SMETANA (1824-1884) Dalibor(sung in English) (1868, revised
1870 and 1878)
Vladislav – Gwyn
Dalibor – Robert Jones (tenor)
Budivoj – Gordon Farrall (baritone)
Beneš – Don Garrard (bass)
Vitek – Joseph Ward (tenor)
Milada – Pauline Tinsley (soprano)
Jitka – April Cantelo (soprano)
Judge – Harold Lumb (bass)
BBC Orchestra and Chorus/Vilem Tauský
rec. 31 August 1969. ADD. GALA GL 100.785 [76:22
This is a welcome souvenir
of Tauský’s Czech operatic work. But for reasons that will
almost immediately become apparent a souvenir is all it will
have to remain. It also documents a singer who was otherwise
lamentably treated by the record companies of the time but
whose live performances show her to have been a searingly
impressive talent – Pauline Tinsley. Other stalwarts of the
time are happily present, especially April Cantelo and Joseph
Ward though Gala really must do more biographically in its
notes. There’s something about Don Garrard who takes the
small role of Beneš but nothing at all about the Vladislav,
Gwyn Griffiths, nor even about the singer who takes the title
role, Robert Jones. This is something of an injustice, to
put it mildly.
Tauský did a huge amount
to further the cause of operatic and symphonic music in Britain.
He gave twenty-six opera and operetta premieres throughout
his long career, the last at the age of eighty-four which
was, rather amazingly, Smetana’s The Brandenburgers in
Bohemia – not professionally premiered in Britain until
1994. I hope that some trace of his complete Martinů symphonic
cycle – again a first in his adopted country – has survived.
The subject under discussion
though is Dalibor. It was recorded with BBC forces
in 1969. I’m not sure where the recording derives from but
it’s congested and muddied in sound quality. To be utterly
frank it’s not easy to understand a word the singers are
saying – and they’re singing in English. The Chorus is simply
an amorphous mass of weight. The same is very much true of
the orchestral sound-stage. You really can’t hear the percussion
in the orchestral introduction to the first Act – and the
muddiness extends right throughout the orchestra.
The singing is very variable.
Cantelo is a reliable indeed impressive presence though she’s
not as penetrating a singer as the best of the Czechs – Hanna
Svobodova-Janku for instance who sings for Krombholc in the
Supraphon Prague National Theatre recording made the year
before this Tauský performance. Griffiths is quite a light
voiced Vladislav and lacks the oratorical weight of Jindrák
in that same recording – he’s not sufficiently regally penetrating
though he carries off the bluffness well enough. In the title
role Jones proves a pliant rather than an assertive Dalibor.
His is more the lyric tenor than the kind ideally required;
you really need Přibyl in this kind of role, one he
appropriated for many years, with his powerful command and
self-confidence. Don Garrard is rather buffo-ish in his role
as Beneš. It’s Tinsley who proves to have the most volatile
and sure operatic instincts in this role. She’s as unintelligible
as the others but in her case allowance can be made even
though I still prefer the greater tang of Kniplová and Depoltová in
this kind of role.
Gala has been active in
restoring vintage British operatic performances. This one
has rather more limitations than others I’ve heard and will
be a niche purchase.
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