Search - Antonin Dvorak, Charles Mackerras, Renée Fleming :: Dvorák - Rusalka / Fleming · Heppner · Zajick · Hawlata · Urbanová · Czech Phil · Sir Charles Mackerras

Dvorák - Rusalka / Fleming · Heppner · Zajick · Hawlata · Urbanová · Czech Phil · Sir Charles Mackerras
Antonin Dvorak, Charles Mackerras, Renée Fleming
Dvorák - Rusalka / Fleming · Heppner · Zajick · Hawlata · Urbanová · Czech Phil · Sir Charles Mackerras
Genre: Classical
 
Though Czech opera has often had questionable export value due to linguistic barriers, this first truly international recording of Dvorák's most viable opera--inspired by Wagner's love of mythology and Verdi's melodic dram...  more »

      
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Amazon.com essential recording
Though Czech opera has often had questionable export value due to linguistic barriers, this first truly international recording of Dvorák's most viable opera--inspired by Wagner's love of mythology and Verdi's melodic drama--suggests that non-Czech artists can be more than just credible. As a water sprite who becomes human for love of a prince, Renée Fleming gives her best recorded performance so far with a dramatic heat and theatrical dimension (plus her customary vocal luster) that her Czech predecessors haven't always mustered. Ben Heppner is a robust-voiced prince, though this one- dimensional role doesn't inspire any special affinity from him. Dolora Zajick is a vivid, vocally commanding witch. The one substantial disappointment is Franz Hawiata as the leathery-voiced water goblin. Conductor Sir Charles Mackerras is less interested in creating surface excitement than in bringing out subtleties that help compensate for the composer's occasional lack of melodic precision, though the big moments are by no means slighted. --David Patrick Stearns

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CD Reviews

Lovely singing, excellent playing and marvellous moments, bu
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 06/06/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)

"If you read in between the rave reviews for this recording, you might find a slightly different but more accurate picture of this interesting opera. Of course it has some absolutely beautiful things in it, above all the famous apostrophe to the moon, which Fleming sings with opulent tone and with just enough of a touch of "les larmes dans la voix" to avoid sentimentality, some lovely festival and ballet music, and many haunting orchestral and choral passages which imply a hinterland of mysterious, magical forests - but it also has its longueurs, including a tedious exchange between the Gamekeeper and the Turnspit boy, some fairly standard, rather hokey "wicked witch" stuff for Jezibaba, rather too many jolly folk-tunes in compound-time semi-quavers, and a vapid, tenor anti-hero in the shape of a Prince who behaves abominably. Eva Urbanovà is screechy as the Foreign Princess and Franz Hawlata very ordinary compared with the more sonorous veteran Richard Novak in the old Neumann recording.

Against that rather sour list of negatives must be set the splendid, lyrical singing of two artists in their prime, the alert direction of Sir Charles Mackerras in charge of a very fine orchestra, both immersed in the idiom, and the fact that we are hardly likely to get or even want another, finer modern recording of Dvorák's most successful opera. In his latter years, Dvorák became increasingly convinced that his true musical métier lay in the genre of opera; posterity seems to have decided otherwise, as outside his homeland only "Rusalka" and one or two others lie on the fringes of the repertoire. The standard criticism of "Rusalka" has been that it is melodically inventive but dramatically rather inert. I have to say that, one or numbers apart, I do not find even the melodist of the symphonies especially apparent in this opera; it is as if the exigencies of setting the relatively tame libretto diverted the composer's attention away from giving full rein to the melodic vein we find in his orchestral and chamber works.

I am wholly mystified by the claims of some fellow reviewers that "Rusalka" is their "favourite opera". Really? Better than the masterpieces of Mozart, Verdi, Wagner Strauss and Puccini? Surely this is well-intentioned hyperbole. There are many lovely things here but characterisation is not very profound and the kind of generic pathos that Rusalka's plight elicits is no substitute for depth of emotion. This was a rôle that helped bring Fleming to international stardom and all her major qualities are in evidence, so many will want this set for her alone, excellent though Heppner is, too. Apparently, according to some Czech speaking contacts, Fleming's Czech is not very idiomatic and sometimes poorly accented or wrongly stressed, but Western European listeners will not much care about that. I would give this recording three and half star if the system permitted it, and wonder if I might learn to love it as much as others evidently do and I would like to, especially as I am such an admirer of the composer and the two principal singers here, but it will never overtake established operatic favorites in my affections."
A Fairy Tale Come to Life
MikelMask | Maryland, USA | 02/01/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a superb recording! This sad story of a water nymph who seeks human love only to result in the death of her lover is beautifully performed by all involved. Charles Mackerras leads the Czech Philharmonic and an outstanding cast in a memorable performance. Renee Fleming has made many recordings of the opera's famous aria, "The Song to the Moon." However, it is only one highlight in this wonderful opera. After listening to this recording again, I cannot get the haunting final duet between Fleming and Ben Heppner out of my head. It rates as one of the most beautiful finales in all of opera. I cannot recommend a recording a more highly."