Janacek: Osud (in English)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Janacek
LABELS: Chandos Opera in English
WORKS: Osud (in English)
PERFORMER: Helen Field, Kathryn Harries, Philip Langridge; Welsh National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3029 Reissue (1990)
Even in an operatic career not noted for restrained subject-matter, Osud (Fate) stands out as Janácek’s strangest plot. A deeply personal response to an encounter during Janácek’s customary summer jaunt to a Moravian spa, the action of the opera is sometimes incomprehensible – in the almost cinematic first act characters pass by with bewildering rapidity. Indeed, until David Pountney’s brilliant production for English National Opera (1984) many commentators thought Osud virtually unstageable. But then there is the music: a miracle of lyricism and economic characterisation with an invigorating merry-go-round waltz of an opening that is the most ear-catching Janácek ever composed; pre-echoes of Katya Kabanova and The Cunning Little Vixen abound.

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Notwithstanding some fractured orchestral lines, no one could fail to respond to the exhilaration of the start. Mackerras delivers a magnificent ensemble performance: the chorus sings with one voice and the mass of minor roles is flawlessly presented. Helen Field and Philip Langridge are superb as the central couple, singing as if the work was in their blood. True, there are details out of place, but this performance deserves the highest praise as an utterly convincing, powerfully coherent presentation of a work too often dismissed as problematic. Jan Smaczny