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Bedrich Smetana: Libuse.

Bedrich Smetana


Marie Podvalova--soprano, Theodor Srubai---baritone, Karel Kalas--bass, Beno Blachut--tenor, Ludmila Cervinkova--soprano, Marta Krasova--alto, Prague Czechoslovak Radio Choir, Jiri Pinkas--chorus master, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Alois Klima--conductor. Text: Czech, English. Recorded: Apr. 1949, Studio 1, Czechoslovak Radio, Prague. Released: 2013. TT: 167:35. AAD. 3 CDs Radioservis CR0623-2.


A classy box set of the archival radio recording of Smetana's opera Libuse with Marie Podvalova in the titular role is one of the most notable projects so far this year. Back in 1949, Podvalova was a star of the commencing golden era of the National Theatre in Prague, as were Theodor Srubar, possessing a gorgeous velvet baritone, and the other soloists Karel Kalas, Beno Blachut, Ludmila Cervinkova and Marta Krasova. Their artistry and the appeal of Smetana's festive opera are captured on this carefully remastered recording. The album's implementation, however, had to overcome a number of obstacles--the original sound tracks have, unfortunately, not been preserved in the radio archives, therefore the recording director and sound engineer had to work with the first copies of the original recordings on 11 tapes of a differing technical quality. None the less, even more than 60 years on, the resulting album documents the astonishing performance standard of the singers, the choir and the orchestra, as well as the period's approach to Smetana's paramount work, Comparing the brilliant vocal delivery of Marie Podvalova and Theodor Srubar with today's conception also highlights their noticeable dramatic skills, even though in the meantime the performance style has shifted further. Nevertheless, the singers' evident absorption can still be deemed a great contribution, one that can serve as an example for many a contemporary opera artist. The entry of Chrudos and Stahlav brings with it a gamut of magnificent male voices, primarily those of Kalas and Blachut. Srubar excels in the role of Premysl not only in the famous aria O, vy tipy (Oh, you lindens); his vocal performance in general can be branded timeless. The power of the choir and the refined accompaniment by the orchestra, conducted by Alois Klima, enchant the listener even after six decades, as they deliver the masterpiece with the typical Smetana atmosphere of the introductory scenes. The original intention to stage Smetana's festive opera to mark the coronation of Franz Josef as King of Bohemia in 1872 was abandoned, hence the composer saved the work for the gala opening of the National Theatre in Prague in 1881. Up to the present day, Libuse has remained an opera that is only performed on special occasions. Accordingly, it is not a regular repertoire piece. The fanfares welcoming Premysl to Vysehrad, delivered here by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Klima with the utmost brilliance, are still played at significant official state events. Libuse's prophecy in the opera's finale, masterfully performed by Marie Podvalova, is an overwhelming experience that crowns the demanding project.

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Author:Tuzilova, Marta
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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