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A rarity is Smetana’s Dalibor (1868), which, to the composer’s chagrin, never had the same success as The Bartered Bride. So is Dalibor worth reviving? The music certainly is, with a rich score full of drama and effect, though more than a little bombastic at times. The vocal lines give the singers opportunities both to declaim and to soar. The lurid plot is dramatically less successful, concerning the developing love between Dalibor, a mediaeval knight, for Milada, whose brother he has murdered; they ultimately die together as she attempts to rescue him by storming his prison. It would need a strong directorial hand to stage it, and this performance was recorded in concert, which is perhaps the most sensible way to present the opera. Jiri Belohlávek’s championing of Dalibor ensures a passionate performance and the BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with style. The singers are classy too. Richard Samek’s tenor is perhaps a touch light for the title role, but he is unstinting in facing Smetana’s demands, with a solid middle voice only occasionally tiring a little towards the top. As Milada, Dana Burešová displays a luscious soprano, and Alžběta Poláčková contrasts well as Jitka, her voice lighter and brighter. The whole enterprise is compromised by its presentation. I dutifully accessed the website for the libretto as directed – and it is there, but with English and Czech versions following each other rather than side-by-side, so I had to open two windows and try to cross-reference as I went along (take your eye off the screen to reach for the slivovitz and it’s game over, trust me). The booklet doesn’t even list the singers against their roles, and neither does the website. It turns what should be a happy musical discovery into an uphill slog.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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