Arkiv Music Holiday Shop
WGBH Radio WGBH Radio

Martinu: Le Jour De Bonte

Release Date: 06/15/2010 
Label:  Arco Diva   Catalog #: 9811218  
Composer:  Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Thomas BijokPeter PoldaufIrena TroupováMichal Macuha,   ... 
Conductor:  Milan Kanak
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Chamber ChorusPilsen Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

MARTIn? Le Jour de Bonté Milan Ka?ák, cond; Tomá? Bijok ( Lucas ); Petr Matuszek ( Nicolas ); Irena Troupová ( Blonde ); Peter Poldauf ( Mayor/Rescuer ); Michal Ma?uha ( Innkeeper/Greengrocer/Down-and-Out ); Lucie Fi?er Silkenová ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Woman/Forlorn ); Josef Zedník ( Postman ); Gabriela Petirová ( Third/Concierge ); Josef ?karka ( Police Agent/Trader ); Jaroslav Kovacs ( Small Shopkeeper ); Lívia Obru?nik Vénosová ( Little Boy ); Pilsen PO/Prague CCh ARCODIVA 0121-2 131 (73:16 Text and Translation)

It’s not surprising that “new” works by Martin? are still turning up. The composer wrote very rapidly, and lost interest in much of his oeuvre when it ceased to bring him revenue. Factor in archival discontinuities caused by World War II, as well as evolution in musical tastes, and you have the perfect situation for scores to suddenly appear decades after they were thought lost—as in the mechanical ballet Le Raid merveilleux —or to be discovered in far more substantial form than was previously believed, as is the case with this opera.

This much is known: Le Jour de Bonté , The Day of Charity, was evidently begun in the latter part of 1930, without any mention of a commission. It proceeded with typical speed, and by April the following year the first two of its three acts (barring the final scene of act II) were scored. Martin? was working on the vocal score of act I, with its more worked-out markings, and had suggested the score to B. Schott’s Söhne of Mainz for publication. They turned it down, and no further work evidently took place on the opera. The composer’s financial condition was more precarious than usual, and his attention turned to writing ?pali?ek , for which he was contracted, and whose premiere would occur a few months later at Prague’s National Opera Theater.

The story of Le Jour de Bonté reads more like a not-quite-finished comic screenplay by René Clair than an operatic libretto. Lucas and Nicolas, two village inhabitants, learn that Paris will have a Day of Charity tomorrow, to encourage altruism; they decide to go and help out, after first telling off a beggar seeking food. All their attempts to assist upon arrival are rebuffed: a traffic cop tells them to move on when they ask whom they should serve, a suicide wannabe throws rocks when they revive her, etc. Several adventures later, with everything falling apart around them, they fall asleep in a police station and dream of receiving great rewards for their efforts, only to awaken and discover that all that time they’ve been asleep back at their village.

The flaws—the action as a series of less than sharply focused quests, the unsatisfying conclusion, the heavy-handed bumpkin stereotypes—might have been fixed or at least tweaked for the better if interest had been shown in publishing and producing the opera. Regardless, despite the problems associated with its libretto and its unfinished condition, Le Jour de Bonté deserves to be far better known thanks to its music. This is, to put it plainly, prime Martin?, a mix of wryly pointed satire, earthy energy, and, in its first scene, breathtaking pastel Impressionism (a deliberate setup and contrast to the crudity and vitality of what follows). Several scenes remain in the mind, and the ear: the French folk song sung at the opera’s opening by a herder, carefree and wistful, and its echo in the next scene, the folk song sung to “the little birds” by a young boy; the bleakly powerful despondency of the Parisian woman who tries unsuccessfully to commit suicide—the chorus reduced to rapt chords of pity; the lengthy, soft, oddly haunting mix of traffic sounds, calls, and popular songs that form Lucas and Nicolas’s mini-tone-poem introduction to Paris. (I don’t want to give an impression that the work is mainly lyrical, however. Most of it is sung as parlando over a varied and witty accompaniment.) Martin??s orchestral palette has never been more deft, his musical powers of human observation more precise. It’s a shame that during that crucial period in early 1931 Le Jour de Bonté found no interest, as it could well have proved among the composer’s most enduring operatic scores.

The performances are thoroughly atmospheric. Several are standouts. Irena Troupová’s opening folk song is meltingly phrased, and her soprano, warm in its lower range, acquires a slight, attractive edge and flicker as it rises. Josef Zedník makes a wonderfully neurotic Postman, and Lucie Fi?er Silkenová, a wobbly (under pressure) but extremely effective suicide wannabe, her dark contralto put to fine use. If Gabriela Petirová’s French isn’t especially understandable, most of the cast not only boasts idiomatic French in the music, but also a real gift for its conversational use during the few dialogue sections Martin? didn’t set. Milan Ka?ák leads a vigorous, well-paced performance that revels in the score’s repeated shifts of mood and texture. The sound is excellent; the libretto (up to the final set notes) supplied in French, German, English, and Czech.

In short, this is a keeper. Fans of Martin? will want it regardless, but listeners interested in the curious and successful byways opera took during the 20th century should consider investigating it, as well.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Read less

Works on This Recording

Le Jour de Bonté by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Thomas Bijok (Voice), Peter Poldauf (Voice), Irena Troupová (Soprano),
Michal Macuha (Baritone), Lucie Fiser Silkenova (Voice), Petr Matuszek (Baritone),
Josef Zedník (Voice)
Conductor:  Milan Kanak
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Chamber Chorus,  Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930-1931 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title