- La Vida breve, opera, G. 35/39 (2 versions)
Several budget releases of Falla's concise and flamenco-flavored two-act opera "La vida breve" now compete for the opera buyer's dollar (or euro), offering alternatives to the classic (and unavailable) Teresa Berganza/José Carreras and Victoria de los Angeles/Carlo Cossutta versions, on Deutsche Grammophon and EMI, respectively. This Naxos release features an all-Spanish cast and set of instrumental forces. Falla veteran Alicia Nafé, who has sung several roles from the opera at various times, here appears as the Grandmother, and the star-crossed romantic leads Salud and Paco are sung by Ana Maria Sánchez and Vincente Ombuena Valls. Those who spend their time ranking opera stars in a pecking order will find reasons to prefer the classic recordings of "La vida breve"; Valls in particular lacks the power of his more illustrious predecessors. But the singers in general are fully up to the task of introducing this work, which is ideally suited to the needs of the novice opera listener. Tempos throughout are on the slow side, robbing some of the opera's flamenco orchestral interludes of their verve. A more serious problem, especially for the budget-label buyers at whom you'd think this product would be aimed, is that the libretto is given only in Spanish, with no translation. With the short length of the text, the wide availability of translations, and an abundance of white space on the pages of the booklet, this is a strange omission. For Spanish speakers and those willing to get out a dictionary, however, this recording is well worth the money.