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Smetana: Die Verkaufte Braut / Fischer, Popp, Vienna State Opera

Smetana / Sramek / Popp / Fink / Vso / Fischer
Release Date: 11/13/2007 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001005109  
Composer:  Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Siegfried JerusalemKarl RidderbuschHeinz ZednikLucia Popp,   ... 
Conductor:  Adám Fischer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera ChorusVienna State Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

SMETANA The Bartered Bride Adam Fischer, cond; Lucia Popp ( Marie ); Siegfried Jerusalem ( Hans ); Karl Ridderbusch ( Kezal ); Heinz Zednik ( Wenzel ); Alfred Šramek ( Kruschina ); Gertrude Jahn ( Katinka ); Walter Fink ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Micha ); Czeslawa Slania ( Agnes ); Erich Kunz ( Circus Master) ; Gabriele Sima ( Esmeralda ); Hans Christian ( Muff ); Vienna St Op O & Ch DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 001005109 (DVD: 155:00) Live: Vienna 1982

It’s a shame this DVD didn’t show up on my desk at roughly the same time as the “official” Bartered Bride recorded for Czechoslovak television in 1981 (Supraphon 7011). The differences comprise an object lesson in how to block an opera, merge scenery and props with the action, and make a stage village filled with people come to life. None of that was achieved by Franti?ek Filip, but a year later, Otto Schenk did a great job of it with the Vienna State Opera. Dance is well integrated with the production, too, and cleverly varied in design. I was especially impressed with the way the circus entertainers performing en masse really did appear as a chaotic jumble, yet with nobody ever quite getting in anybody else’s way.

Filmed on stage, the performance offers excellent camerawork and sound. The latter in particular pleased, despite a slightly over-reverberant ambience. It was all handled professionally enough to pass for a dubbed track, until the occasional audience cough, applause, or singer-out-of-sync-with-orchestra moment occurred. The vivid colors of the excellent period costumes are slightly washed out, but exhibit nowhere near the problems I’ve seen associated with Hamburg operas of the 1970s, and even Russian ones of the 1990s.

This Bartered Bride ’s acting and singing is generally of a high level. Lucia Popp was caught at a perfect time for this role. She’d gradually been developing her voice into a larger, more dramatic instrument, and here displays a lyric’s warmth with the power of a spinto. She clearly enjoys the challenge of the only serious aria in the entire work (in act III; performed in German as “Wie fremd und tot”), providing many fine interpretative points and a great deal of tonal variety. The audience goes wild, as well they might. I’ve heard nothing elsewhere to match it, even from Pilar Lorengar in the celebrated 1962 recording.

Siegfried Jerusalem is nearly as good, his voice bright and soaring, if not quite as beautiful in tone as Wunderlich or Dvorský. Heinz Zednik plays up Wenzel’s stuttering, as usual, but sings decently and tones down the simpleton a bit. Karl Ridderbusch’s Kezal is sonorous and always busy, a large, fully conceived character that skirts hamming without quite going over the line. (Your mileage may vary on this one.) Another treat is the appearance of Erich Kunz as the Circus Master. He joined the Vienna State Opera in 1940, and quickly became one of its most internationally famous singing actors, as well as a great local favorite. Of course, he departs almost entirely from the written dialogue in his address to the stage audience, with some scripted and some ad-libbed humor. His impeccable timing, precision of gesture, and comic sense are a delight.

The rest of the cast (with the exception of Walter Fink’s strangled Micha) are equally good, with Fischer conducting an energetic but focused performance. German language to one side, this is a Bartered Bride to cherish.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Chinese Read less

Works on This Recording

Bartered Bride, B 143/T 93 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Siegfried Jerusalem (Tenor), Karl Ridderbusch (Bass), Heinz Zednik (Tenor),
Lucia Popp (Soprano), Walter Fink (Bass), Czslawa Slania (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Adám Fischer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863/1870; Czech Republic 

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