- Recké pasije (The Greek Passion), opera, H. 372
Bohuslav Martinu's last opera, "The Greek Passion," didn't see the stage until 1961, when it was produced in Zurich two years after the composer's death. The composer had based the libretto, written originally in English, on Nikos Kazantzakis' novel Christ Recrucified, with the intent that the opera would be staged by Covent Garden. It was rejected, though, and Martinu drastically revised the work to a Czech libretto, and it's that version that's recorded here. (There's a recording of the London version on Koch Schwann for listeners interested in its more adventurous original incarnation.) This Supraphon release is a reissue of a 1981 recording, part of its Czech Opera Treasures series, and the opera receives a fine idiomatic performance by the forces of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by Libor Pesek. The orchestra plays with intensity and conviction, but the recording doesn't quite make its sound gleam. The soloists sing with passion but none of the voices are outstanding. Martinu considered the opera the crowning work of his extremely productive career, and it has the sound of a significant contribution to the genre, with a compelling theme that's handled with the appropriate gravity. The composer's Slavic heritage is evident in the vigor of the music, and he deftly incorporates elements of Greek liturgical chant. The vocal lines are seldom soaringly memorable, and the most striking musical moments are when the orchestra is playing alone. It's an intriguing opera that may require the dramatic element to make its full impact, and it should be of interest to fans of contemporary opera.