LABELS: Arco Diva
WORKS: Le jour de bonté
PERFORMER: Tomas Bijok, Petr Matuszek, Irena Troupová, Peter Poldauf; Prague Chamber Choir; Pilsen PO/Milan Kanák
CATALOGUE NO: UP 0121-2 131
Opera was central to Martinu’s creativity. Apart from the 1940s, spent mostly in the United States, when his main focus was on symphonic works, he usually had operatic projects to hand. Alongside extended works such as Julietta and The Greek Passion, there are many pioneering works involving experiment with film, radio and television to the operatic frame.
Apart form his 14 completed operas, there are two significant torsos, the first and most substantial of which is recorded here. Although Martinu offered Le jour de bonté (The Day of Charity) to the German publisher Schott, it does not seem to have arisen from a commission or even the firm prospect of performance. Poor finances and work on the opera-ballet, Spalícek, premiered in Prague in 1933, got in the way and the opera was never completed.
The plot tells the surreal story of everyday country folk who visit Paris seeking to do good on a designated ‘day of charity’ only to have their efforts rebuffed by the city dwellers. It is, outwardly, on the silly side. Nevertheless, the scenario contains much drama which Martinu handles with customary skill.
There are also stretches of ravishing lyricism, not least the opening ‘pastorale’ which looks forward to his folk-inspired late cantatas. Milan Kanák, who makes a creditable job of finishing parts of the score, conducts a tight ensemble performance. Given the large cast, there are moments of unevenness, but all told this is a very attractive addition to the Martinu canon. Jan Smaczny