Those who missed Carles & Sofia’s live performance of the Goyescas opera transcription for four hands during their concert tour can now listen to the work on their new CD, Goyescas in New York. The duo premiered the work at Carnegie Hall on January 28, 2016, marking the centennial of the Goyescas opera premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House on January 28, 1916. Both premieres took place in New York City which explains the title of the CD.
The Goyescas four-hand transcription commissioned to composer Abraham Espinosa is based on the Goyescas opera which is divided into three scenes. The transcription contains eight pieces that follow a sequence based on the libretto by Fernando Periquet. The first four pieces are transcribed from Scene 1 of the opera. ‘El Baile de Candil'(Lantern-lighted ball) is from Scene 2 and the remaining three, ‘La Maja y El Ruiseñor'(The Girl and the Nightingale), ‘Duo de Amor en La Reja’ (Love Duet at the Window) and ‘El Amor y La Muerte'(Love and Death) belong to Scene 3 of the opera. The opera has four main characters, Paquiro, Pepa, Rosario and Fernando forming the SATB vocal parts of the opera. Paquiro is the toreador who flirts with the ‘majas'(women of Madrid) and Pepa is Paquiro’s sweetheart. Rosario is a socialite who once fell in love with Paquiro at a ball and Fernando is Rosario’s lover.
The opening piece, ‘El Pelele’(‘Straw Man’), depicts the outskirts of Madrid in the 1800’s and is inspired by one of Goya’s painting which shows four ‘majas’ tossing the straw man in a blanket. The second piece, ‘La Calesa’(‘A dog-cart’) depicts the arrival of Pepa in a dog-cart. The third piece, ‘Los Requiebros’(‘compliments’) is very flirtatious and depicts flattery given to women(‘majas’) by the men known as ‘majos’. Intermezzo following the third piece is like an interlude signalling the end of Scene 1. ‘Baile de Candil’ depicts a ball attended by the characters. The same piece is titled ‘Fandango de Candil’ in the solo piano suite. The remaining three pieces are slower in tempi, more dramatic and romantic as they lead to Fernando’s tragic death in Rosario’s garden.
Goyescas four-hand transcription incorporates pieces from the opera and is richer in harmony, texture, and counterpoint than the Goyescas solo piano suite. Voices can also be heard with more clarity through independence of movement. I also prefer the order of the pieces in the opera transcription over the Goyescas solo piano suite, because it tells a story based on a libretto by Fernando Periquet allowing for greater depth of understanding.
Carles & Sofia Duo brings characters of the opera to life and expresses a wide range of moods and emotions such as flattery, love, affection, jealousy, longing, sadness and despair through their playing. The excitement that surrounds a premiere is the only missing element, but the sound quality on the CD is excellent, and the acoustics provided a pleasant listening journey. The duo’s affinity towards Spanish romantic music coupled with a dazzling technique makes them indisputable champions of Spanish romantic piano music. Carles & Sofia Duo revitalizes a neglected work and gives it historic significance. 1916 was not only a year of the opera premiere, it was also a year of Enrique Granados’s death. He did live to see the premiere of his opera at the MET, but he died on his return journey to Spain when their ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on March 24, 1916.