- Tajemství (The Secret), opera, JB 1:110
With this reissue of the 1953 recording of Smetana's 1878 comic opera "The Secret," Supraphon continues its series, Czech Opera Classics, releasing historical performances from its archive. These often represent the first recordings of the operas, and while some may have since been surpassed by recordings more vocally distinguished and with better sound quality, they represent an important, authentic performing tradition. "The Secret" comes from fairly late in Smetana's career, a dozen years after his biggest popular success, "The Bartered Bride." It shares with it the theme of village courtship, and its music is similar though more sophisticated, but its plot is difficult to unravel, and it never enjoyed the same popularity as the earlier opera. It's a thoroughly engaging work, full of graceful melody, witty characterizations, ingenious ensembles, and colorful orchestration. Jaroslav Krombholc leads Prague National Theatre Orchestra and Chorus in a vivacious, committed account of the lively score. Except for tenor Ivo Zidek the soloists didn't establish significant international careers, but based on the consistency of their performances and their secure, distinguished vocal quality, they might well have had they been given the opportunity; this is a thoroughly professional production. "The Secret" is very much an ensemble opera, and one of the pleasures of the recording is the easy give and take between the performers. The sound quality is surprisingly good for a recording of its vintage and provenance. The voices in particular are cleanly and robustly captured. The orchestra is somewhat in the background, so the balance isn't ideal, but it's well within the range of the acceptable. The recording makes a fine, idiomatic introduction to the opera for anyone interested in the composer or Eastern European Romantic opera.