Maitena – excerpts
Estíbaliz Sánchez, Miren Urbieta-Vega, Mikeldi Atxalandabaso, José Manuel Diaz, Marifé Nogales, Fernando Latorre; Sociedad Coral de Bilbao; Bilbao Symphony Orchestra/Iker Sánchez Silva
IBS Classical IBS152021 94:43 mins (2 discs)
One of the earliest Basque operas, Maitena by Charles Colin (1863-1951) was first performed in Bilbao in 1909, and up to the 1930s it received a number of productions in the Basque country, Spain, France and Mexico. With no dialogue and a few minor cuts, this is its first (almost) complete recording.
Étienne Decrept’s libretto begins in a Basque village. Wealthy farmer Piarrés wishes his daughter Maitena to marry wellborn Ganich rather than the lowly Domingo, but she disobeys him and leaves for America with the latter. Left widowed in Buenos Aires, she returns to experience initial rejection but eventual acceptance as she finally marries Ganich.
The title role is delivered with delicacy by Miren Urbieta-Vega. Mikeldi Atxalandabaso brings a vital tenor to Domingo, and both José Manuel Diaz as Ganich and Fernando Latorre as Piarrés are firmly focused.
Though Colin shows himself a skilful composer, his score – a few fleeting reminiscences of Cavalleria rusticana aside – is old fashioned for its date. It’s a predominantly lyrical piece with some naive dramatic touches: its national element consists of a use of Basque dance rhythms – the overture begins with a Tempo de Zortziko in 5/8. The opera has recently been reorchestrated by Angel Briz Lázcoz, which presumably means that the original is missing.
The chorus can claim a relationship with the piece going back as far as the first performance, and the modest-sized orchestra is perfectly capable, while the conductor gives the music both flow and flexibility. No libretto is included. The sound is a touch raw.