Haas: Sarlatán

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Haas
LABELS: Decca Entartete Musik
WORKS: Sarlatán
PERFORMER: Vladimír Chmelo, Anda-Louise Bogza, Miroslav SŠvejda, Leo Marian VodicŠka; Prague Philharmonic Choir, Prague State Opera Orchestra/Israel Yinon
CATALOGUE NO: 460 042-2
This extraordinarily accomplished opera is the latest beneficiary of Decca’s revelatory Entartete Musik series. Haas, one of the mighty handful of composers who worked in Terezín and perished in Auschwitz, was one of Janácek’s most talented composition pupils, and SŠarlatán, premiered just before the war, is testimony to a remarkable musical and theatrical imagination. Stravinsky and, even more, Janácek are major presences in the score, but Haas’s own voice emerges strongly. This tale of an early 18th-century quack doctor and his frequently scurrilous adventures is full of hilarious situations, often brilliantly captured; just try the point in the first act, when Amaranta is cured of lethargy by plunging her bare bottom into a basket of nettles. At times the textures are a little monolithic, and Haas had still to learn the dramatic flexibility of his teacher Janácek and near-contemporary Martinu, but by far the majority of the piece is superbly convincing.

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Israel Yinon directs a brisk and shapely performance. I could have done with more characterisation from Vladimír Chmelo in the lead role as Dr Pustrpalk, but Jitka Svobodová’s Amaranta is terrific and the diction throughout is superb. Indeed, small criticisms pale in the face of a splendid collective endeavour. Jan Smaczny