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Recordings

Bedrich Smetana: The Bartered Bride
07 Sep 2007

SMETANA: The Bartered Bride

As an audio-recording, Supraphon's set of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride conducted by Zdeněk Košler deserves the highest recommendation.

Bedrich Smetana: The Bartered Bride

Gabriela Benacková; Peter Dvorský; Richard Novák; Miroslav Kopp; Marie Veselá; Jindrich Jindrák; Marie Mrázová; Jaroslav Horácek; Jana Jonášová; Alfréd Hampl, Prague National Theatre Ballet, Prague National Theatre Opera Chorus, Prague Philharmonic

Supraphon SU7011-9 [DVD]

$20.49  Click to buy

With an authoritative cast, including the glorious Gabriela Beňačková and admirable Peter Dvorsky, recorded in clean but atmospheric modern sound, the opera dances delightfully, joyously.

As a soundtrack to a 1982 TV presentation, as preserved on a recently released DVD, the quality of the recording has a contradictory effect Simply put, the robust , natural liveliness of the recording makes the artificial, "post-card-pretty" film all the more inauthentic as a version of the opera.

The chief cause lies in the decision to have the opera performed by the singers lip-syncing to the recording. The recording has no stage perspective, so the camera's relentless editing from close-ups to wide shots reinforces the sense of two distinct performances being presented as one. Apparently the director (Frantisek Filip) has requested that the singers not move their mouths in too authentic a representation of actual singing. Lip-syncing is always a tricky enterprise, but in this film, not for the briefest moment do the performers succeed in conveying the sense that they are actually vocalising.

The production, while colorful, is a cartoonish affair of spotless, colorful costumes and an over-decorated town plaza set. Films of live stage productions have their failings too, but this stage-bound performance offers few if any of the benefits of a true film.

The DVD begins with Kosler leading the exuberant overture in a concert hall, turning to washed-out travelogue footage before presenting the stage action. Even the dances are lamely choreographed. As provided to your reviewer, the DVD set contained no booklet, only a slip which simply reproduced the front and back covers.

Unfortunately, as presented here, the opera suggests reasons why its success today seems limited to classical radio replays of its overture and dances. The comic energy and human passions inside the characters never comes through.

Chris Mullins

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