PERFORMER: Leo Marian Vodicka, Ivan Kusnjer, Vratislav Kríz, Jirí Kalendovsky´; Prague National Theatre Chorus & Orchestra/Zdenek Kosler
CATALOGUE NO: SU 0077-2 DDD
The past year has been a good one for recordings of Smetana’s heroic opera: first two historic issues, both featuring Vilém Pribyl, the Dalibor of the previous generation. In this brand new one, Zdenek Kosler, a stalwart conductor rather than an interpretative colourist, leads a vigorous, idiomatic performance that maintains a fine balance between the personal drama and the fresco-like nature of what is essentially a historical tableau. Kosler is wonderfully broad during the expansive adagio of the first finale, but he takes the beautiful Act II dream sequence at a surprisingly dispassionate, rather four-square clip.
Vodicka throws himself dramatically into the title role, though the characteristic east-European waver and tang of his voice compromise the lyrical element of his music. He shares this flaw (to Western ears) with Jirina Marková, whose Jitka is otherwise full of impetuous youthfulness. Kusnjer sings a warm-hued King Vladislav, Kalendovsky´ a sympathetic Benes. The real find here is Eva Urbanová, whose imposing voice and skilful coloration make her a capital Milada.
The sound is big and bold and, despite all the brass and crashing cymbals, never harsh. Yet the voices and instruments are very much ‘up front’, which lends the flavour of a multi-miked analogue original rather than the squeaky-clean minimalism we have come to expect of digital methods. Barrymore Laurence Scherer