Fibich: Å árka

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Fibich
LABELS: Orfeo
WORKS: Šárka
PERFORMER: Dalibor Jenis, Janez Lotric, Vladimir Kobovcík, Ida Kirilová, Eva Urbanová; Vienna Concert Chorus, Vienna RSO/Sylvain Cambreling
CATALOGUE NO: C 541 002 H
Šárka, composed in 1897, is the only one of Fibich’s seven operas produced with any regularity today. Based on the Czech legend of a band of amazon-like women struggling to regain their rights from overbearing men after the death of their heroine, Libuse, it is a richly passionate work. Untrammelled by the ideology that reined in Fibich’s fine melodic talent in his music drama The Bride of Messina, Šárka is full of breathtaking lyricism and moves with convincing dramatic pace. If at times Fibich inclines to the manner of Smetana’s Má vlast, the opera is none the worse for that and the second-act duet, in which Šárka gives in to her love for the hero Ctirad, is unforgettable.

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In many ways this new recording, of a concert performance, equals the fine Supraphon version conducted by Jan Štych, and in the case of Urbanová’s magnificent performance of the title role, surpasses it. Sylvain Cambreling conducts with insight and evident affection and all of the main roles are handled well even if Janez Lotric doesn’t quite match the luminosity of Vilém Pribyl’s reading of Ctirad. Carping aside, this recording is a must not just for lovers of the Czech repertoire, but for anyone interested in late-Romantic opera. Jan Smaczny