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Cat. No. CHAN 3128(2) Price: £18 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3128 - Smetana: The Bartered Bride
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Available From: 10 October 2005
Composing The Bartered Bride was quite a struggle for Smetana, and his second opera was received at its premiere with frigid indifference. It took seven years, four rewrites and a significant political change in Central Europe before it achieved the popular acclaim which ensured its survival in the repertoire. Smetana’s revisions were comprehensive. In the original, the dramatic action was entirely carried forward by speech – as it is in The Magic Flute or Cornelius’s The Barber of Baghdad. By giving the recitatives an orchestral accompaniment, Smetana shifted the piece firmly away from the territory of operetta or opéra comique, converting what is in some respects a formulaic comedy into a score that hints at darker emotions underneath. The original work was cast in two acts and made a rather lightweight evening’s entertainment. In restructuring it, Smetana split the opera into three, with an opening scene in Act II which is a virtual miniature folk festival. Even the original opera was permeated with folk melodies and rhythms, but by building an entire scene from traditional dances, Smetana fashioned a form of vernacular musical theatre which spawned imitations for the next half century. And his transformation of the overture’s development section into the complex comic finale to Act II is as inventive as anything by Rossini.

In today’s Prague, it is still heresy to suggest that Dvorák was the more profound creator of romantic opera and Janácek the more penetrating and heart-rending musical dramatist. Where Smetana excels is in reflective lyrical writing. The extended ensemble at the centre of Act III does nothing to forward the drama, but searches into the souls of the principal characters and more than compensates for the opera’s lack of dramatic development. We do not go to Smetana for psychology or spiritual depth, but there is no need for special pleading when the drama is dressed in such inebriating rhythms and such melodic grace. It is these qualities which ensure that The Bartered Bride is the one opera by Smetana which will always find a place in any theatre and in any language.
Reviews

"What makes this translated version so successful is not just the brilliant conducting of Sir Charles Mackerras and the scintilating playing of the Philharmonia Orchestra, with an exceptionally strong team of soloists working well together, but also the extra impact of the comedy made by performance in the vernacular. The echoes of G & S, with double-rhymes given a jolly Gilbertian ring, distracting in many operas for once see entirely appropriate, adding to the joy of the piece... "
The Penguin Guide - 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

Throughout Mackerras secures marvellous playing from the Philharmonia Orchestra; it would be hard to imagine a more exhilarating performance of the overture' There is distinguished solo singing with Susan Gritton an impressively rounded Marenka; Paul Charles Clark is a firm-voiced Jenik and Tim Robinson duly charming as Vasek. Above all, the prevalent impression is of a strong ensemble performance enhanced by a realistic recording.
BBC Music Magazine

…a truly magnificent achievement.
Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’ on CHAN 3106(2) (Jenufa)

Mackerras and the Philharmonia do justice to the lovely score, with its snappy rhythms and delectable woodwind writing, and the sweetness of its melodies. Susan Gritton is a touching Marenka, Paul Charles Clark an ardent Jenik, Timothy Robinson a charming Vasek and Robin Leggate a commanding Ringmaster. In the central role of Kecal, the marriage broker, Peter Rose makes the most of Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s racy English translation.
The Sunday Times

How fortunate we are to have this live recording…
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 3017(2) (Mary Stuart)

Mackerras… is perhaps the world’s wisest and most inquiring Mozartian, and here he gets playing of magical transparency from the LPO… bringing a sense of wonder to the music now rarely experienced in the theatre.
The Sunday Times ‘Classical CD of the Week’ on CHAN 3121(2) (The Magic Flute)

Outstanding in a well-balanced cast is Susan Gritton’s Marenka… To have Sir Charles Mackerras conducting is of course a great bonus. He it is who gives the whole performance its character… there is certainly plenty to enjoy and admire in the new set.
International Record Review

 

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