Smetana, Dvor‡k, Jan‡cek

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Janacek,Smetana
WORKS: The Bartered Bride, Dalibor, The Kiss, Libuse (excerpts),Rusalka (excerpts),Jenufa (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Eva Urbanová (soprano); Prague SO/ Ondrej Lenárd
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23414-2
Traditionally, Czech opera’s greatest vocal resource is the soprano. This collection of operatic extracts shows clearly why Eva Urbanová has come to pre-eminence in the field in recent years: rich in the lower register, her voice is capable of both strength and attractive fragility compromised only by an occasional hint of stridency; if she lacks the ravishing beauty of tone the Slovak soprano Gabriela Benacková brought to similar roles, her dramatic involvement is far stronger, a quality which won richly-deserved accolades when she sang the title role in Libuse at the 1998 Edinburgh Festival. This disc will prove fascinating for those interested in the present state of Czech operatic singing, but the general listener may find it frustrating. There is abundant fine singing, notably in the stirring extracts from Libuse, but some of these bleeding chunks simply don’t work out of context, notably the brief aria from Dalibor – all excitability and no pay-off; also the juxtaposing of Urbanová in the roles of Jenufa and the Kostelnicka, if weirdly impressive, is frankly disorientating. But most distracting of all is the presence of an enthusiastic, obtrusive audience; doubtless the evening was thrilling live, but the vibes don’t transfer to the sitting room. Jan Smaczny