Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Weinberger
WORKS: Svanda the Bagpiper
PERFORMER: Matjaz Robavs, Tatiana Monogarova, Ivan Choupenitch,
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660146-47
Somewhere someone is staging, or thinking about staging, Weinberger’s Svanda the Bagpiper. But absurdly, considering it is the most internationally performed Czech opera after Smetana’s Bartered Bride, this complete recording is currently unique in the catalogue. The opera’s neglect on CD (regrettably the 1980 Sony premiere recording with Hermann Prey and Lucia Popp has dropped out of circulation) is mirrored by its treatment by the Czechs, with no major stagings since the early 1930s. This is a pity since there is so much to admire in this witty and richly textured score from 1927 which celebrates the adventures of that iconic figure of Czech myth, the bagpiper Svanda. Several influences seem to be jostling for attention: Smetana at his most nostalgic, Weinberger’s teachers, Novák and Reger, even Janácek and Puccini take a bow, but that said there is perceptible individuality and huge dramatic energy. This new recording is made from three of the performances of the opera at Wexford in 2003 and there is clear evidence of its live status, including a great deal of stage noise and an over-enthusiastic audience, notably applauding over the end of the overture. On the plus side, there is a clear sense of ensemble and dramatic interchange. As is usual at Wexford, orchestra, chorus and cast, expressively conducted by Julian Reynolds, throw themselves into the spirit of the work. On the downside is some fairly rough solo singing, although Matjaz Robavs’s singing of the title role is delightful, and he is ably partnered by Tatiana Monogarova as Dorota. Notwithstanding some jagged edges, and some fairly shrill chorus singing, there is much to enjoy here. Jan Smaczny