Janacek: The Makropulos Case

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LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: The Makropulos Case
PERFORMER: Libuse Prylová, Ivo Zídek, Rudolf Vonásek, Helena TattermuschováPrague National Theatre Chorus & Orchestra/Bohumil Gregor
Janácek’s genius for transmuting the most unlikely material into searingly effective opera is nowhere more apparent than in The Makropulos Case. Having transformed a cartoon strip into a moving celebration of life and death in The Cunning Little Vixen, he turned his attention to Capek’s wordy satire, The Makropulos Case, to explore the implications of the emptiness, rather than the benefits, of immortality. Some of the humour of Capek remains in this remarkable score, but it is memorable primarily for its focus on the central heroine and her plight. The opera will never be the composer’s most popular, but the fascinating way in which the complex plot leads unerringly to the magnificent finale makes the work one of his most affecting.


It is good to be in the hands of such an expert Janácek conductor as Bohumil Gregor. His handling of the score and the response of the Prague National Theatre Orchestra are superbly idiomatic; each nuance is clarified with luminous insight, and Libuse Prylová as Emilia Marty leads a splendid cast. The vintage 1966 recording is surprisingly clear, although it lacks depth and towards the end becomes a touch constricted. This does little, however, to detract from a performance which deserves to be a classic. Jan Smaczny