Jiri Belohlavek, BBC SO, BBC Singers – Smetana. The Bartered Bride (2012) [eClassical 24bit/48kHz]

Jiri Belohlavek, BBC SO, BBC Singers – Smetana. The Bartered Bride (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48kHz | Time – 02:15:58 minutes | 1,36 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: eclassical.com|  @ Harmonia Mundi
Recorded: May 2011, Barbican Centre, London, UK

A classic! And yet Smetana was thoroughly irritated by the torrents of praise lavished, in the last years of his life, on this Bartered Bride which had been categorically rejected at its premiere (1866) by a Czech public waiting to hear the genuine national opera. Four versions of the work later, and after many critical complaints (sometimes it was found too long, sometimes too short), it was realised that the composer had given birth to a genre built to last. For nearly 150 years now, The Bartered Bride has triumphed in opera houses all over the world; and in the present recording it is in the hands of a true team of experts.


The Bartered Bride has done very well on record and this new version can join the list of distinguished predecessors. For many years, Smetana’s most popular opera was the Czech opera, but nowadays it has been somewhat overtaken by Dvořák’s Rusalka and the great stage-works of Leoš Janáček. The Bartered Bride, however, has not lost its charm and I have greatly enjoyed this performance. Listeners are spoiled for choice when it comes to recordings. If you want a totally authentic Czech account, there is the Supraphon set with Gabriela Beňačková and Peter Dvorský as the lovers and the inimitable Czech Philharmonic under Zdeněk Košler. There is also a version in English with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Philharmonia Orchestra and Royal Opera Chorus on Chandos that has been acclaimed. Finally, if German is your language of choice, Rudolf Kempe’s famous recording with Pilar Lorengar and Fritz Wunderlich is still available on EMI. How does this newest version stack up against those?
First of all, no conductor today surpasses Jiří Bělohlávek when it comes to interpreting Czech music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He made a wonderful recording a few years ago of Janáček’s The Excursions of Mr. Brouček with the BBC forces and native Czech soloists, as on this Smetana set, one of the only Janáček operas Mackerras never recorded. As chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Bělohlávek did much to champion Czech music and especially to bring to the larger public works that have not been heard that often, such as the symphonies of Martinů and Suk. After listening a number of times to this Bartered Bride, it is clear that the BBC Symphony can sound as Czech as one of their native orchestras. The well-known orchestral excerpts, Overture, Polka, Furiant, and Skočná, burst forth with vitality and rhythmic acuity, and the BBC Singers do the choruses proud. If anything, both orchestra and chorus are more infectious than their counterparts on the Supraphon recording. When it comes to the soloists, though, everyone has favorites. I have always held Gabriela Beňačková high in my esteem in this repertoire. Her voice has a certain purity and warmth that places it above most others in Czech music. Dana Burešova in this new account may not erase memories of Beňačková, but she is very good. Her voice has the necessary lightness and no pronounced Slavic vibrato, even if she is a bit cooler than her predecessor. When it comes to the role of Jenik, Peter Dvorský and Tomaš Juhás are fairly evenly matched. The outstanding performance, though, in the new set is that of the stuttering Vašek, Aleš Voráček. He has quickly become my favorite of this particular cast. All of the other parts are also taken well. So, overall, The Bartered Bride is served superbly in this new recording. The sound, too, unlike some past efforts recorded at the Barbican Centre, has warmth as well as the necessary clarity. The opera really comes to life. I would love to see a video of the performance, even if it was not staged.
The Czech music specialist Jan Smaczny provides the notes in the accompanying booklet. He gives the background to the opera and a detailed discussion of what it took to get the work to its final, definitive form. He plays down the folk element and points out the more important influence of French, Italian, and German Romantic opera on the composer. There is, however, one black mark on Harmonia Mundi I have to mention. The text of the opera is given in French (presumably because the label is French) and English, but not in Czech. Furthermore, the English translation is a very loose one that does not follow the original. The translation is by Kit Hesketh-Harvey who took the part of the Indian (a circus performer) in the Mackerras English-language version, so the translation in the booklet is likely the one used on the Mackerras recording (which I have not heard). There is a note in the booklet directing the listener to Harmonia Mundi’s website for the original Czech libretto. Still, it would be cumbersome to follow that at the same time as reading the English version in the booklet. Better to go to Supraphon’s website where there is a side-by-side Czech libretto and English translation that closely follows the original text. In all other respects, this is a fine addition to The Bartered Bride discography. -Leslie Wright, MusicWeb International

Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884)
The Bartered Bride
Disc 1
1 Overture 06:35
2 ACT I, Scene 1. Sbor Proč bychom se netěšili 08:02
3 ACT I, Scene 2. Mařenka Tak tedy přece se to státi má? 01:20
4 ACT I, Mařenka Kdybych se co takového 03:43
5 ACT I, Mařenka Konečně je celá 00:42
6 ACT I, Jeník, Mařenka Jako matka požehnáním 05:56
7 ACT I, Scene 3. Kecal Jak vám pravím 04:59
8 ACT I, Krušina Ovšem, Tobiáše Míchu znám už oddětství 00:51
9 ACT I, Kecal Mladík slušný a mravů víc tichých 03:41
10 ACT I, Scene 4. Krušina, Ludmila, Kecal Tu ji máme 05:04
11 ACT I, Mařenka Jeník neupustí, to vím 01:51
12 ACT I, Scene 5. Kecal Ach, jak svět je zvrácený 04:44
13 ACT II, Scene 1. Sbor To pivečko to věru je nebeský dar 05:08
14 ACT II, Furiant 02:14
15 ACT II, Scene 2. Vašek Ma… ma… ma… matička 02:18
16 ACT II, Scene 3. Mařenka Vy jste zajisté ženich Krušinovy Mařenky? 01:20
17 ACT II, Mařenka Známť já jednu dívčinu 05:55
Disc 2
18 ACT II, Scene 4. Kecal Jak pravím, hezká je 00:39
19 ACT II, Kecal Nuže, milý chasníku 07:49
20 ACT II, Kecal Odřekneš-li se Mařenky 03:09
21 ACT II, Scene 5. Jeník Až uzříš, komus 03:03
22 ACT II, Scene 6. Kecal Pojďte, lidičky 04:24
23 ACT III, Scene 1. Vašek To… to mi v hlavě le… leží 03:33
24 ACT III, Scene 2. Pochod Komediantů 00:32
25 ACT III, Principál Ohlašujeme slavnému publikum 01:27
26 ACT III, Skočná 05:50
27 ACT III, Vašek Je… je… je… je, to bude hezké 04:30
28 ACT III, Principál, Esmeralda Milostné zvířátko 01:44
29 ACT III, Scene 3. Vašek Oh, já ne… nešťastný! 01:03
30 ACT III, Háta, Kecal, Mícha Aj, jakže? Jakže? 02:35
31 ACT III, Scene 4. Mařenka Ne, tomu nevěřím 04:09
32 ACT III, Scene 5. Vašek Co… co pořáde chcete? 01:05
33 ACT III, Všichni Rozmysli si, Mařenko, rozmysli 03:44
34 ACT III, Scene 6. Mařenka Oh, jaký žal! 05:48
35 ACT III, Scene 7. Jeník Mařenko má, Mařenko má 04:16
36 ACT III, Scene 8. Kecal Hle, hle! Chasníku, čekáš už na peníze? 01:09
37 ACT III, Jeník Utiš se, dívko, utiš se 03:10
38 ACT III, Scene 9. Sbor Jak jsi se, Mařenko, rozmyslila? 04:56
39 ACT III, Scene 10. Jeden Kluk Spaste duši! 00:14
40 ACT III, Vašek Ne… ne… nebojte se! 00:38
41 ACT III, Sbor Dobrá věc se podařila 02:08

Mařenka – Dana Burešová, soprano
Jenik – Tomáš Juhás, tenor
Kecal – Jozef Benci, bass
Vašek – Aleš Voráček, tenor
Mícha – Gustáv Beláček, bass
Háta – Lucie Hilscherová, mezzo-soprano
Krušina – Svatopluk Sem, baritone
Ludmila – Stanislava Jirků, mezzo-soprano
Ringmaster – Jaroslav Březina, tenor
Esmeralda – Kateřina Kněžiková, soprano
Indian – Ondrej Mráz, bass
First Child – Maxim Dusek, treble
Second Child – Babette Rust, soprano
BBC Singers
Chorus Master – Andrew Griffiths
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek



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