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Posted October 1, 2010
Since its first presentation in 1934, the Glyndebourne Festival (GF) has upheld its reputation for operatic productions of the highest caliber. This 3-CD package of Dvorak's popular opera 'Rusalka,' sung in Czech, maintains the high standards; this 2009 performance offers a cast that includes Puerto-Rican soprano Anna Maria Martinez as the love-smitten Rusalka and the American tenor Brandon Jovanovich as the fickle Prince.
Martinez hardly needs an introduction; her brilliant global career includes performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera, London's Covent Garden, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, and many other famous venues. Listening to her dusky lyric soprano voice is pure joy, and she delivers a stunning performance as Rusalka. Jovanovich, a winner of the 2007 Richard Tucker Award, also has many operatic and concert performances to his credit. His performance as the Prince is excellent. The rest of the cast support ably.
In common with most live performances, one must tolerate occasional non-musical sounds e.g., of actors moving around onstage. Despite this, the Glyndebourne Chorus and London Philharmonic Orchestra are superbly conducted by Jiri Belohlavek. This new version seriously challenges the London version, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, with Renee Fleming and Ben Heppner. Your personal preference may determine your final choice; avid Dvorak-lovers will surely want both versions - this is gorgeous music.
As with the previous GF 2-CD set of Donizetti's 'L'elisir d'amore' that I reviewed in May, 2010, my only peeve, a tiny one, is that two of the CDs, tucked into two pockets on the inside of the stiff front and back covers of the booklet, are very hard to extract without getting fingerprints on the playing surfaces, which can cause playback malfunctions. The third CD, enclosed between stout but still flexible cardboard sheets, is easier to extract. Further, all three CDs are enclosed in thin plastic sleeves for added protection.