OP0372. PRODANÁ NEVESTA (BARTERED BRIDE) (Smetana) (in Czech), recorded 1980-81, w.Kosler Cond. Czech Phil. & Prague Philharmonic Choir; Benacková, Dvorsky, Novák, etc. (Czech Republic) 2-Supraphon 3707-2 632, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 128pp. Libretto-Brochure. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 099925370725
“This remarkable performance, recorded in 1980 and 1981, has never been bettered. Conductor Zdenek Kosler keeps the energy level very high while studiously avoiding overt sentimentality - but this is not to say that Vasek's problems do not evoke pathos. The purely orchestral sections - the overture and dances - are brilliantly played, almost as virtuoso set-pieces, but elsewhere the singers play off one another in a naturally operatic way. Gabriela Benackova is a lovely, telling Marenka, although oddly, the somewhat sharp edge to her top notes became less pronounced later in her career. Still, her portrayal is complete and a delight. Tenor Peter Dvorsky had a beautiful voice but never quite achieved the career that, on evidence of this performance, we would presume was in store for him. His Jenik is straightforward and beautifully sung, with solid delivery from top to bottom.
Miroslav Kopp does not oversing or overact the stuttering Vasek, and as hinted above, this makes him more likeable, more tolerable. (Jon Vickers sang the role at the Met in the '80s; Kopp gets far more out of it, with more suitable tone, by refusing to mug.) Richard Novak's bass voice was about five years too ripe when this was recorded, nonetheless, his busybody marriage broker is vivid and fun. The rest of the cast is strong and colorful. The sonics are shiny and brash, but certainly not enough to be bothersome. This set sells the opera, without a problem.”
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
“Zdenek Kosler was a most eminent Czech conductor who was a much-loved figure in Czech musical life, because it was so true. He gave himself unstintingly to Czech music and to Czech musicians: a man without show; loyal and true but tenacious also concerning the highest musical standards. From his student years he was repetiteur of the Prague Philharmonic Choir (then the Czech Choir), being appointed to a similar post at the National Theatre in 1948. He moved to the opera house, and in 1951 made his conducting debut there with Rossini's IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA. However, he never lost touch with the concert platform and in this same year he conducted the Prague Symphony (FOK) Orchestra for the first time. Thanks to Vaclav Smetacek, that orchestra's chief conductor from 1942 to 1972, Kosler was invited to work regularly there and enjoyed a particularly successful period between 1964 and 1967. International recognition came after his winning the conducting competition at Besançon in 1956 and the Mitropoulos competition in New York in 1963, the latter bringing him an assistantship with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for one year.
Continuing with the National Theatre, Kosler toured with the opera to Moscow in 1955 and to Brussels in 1958. In 1971 Kosler moved to Bratislava as director of the opera of the Slovak National Theatre until 1976. In 1980 he was appointed director of the National Theatre Opera, in Prague, and began a difficult period of striving to rebuild the standards of the opera-house. He remained there until 1984, during which time he conducted a complete cycle of Smetana operas as well as the centenary and re-opening of the renovated theatre on 8 November 1983 with Smetana's LIBUSE. His own deeply felt interpretations, often characterised by his expansive and unhurried approach to the music, place him forever in that line of great Czech conductors begun by Vaclav Talich and Karel Ancerl, continued through Vaclav Smetacek and handed on to Libor Pesek and Jiri Belohlavek. One of Zdenek Kosler's greatest pleasures in his last weeks was to know that the post at the head of the National Opera would pass to Belohlavek in 1998, the post once held by himself and where his musical heart lay.”
- Graham Melville-Mason, THE INDEPENDENT, 23 Aug., 1995
“While best known for her accomplishments in Czech music, particularly that of Dvorák and Smetana, Benackova has performed in nearly all the lirico-spinto soprano roles in the Italian repertoire. She has earned equal praise for her musicianship and vocal beauty, though she is occasionally accused of bringing a non-Italianate coolness to those roles. She has also sung the more lyric Wagner roles, including Eva and Senta.
Her opera début was at the National Theater in Prague, as Natasha in Prokofiev's WAR AND PEACE, in 1970. In 1975, she sang her first Jenufa there; like Dvorák's Rusalka, that role has since become one of her signatures. Jenufa was also the vehicle for her 1978 Vienna State Opera début. In 1979, she made her Covent Garden début as Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's EUGEN ONEGIN. She sang the title role of Smetana's LIBUSE for the re-opening of the National Theater in Prague in 1983. Her Met début was as Kát'a Kabanová in 1991, which she also recorded with Sir Charles Mackerras in 1997. She also continued her career as a concert artist in works by Dvorák, Janácek, and Mahler. Benackova has been involved in the restoration of Gustav Mahler's birthplace at Kaliste in the Czech Republic.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com