Smetana: The Bartered Bride
Marenka, the bartered bride of the title, isn’t the star of this show as she was in Supraphon’s well-wearing classic recording with Gabriela Ben˘ac˘ková. But this performance, based on a live concert at the Barbican, London, displays tighter orchestral ensemble and a strong Czech cast. The slimlined BBC Symphony Orchestra adapts admirably to Jirˇí Beˇlohlávek’s blend of rustic cheerfulness and Wagnerian hues; they are absolutely irresistible in the Dance of the Comedians. The Barbican sound balances the players with the singers, and Smetana’s woodwind solos are clear.
Dana Bures˘ová’s Marenka and Tomás˘ Juhás’s Jeník are not, perhaps, the most warm-hearted of lovers, but both negotiate Smetana’s technical challenges with aplomb. Juhás lacks the character of two other tenors – Ales Voracek plaintive as the unsuitable bridegroom, Vasek, and Jaroslav Bπezina making his mark in the cameo role of the Ringmaster. Jozef Benci plays it straight as the marriage-broker, Kecal, finding a surprising amount of lyric warmth in the part, and the BBC Singers are, too, finely focused.