Falla: La vida breve

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Falla
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: La vida breve
PERFORMER: Inmaculada Egido, Antonio Ordoñez, Mabel Perelstein, Enrique Baquerizo, Victor Torres; Coro de Valencia, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada/Josep Pons
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901657
The story of La vida breve is a simple one: that of the betrayal of the gypsy girl Salud by her rich lover Paco, and her death from a broken heart. The problem is that none of the characters is given space to develop. It’s as if we’ve been thrust into the final act of a longer piece, and so any performance really has to hit the ground running and convince the listener by its impetus.

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Alas, this is exactly where this recording fails. Where there should be a sense of urgency, things sit down. Falla’s music for the hammering in the blacksmith’s forge isn’t fast and furious, to be sure, but with the amount of energy used here it’s a wonder that any of the local horses manages to get shod.

Inmaculada Egido as Salud has her moments of shrillness on high notes, and, influenced by the conductor Josep Pons, sounds over-cautious when she should flash gypsy fire. She gets going in her tragic monologue before the wedding, but by then it’s too late.

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The other soloists have much less to do: among them, Mabel Perelstein’s Grandmother is suitably querulous, and Antonio Ordoñez as Paco comes across as hard-edged though he tries to sound passionate. This performance would make a good evening out at a provincial opera house, but what the work needs is a conductor who can encompass the whole in one sweep, and a Salud who can convince by the personality of her singing. That’s why the version with Victoria de los Angeles, conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, still holds its place, even though it’s over 30 years old. Martin Cotton