The heart and soul of Spain were evoked at the Terrace Theater last night when Josefina Meneses and Pedro Lavirgen were heard in a program of zarzuelas. Substituting on short notice for Josefina Arregui, Meneses proved equal to the task of revealing the Spanish lyric theater in all its glory.
Zarzuelas are likened to musical theater, but at their best they resemble grand opera. In this music are the gestures Spanish classicists deFalla and Albeniz emulated, but which they never captured with such authenticity. For this is the essence of the Spanish musical experience.
The sensuous rhythm and harmony of the duet from "Leyenda del Beso," which compares love to the opening of flowers, typifies this originality, and the singers presented it with a rapture worthy of Puccini.
Among the other highlights of the evening were Meneses' interpretation of the Romanza from Chapi's "El Barquerillo." The incandescent qualities of the singer's voice were amplified by telling stage gestures pantomiming the words. Another great moment was the Jota from Serrano's "El Trus de Los Tenorios," which Lavirgen sang with intense beauty and with great boldness in his approach to the high notes. Those in the audience let him know how much they appreciated it.