Zarzuela Duets
Ana Maria Sanchez and Maria José Montiel
CD TRVE 65266 (July 2006)

An interesting record: 4 arias (two for each of the soloists) and 11 zarzuela duets between soprano and mezzo from the genero chico of zarzuela which as a formula is brand new; most duet recordings being between tenor and soprano (Caballé-Marti, Domingo-Lorengar).  Most of the numbers will be slightly familiar to zarzuelistas as they could have heard them on one of the many CD’s now happily available all over the world due to the internet. Still there are some arias from up to now unrecorded works which are a welcome addition to the ranks. In my opinon the ‘raison d’être’ for any collector to buy this CD lies in the singing of mezzo Maria José Montiel. She has a rich  mezzo, with a ringing top and a very homogenuous sound. She even surpasses Teresa Berganza’s classic recording of ‘De Espana vengo’ from ‘El nino judio’ (the only hit number on this CD) by her more incisive singing. Montiel is an operatic mezzo first and doesn’t regularly sing zarzuela (She did Luisa Fernanda at La Scala) but one wouldn’t deduct it from the charm and surefootedness she brings to this CD. She is splendid in all her duets with Sanchez and happily the voices blend well. If there is a small problem it lies with the soprano though that may not be her fault. Everybody who has heard Sanchez in the (opulent) flesh tells about the warm enveloping sound and especially the amazing amount of decibels. A pity but this is not the impression one gains from her recent zarzuela recital or from operatic DVD’s (Le Roi de Lahore amongst others). So she seems to have a voice which  the mike doesn’t pick up easily as if there is always the presumption of woolliness and of wobbling above the stave.

Jan Neckers, OperaNostalgia