Well worth hearing as an introduction to The Jakobin if you can find a low cost offer on this set, but not a substitute for a full-scale studio or live production - which are as rare as hen's teeth.- HRAudio
Wexford Festival Opera, founded in 1951, presents three productions annually of rare operas in productions the artistic standards of which have been hailed by critics the world over. Presented consecutively over what is now an 18-day event, the operas and the supporting program attract audiences from all over the world.
This disc of a Wexford Festival production gives you some idea of what many thousands of people enjoy each year.
"There is a kind of house party atmosphere which spreads from the theatre to the hotels: Wexford is unlike any other festival, the enthusiasm is unique; it is the total experience that matters." - The New York Times
V. Pivovarov, M. Werba, A. Grato, T. Monogarova, M. Palazzi, M. Lehotsky, A. Elliot, M. Panova, R. Sharp
Wexford Festival Opera Chorus Young Wexford Singers
National Philarmonic Orchestra of Belarus - A. Voloschuk: conductor
Written at the same time as the Eighth Symphony, Dvorak's seventh opera 'The Jakobin' was set in an environment very familiar to him; a small village in the shadow of a castle (just as in his birthplace), and featuring a schoolmaster embroiled in village politics with a daughter called Terinka (amazingly, the small town he worked in after leaving home also had a schoolmaster with a daughter of this name!). He put aside Marie Cervinkova-Riegrova's fine libretto for some time before she gently reminded him about it, then attacked it with great gusto, producing one of his best but still sadly neglected operas in 1889. Although the heavy comedy doesn't always come off on stage, musically The Jakobin is overflowing with Dvorak's best melodic inspirations and inventive orchestration.
The busy plot centres around two pairs of young lovers. Bohus (the "Jacobin" of the title) and Julia are home from post-Revolution Paris and hope to win favor from the Count of Harosov, Bohus's father, over the opposition of Adolf, the Count's nephew. Jiri and Terinka are in love, but Benda, her father, wants her to marry the Count's pompous steward, Filip. It all ends happily for the youngsters as their various adversaries of course get their come-uppances.
Productions of neglected operas is exactly what the highly-respected annual International Opera Festival at Wexford, Ireland was instituted for, and this set was recorded there over six performances in October-November 2001. Recording Engineers Hein Dekker (Phillips International B.V) & Carl Schuurbiers (Polyhymnia) used a 5 point Schoeps microphone setup for a 5.1 capture to DSD. This is an accurate and honest recording of the small Wexford theatre, relatively dry as theatres are wont to be, but with sufficient air to allow the voices and orchestra to expand reasonably well. It is an immediate recording, much more so than Supraphon's RBCD set with Pinkas and the Brno State Philharmonic (a larger-scale performance but with rather dated and distant sound). The Wexford atmosphere is very intimate, with plenty of stage business and dancing, and the knowledgeable audience is mostly cooperatively silent except for a few discreet coughs and brief applause at the end of each of the three Acts.
Performers were mainly from Belarus, including the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Belarus conducted by Alexander Voloschuk. They were aided by local talent - the Wexford Festival Opera Chorus and The Young Wexford Singers appearing as a children's choir. The Jacobin production was hailed as the plum of the 2001 Festival, and on the evidence of this recording, the accolade was justly deserved, with a fine cast of soloists, the main principals matching if not exceeding those of the Pinkas set, and there is tremendous commitment from all concerned. Voloschuk steers a tightly-reined narrative, relaxing for the comic scenes, squeezing all the drama possible from the dramatic and romantic scenes, and encouraging the theatre-sized orchestra most effectively.
There is one charming feature in the First Act which I must mention. Dvorak had been studying Carmen around the time of working on The Jakobin, and was deeply impressed with Bizet's work. So much so, that early in this act, you will hear a clear parody of the Soldier's entry on the scene in Carmen Act 1, down to the march, orchestration and chorus.
Having heard a musically fine performance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1995, I enjoyed this set very much, given its inherent limitations of scale. There is, however, one major caveat: Fone provide no libretto, only a Synopsis. There are plenty of coloured photographs of the action, and a useful essay on the origins of The Jacobin. This 2-disc set thus has to stand alone, unless your Czech is excellent (fortunately the singers' articulation is mostly very good).
Well worth hearing as an introduction to The Jakobin if you can find a low cost offer on this set, but not a substitute for a full-scale studio or live production - which are as rare as hen's teeth.
Antonín Dvorák (1841 - 1904)
Opera in three acts to a libretto by Marie Cervinková-Riegrová
First performance:National Theatre, Prague February 12, 1889
Wexford Festival Opera 2001 performances: October 19, 22, 25, 28, 31 November 3
By arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Limited
Sung in Czech
Count Vilém of Harasov
Lotinka Valentin Pivovarov
Wexford Festival Opera Chorus
The Young Wexford Singers
National Philharmonic Orchestra of Belarus
Alexander Voloschuk conductor
Lubomir Mátl chorus master
Scene 1. Bohus, Julie, Chorus
Scene 2. Chorus
Scene 3. Benda, Terinka, Jiri, Purkrabi (off stage)
Scene 4. Jiri, CHorus
Scene 5. Add Terinka, Purkrabi
Scene 6. Purkrabi
Scene 7. Terinka, Jiri, Purkrabi
Scene 8. Add Bohus, Julie
Scene 9. Add Chorus and Benda
Scene 10. Add Count Vilem, Adolf
Scene 1. Benda, Jiri, Terinka, Chorus
Scene 2. Terinka, Jiri
Scene 3. Add Benda
Scene 4. Add Chorus
Scene 5. Add Bohus, Julie
Scene 5. Add Bohus, Julie
Scene 6. Purkrabi, Benda, Jiri, Terinka
Scene 7. Add Adolf, Bohus
Scene 8. Add Julie, Chorus
Scene 1. Jiri, Adolf, Purkrabi, Lotinka, Chorus
Scene 2. Julie, Benda, Lotinka
Scene 3. Count Vilem, Benda
Scene 4. Benda, Julie
Scene 5. Count Vilem, Julie
Scene 6. Add Children Chorus (off stage)
Scene 7. Count Vilem, Adolf, Purkrabi, Benda, Children Chorus and Chorus
Scene 8. Add Julie, Bohus, Jiri, Terinka
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