Music and Vision homepage Jenna Orkin: Writer Wannabe Seeks Brush With Death - From the heights of greatness (the Juilliard School; musicians Rosalyn Tureck and Nadia Boulanger) via way-ward paths to the depths of wickedness these reminiscences will entertain and enlighten.

 

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Ivo Zídek Operatic Recital (c) 1996 Supraphon Records

In addition to his other major operas, the chief of which are The Bride of Messina (after Schiller), Shakespeare's The Tempest (Boure, of which only one or two extracts are easily available, notably an impassioned reading of Ferdinand's Act 2 aria 'Jiz ruka' by another of the Czech National Opera's former stars, Ivo Zídek [listen -- track 8, 4:07 -- 5:02]), and Hedy (after Byron -- and thanks to its extended Liebestod, even more of a Czech Tristan than Sárka), one Fibich speciality is Melodrama. Later imitated by others like Foerster, Fibich experimented with a mode of voiced declamation that had lapsed from Czech music since the l8th century : most notably with his trilogy Hippodameia (The Courtship of Pelops, The Atonement of Tantalus, and Hippodameia's Death) to a text based on the Greek tragedians by Jaroslav Vrchlicky (Fibich's librettist for  The Tempest and Dvorák's for Armida, as well as the source for Fibich's cantata The Romance of Spring and overture A Night at Karlstijn, subsequently the basis for an opera by Novák), which received almost 20 performances in Prague, Vienna and elsewhere, in the early l890s.

Fibich: The Bride of Messina (c) 1993 Supraphon Records

There is a certain continuity between the declamatory style Fibich adopted here and the dry, mostly male monologue arias and recitative of The Bride of Messina (Nevesta Messinská) [listen -- CD 2 track 9, 0:00 -- 0:59], whose starkness -- there is also some of the same in Smetana's The Brandenburgers in Bohemia -- contrasts with the rich melodic and harmonic warmth of the later operas, as can be heard in an authoritative double disc recording with a cast headed by Zídek, Benacková and the leading baritone Vaclav Zítek (Supraphon ll 1492-2). Fibich's shorter melodramas included settings of Karel Jaromir Erben's Christmas Eve and The Water Goblin (Blodnik) - the latter a powerful tale more familiar from Dvorák's haunting  symphonic poem of that name.

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Copyright © 16 January 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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