PILAR LORENGAR, a tribute in book and dvd

Pilar Lorengar, Una aroganesa de Berlin by Sergio Castillo and Alejandro Martinez, 190 pp
Click here to order the book

Pilar Lorengar, voice and mystery, a film by Arturo Méndiz, DVD Arthaus
Click here to order the dvd

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Spanish soprano whom I initially got to know through her recordings only. But fine recordings they were and still are especially the numerous zarzuela recordings and her studio recitals. Thanks to the late Gerard Mortier I was able to hear her live in a 1990 recital at the Munt/Monnaie theatre in Brussels. The voice was certainly big enough for the Brussels theatre and it bombed right into my face like a strong razor blade moreover the well-known vibrato didn’t disturb at all, it obviously needed space. Her still lyric soprano had a gloriously vibrant quality and she scored a huge success.

The Saragossa born soprano was recently honoured by two interesting releases. One is Spanish-language biography, the other a DVD portrait.  The biography entitled “una aragonesa de Berlin” is in Spanish but that must not be an obstacle for the devoted fan.  It tells the Lorengar story in a chronological way, the authors making use of all Spanish sources at their disposal. The surviving relatives were all interviewed and footnotes though no index are provided.  Even when  Spanish is hard for you, you may nevertheless still be tempted to purchase the moderately priced book as it contains numerous rare and wonderful photos.  A very detailed discography is provided which also includes her 30 (!!) zarzuela recordings from 1951 until 1964 though her 1950-1951 78 rpm recordings of rumbas, boleros etc. under the name of Loren Gar regrettably aren’t but they are mentioned in the narrative.  There is also a selective chronology, concert tours included.

(photos courtesy Charles Mintzer collection)

The DVD  is a good addition or alternative to the biography especially as English subtitles are provided.  The Lorengar story is seasoned with rare photos and rare video footage.
Several people are interviewed. The artists (Berganza, Karen Armstrong..) as usual provide the obligatory artistic generalities. It is the family though who tell the real story –warts and all-  and provide the most interesting (and unknown) facts. I won’t reveal everything here but the poverty and living conditions of her youth is heartbreaking to read and could have been taken straight from a Charles Dickens novel. Her father, an alcoholic, was abandoned by her mother, and died shortly afterwards. Two of her four brothers died away from their mother who herself, alone and without any resources, gave up her third son - born from another man - for adoption.
The death on the battlefield  of her oldest brother Federico who had enlisted in the “Division Azul” (click here) is not kept silent about . Her relationships (in the very Catholic and Francoist Spain) shed another light on the Lorengar personality.  Her final years fighting lung cancer are told without becoming sentimental.

Both releases are really worth buying.

Rudi van den Bulck, July 2017