balada wrote the third of his six operas for the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World. It had its premiere three years early at Barcelona’s Liceu in 1989; this recording was made live at the time. A starry cast, led by José Carreras in the title role, and with Montserrat Caballé as Queen Isabella, gathered to launch the piece with as much prestige as possible.
Whether the work has the quality to live beyond this initial production is uncertain, though the score is often attractive, and rises to real potency in the final scene, when Columbus and his sailors, after the many obstacles he has had to surmount to get his expedition off the ground and into the water, finally confront their destination and its inhabitants. Elsewhere, there’s a dearth of really strong ideas in a score that borrows from familiar Spanish rhythms, church music and various kinds of musical ethnicity to give character to its individual scenes.
Carreras and Caballé nevertheless both impress with their strongly flavoured lyricism, while Carlos Chausson is bold and abrasive as Columbus’s financial partner, Pinzón. Overall, the performance
is respectably achieved. George Hall