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Manuel Ausensi

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One of a very few world-class Spanish baritones, Ausensi’s craggy authority and expressive freedom gave him an international opera career between the mid-1950’s and his retirement in 1969.

During the 1950’s and early 60’s he sang most roles in the core Italian and French baritone repertoires throughout Europe and America, including a famous Amonasro (Aida) in Philadelphia opposite Franco Corelli’s Radames, with Martina Arroyo and Grace Bumbry. His Rigoletto was a notable highlight from many productions at his “home theatre”, the Barcelona Liceu. He retired, still at the height of his powers, after a production of Tosca at Philadephia in March 1969 – not surprisingly Scarpia had been amongst his favourite roles.

Ausensi possessed a huge voice by zarzuela standards; and although it is true that some of his studio work might have benefited from more restraint than his lusty instrument was able to finesse, most of his singing provides musical as well as visceral pleasure. Of the fifty or so zarzuela roles he tackled on LP (most available on CD) his comic braggarts such as the Marquis in Jugar con fuego are irresistible. For many, he remains the baritone of choice in La calesera, El caserío, Los gavilanes … but perhaps his brutal but human Juan de Eguía, a gargantuan Pedro in Katiuska and the sensual Pintu in La pícara molinera will be seen as his most profound legacies. With Ausensi’s passing, in September 2005, one of the strongest links in the golden chain of zarzuela has been broken.

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