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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Marie PODVALOVÁ (1909-1992)
Golden Voices of Prague National Theatre: Operatic Recital

Arias from:
SMETANA: Dalibor
DVOŘÁK: Rusalka
FIBICH: Šárka
SMETANA: Libuše
Marie Podvalová (soprano)
Prague National Theatre Orchestra and Chorus/Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Alois Klíma/Jaroslav Krombholc/Zdenek Chalabala (conductors)
Recorded between 1949 and 1953
SUPRAPHON SU 3504-2 6 [75.40]
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Marie Podvalová (1909-1992) cut an imposing figure on-stage and had a magnificent dramatic soprano voice. These recordings of standard Czech operatic fare are a wonderful testimony to her, as they were made when she was in her vocal prime at the start of the 1950s. She made the Smetana roles her own (Milada in Dalibor and the title role of Libuše), but Fibich’s Šárka (again the title role) became her trademark, and she was lucky to have worked under those great Czech opera and recording conductors Talich, Chalabala and Krombholc. Her voice is richly dark in terms of colour, yet it also possesses a considerably varied warmth of sound, intense, tender, powerful and dramatic. These arias may not be the familiar ones from Bartered Bride but serve as an excellent introduction to Smetana’s tragic, nationalistic operas. Her portrayal of Milada in Dalibor (1868) is evidence of how great she must have been in that similar trouser role, Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio. There is just the one extract from Dvořák’s Rusalka (1901) and it is not the familiar ‘Song to the Moon’, indeed here Podvalová takes the role of the wicked Princess for this feisty conclusion to the second act. Much (25 minutes) of the second act of Šárka, a beautiful opera written in 1897 by Fibich gets an airing here, her great aria, a wonderful love duet (with tenor Lubomír Havlák) forming a substantial scena; this was a role she had first sung in 1938 to great acclaim under Chalabala as here. The closing scene from Libuše (1881) in which the heroine prophesies a bright future for the Czech nation provides Podvalová with the best opportunity to shine.

Some of the supporting roles featuring in duets or other ensembles are unmemorable, in Dalibor there are moments of ‘ghostly’ anticipations of entries after a pause which have either appeared or slipped through the net in the digital transfer, and some of the orchestral playing may not always be up to standard. Live performances from the theatre contain the usual hazards and blemishes. However as an enduring memory of this fine voice and an exemplary artist it is a worthy disc.

Christopher Fifield


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