Notes and Editorial Reviews
As I write this, Google is commemorating the 90th anniversary of Maria Callas’s birth on its search engine web page. Callas already seems like a personage of the distant past, but the singer heard here, Czech native Ludmila Dvoráková, has survived all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to still be with us today, celebrating her own 90th year. This retrospective disc from the Czech label Supraphon honors the estimable career of the seldom recorded Dvoráková, a well-regarded dramatic soprano known as much for her acting and stage presence as for her fine singing. Dvoráková began her career in Prague, then later in Vienna and Berlin singing lighter fare, but took on Wagnerian roles
during her most notable years in the 1960s and 70s. Her best years were also the heyday of Birgit Nilsson, Astrid Varnay, and several other top Wagnerian sopranos, but Dvo?áková held her own and was heard at many of the top houses, including the Met, and for six years at Bayreuth. She also made a name in operas of her own region, Dvorák’s
, and the Smetana operas excerpted here. Her voice was more suited to Wagner’s lighter roles—Ortrud, Venus, and Kundry, Senta in the
—but she was also asked to sing Isolde and Brünnhilde as well, putting her in direct competition with the true Wagnerian heavyweights.
Dvoráková brings a clean, sturdy soprano voice to these excerpts, with solid intonation and a bright top range under full control. In this day and age when casting Wagner operas has become a major challenge, Dvoráková is a pleasure to listen to. If she does not have the vocal beauty of a Lucia Popp in the Smetana arias, she provides the idiomatic vocalizing in the roles in the tradition of earlier notable Czech sopranos Emmy Destinn, Maria Jeritza, and Jarmila Novotná. With husband Rudolf Vasata in the pit, the Prague National Theater Orchestra supports her well. Much of this music was released earlier on LP by Supraphon, but is now available for the first time on CD. This disc from the archives belongs in the collection of all singing aficionados, especially those of a Wagnerian bent.
FANFARE: Bill White
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