SMETANA The Bartered Bride • Rudolf Kempe, cond; Gottlob Frick (Kezal); Pilar Lorengar (Marie); Fritz Wunderlich (Hans); Karl-Ernst Mercker (Wenzel); Ernst Krukowski (Springer); Gertrud Freedmann (Esmeralda); Berlin RIAS CCh; Bamberg SO Read more class="BULLET12b">• EMI 81872, analog (2 CDs: 137:20)
For my money, this 1962 recording remains the easiest introduction to Smetana’s comic operas. Whatever the pleasures of other works or other performers—and there are many of both—this infectiously joyous reading is a winner. In Wunderlich and Frick it possesses two superb singers who were also fine actors and used to working together. Their reading of the act II duet is a delight. Lorengar, if not especially effective at conveying the Rosina-like assertiveness of Marie, is still vocally superb, her finely wrought vibrato adding an extra touch of vulnerability to a sensitive portrayal. Ernst Krukowski and Gertrud Freedmann are excellent in their respective parts, though Karl-Ernst Mercker annoyingly plays up the stuttering of Wenzel and plays down any semblance of voice.
Kempe did few commercial opera recordings, but each was distinguished by good pacing, energy, care with instrumental phrasing (few versions of this overture have ever approached his for wit and inner voicing), and strong support to singers. He also has the aid here of Günther Arndt’s RIAS Chamber Choir, which does a splendid job in the various choral numbers.
The main drawback is, and always has been, the use of German instead of Smetana’s native Czech; and this is a viable objection. I don’t buy into the theory that somehow, because Prodaná nev?sta didn’t become internationally popular until 1892, and had to wait for Max Kalbeck’s German translation as Der Verkaufte Braut at the Vienna Opera to achieve this, it somehow gained German authenticity. But I also think there is a level of performance attained on occasion where the singing surpasses all concerns of language. The Russian Traviata with Kozlovsky, Shumskaya, and Lisitsian, is one example. This is another.
The sound is good, analog stereo, the singers more forward than is often the case today. EMI has removed all but one of the production pictures, the libretto, and translation that graced their old LP set, replacing it all with a libretto summary linked to CD cuts. The lengthy old notes have been replaced as well by very short nondescript ones.
This recording makes an excellent gift for someone who has never heard the work before, and would also be a fine addition to any existing collection of Smetana operas. It has aged very well, indeed.
Die verkaufte Braut (2007 Remaster), Akt 3: So ist's recht (Finale III: Wenzel - Agnes - Kruschina - Kathinka - Micha - Marie - Hans - Chor)
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Superb Czech Opera, German StyleSeptember 8, 2013By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"After listening to this near perfectly remastered recording, one would be hard pressed indeed to acknowledge that it is in fact 50 years old- the sound is really good! Recorded in 1962 and featuring a fine cast, Smetana's The Bartered Bride sparkles with vitality and good cheer. Under the direction of the great Rudolf Kempe, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra opens everything up with a rousing rendition of Smetana's famous overture,and the plot takes off from there. With Fritz Wunderlich, Pilar Lorengar, and Gottlob Frick in fine form as the leading characters, the humorous and even touching folk tale springs to life in a flurry of plots, secrets, misunderstandings, and emotional highs and lows. Throughout the entire recording, the brilliant orchestral accompaniment by the BSO never fails to create an ambience of rustic color so typical of Czech nationalistic music. Although the libretto is sung in German rather than Czech, the overall character of the opera shines forth in as honest and attractive a way as anyone could wish. This is absolutely wonderful listening, and if one is not irrevocably committed to a Czech language performance, this excellent and historic EMI recording should be seriously considered. Very highly recommended."Report Abuse