OP0409. LIBUSE (Smetana), Live Performance, 18 Nov., 1983, National Theatre, Prague, w.Zdenek Kosler Cond. National Theatre, Prague; Gabriela Benackova-Capov, Antonín Svorc, Vaclav Zitek, Leo Marian Vodicka, Karel Prusa, Rene Tucek, Vera Soukupova, etc. (Czech Republic) 3-Supraphon 11 1276-2 633, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 121pp. Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy! - 8596911127629
“Smetana's view of his LIBUSE was unequivocal, and shows that the whole conception related to the occasion of its first performance: the inauguration of the National Theatre in 1881. 'Libuse is not an opera of the old type, but a festive tableau, a form of musical and dramatic sustenance. I desire it to be used only for festivals which affect the whole Czech nation’. How fitting then that this performance should have been recorded live in November 1983 on the theatre's reopening after a major refurbishment.
Kosler knows and loves the music, and makes the most of its monumental style. His relatively slower tempi bring forth the grandeur and seriousness of the conception, and the ceremonial atmosphere is well captured by both the recording and the performance. The cast is splendid, reflecting that the extraordinary musical traditions of the Czech's are alive and well. The whole performance captures the sense of occasion which the reopening of the theatre must have been, and which links so closely to Smetana's original conception….the atmosphere of occasion is worth having preserved.”
- Terry Barfoot, musicweb-international
“Smetana’s monumental opera LIBUSE was chosen for the opening of the Prague National Theatre in 1881. This outstanding live recording was taken from the production with which the Prague National Theatre reopened in 1983. The atmosphere is tangible. Strings, wind and superlative brass furnish spectacular instrumental detail, from the opening fanfares (pre-echoes of Janácek) to LIBUSE’s glorious final vision. There are no weak links in this all-Czech cast. Benacková-Cápová, a reconciling Marschallin figure, is authoritative as the adjudicating princess, whose right to rule is challenged. The lower voices are generally strong. Wagner buffs will not be disappointed.”
- Roderic Dunnett, Classical-Music.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