Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|FIBICH, Stych, Pancik|
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Zdenek Fibich's Flawed Masterpiece thrillingly performed!
David A. Hollingsworth | Washington, DC USA | 05/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Zdenek Fibich (1850-1900) is widely considered as the most important composer in the 19th century Czech music after Smetana and Dvorak, and had he lived longer, he would have surely be ranked alongside with them. Although he received his music education in Leipzig, his music is strongly Czech in flavor, character, and temperament. But to the contempt of his compatriots, Fibich was an ardent Wagnerian and as you'll notice in "Sarka", Wagner's influence is noticeable at various points throughout the work. Regardless of that, it was Fibich who played a decisive role in elevating Czech folkmusic beyond the rudimentary, as Tchaikovsky, his near contemporary, did in Russia. Nothwithstanding Fibich's premature death, his oeuvre continues to be impressive and influential in its own right.
"Sarka", Fibich's sixth opera, was completed in 1897, roughly a decade after Janacek completed his first operatic work of the same name (though it underwent revsions in 1918 and 1924-1925). Fibich's opera was a guaranteed success at its 1897 premiere and it secured over 250 performances in the next three decades (and consequently overshadowed Janacek's). The libretto was provided by Anezka Schulzova, Fibich's young pupil turned lover who was the librettist for his last three operas, including "Sarka". But as Janacek leaned towards Smetana, Fibich's musical impetus stems primarily from Wagner, and Fibich's aim was to write a Wagnerian opera. And, if you're aware of, say, Wagner's "Tristan and Isode" and "Die Walkure" in particular, you'll notice some echoes of them in Fibich's. The big love duet of Sarka and Ctirad, the knight whom she falls in love with against her will, from the middle of Act II and onwards reminiscenes Wagner's "Tristan and Isode" in Act II, scene II. Also, the beginning of Act II is strikingly similar to the beginning of Act III of Wagner's "Die Walkure", where Vlasta and her maidens' pronouncement of 'Heya' serves as a Czech equivalent of Brunnhilde and the Valkyries' pronouncement of 'Ho-jo-to-ho!'. But the music is unmistakenly Czech, with sharply rhythmic writing and the gestures so grand and bold, bestowed with some brilliant orchestration. Smetana, and to some extent Dvorak, were in the composer's mind as far as rhythmic writing and a strong Czech atmosphere were concerned.
However, the opera, though eminently exciting and somewhat memorable, is not without flaws. As in the "Bride of Messina", and in many grand operas in particular, some passages can be rather static, due particularly to some huge monologues especially in the first act (which took some time to get going). The final scene of Act III, where Sarka, driven by quilt for betraying her fellow warriors, commits suicide by throwing herself from the cliff, is quite perfunctory: the buildup is simply lacking. For example, I would like to see more of the inner conflict and guilt of Sarka before her suicide. Furthermore, I think the battle scene between the maidens and the male warriors should be more protracted and detailed than it actually is (since it is easy to forget that there is even a battle in the first place). Finally, I think the appearances of the apparitions could have been handled more thrillingly and with more flair. They could have done much more in overwhelming Sarka with guilt and that inner conflict between love and duty, and with the pleadings of Ctirad to come with him, the final moments of Act III could have been so compelling that I would've have problems sleeping at nights (and yet come back for more).
I tend to wonder whether Fibich heard Tchaikovsky's "Orleanskaya Deva" (the Maid of Orleans) before completing Sarka. I was playing both operas recently and noticed how similar Sarka and Joan d'Arc are, not much historically, but rather in the composers' treatments of them. Like Joan d' Arc, Sarka is remarkably strong and determined, as if guided by a mission whatever it may be (but guided also by love). But they are vulnerable due to the conflict between the love they had for their men and the missions they had to carry. Joan d'Arc is a vulnerable, pure human being, torn between her divine mission and her love for Lionel. Meanwhile, Sarka love for Ctirad places her in conflict with her loyalty towards her fellow female warriors and the mission in revolting Prince Premysl and his army for expelling Sarka and her female companions from the court after the death of Libuse. Joan d' Arc and Sarka are remarkable in the inner strengths they possess, and more remarkable in their handling of inner conflicts between feelings and duty, that although not entirely exemplary perhaps, the handling is pure humane in a strongest sense.
The benchmark performance, recorded in 1978, will continue to be the source of reference of how this compelling, thrilling opera should be presented. Jan Stych with the Brno State Philharmonic and the Brno Janacek Opera Chorus offer such a remarkable rendition, with every note idiomatically and vividly played, with such authority and raw emotionalism without sounding exaggerated, though understandably with some indulgence. But the cast is in every way ideal. Eva Depoltova brings out the mania, the desperation, the humaneness, the inner conflict of Sarka compellingly. I was hypnotized by the love duet between Sarka and Ctirad in Act II (performed with flair by Vilem Pribyl). But I greatly admire how Depoltova gives Sarka that strong focus in her revengeful mission, only to lose that focus when she discovers her feelings towards Ctirad. That transformation is very spellbinding (as in Tchaikovsky's Orleanskaya Deva, well portrayed by Sofya Preobrazhenskaya and later, Irina Arkhipova, who gave the character a sort of femininity that is strong, willful, and convicted, as if guided by God himself). Eva Randova is an excellent Vlasta, very real yet imaginative, not losing sight of Vlasta's duties and strong determination. Vaclav Zitek is likewise a convincing Prince Premysl, giving him a sort of deviance and arrogance that's worthy of attention.
To sum up, the recording provides a riveting listening experience, thanks largely to the composer who, like Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Verdi, and Massenet, knew how to identify with his characters and how to hold grasp of our attention, despite the aforementioned reservations."
SUPERB WAGNERIAN DERIVATIVE
Alfredo R. Villanueva | New York, NY United States | 08/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"FIBISH WAS A COMPOSER TOTALLY UNKNOWN TO ME UNTIL THIS RECORDING, WHICH I BOUGHT IN ORDER TO COMPARE THE PIECE WITH JANACEK'S OPERA OF THE SAME NAME. I MUST THANK THE 2002 REVIEWER'S INCISIVE ANALYSIS, WHICH PREPARED ME FOR WHAT I WAS ABOUT TO EXPERIENCE. AN EXCELLENT RECORDING ALL AROUND: SOUND, CONDUCTOR AND VOCALISTS. BUT AT TIMES I THOUGHT I WAS LISTENING TO A GERMAN--IE. WAGNER-- OPERA SUNG IN CZECH! MOREOVER, IT IS IDIOMATICALLY ROMANTIC TO THE CORE. JANACEK'S OWN SARKA POINTS TOWARDS THE FUTURE; FIBICH'S IS FIRMLY ANCHORED TO THE PAST. JANACEK'S SARKA IS QUINTESSENTIALLY CZECH; FIBICH'S IS BRUNHILDA'S COUSIN."