- The Devil and Kate (Cert a Káca), opera, B. 201 (Op. 112)
Except for "Rusalka," Dvorák's operas have never gotten much of a foothold outside Czechoslovakia. "Kate and the Devil"has remained a national favorite in Czechoslovakia, though, and it's easy to see why; it may have an intentionally ridiculous libretto, but it's full of the composer's typically melodious inventiveness. Written soon after his "Symphony No. 9, From the New World," it shares that work's harmonic language and melodic prodigality, tempered by an Offenbachian lightness. The opera is through-composed, and each act is a continuous musical narrative with an assured sense of dramatic contour. This performance, recorded in 1955, makes a strong case for the work. Zdenek Chalabala leads the Prague National Orchestra and Chorus in a strong, spirited performance. It's testimony to the impact a work that's little known internationally can have when performed with the idiomatic nuance of the national musical tradition of which it's a part. This performance may be an expression of a specific musical culture, but it never comes across as provincial. Chalabala's conducting has both the flexibility and grand Romantic sweep the score requires. The soloists are solid and convincing, particularly Ludmilla Komancová as Kate and Lubomir Havlák as Jirki. The sound is astonishingly good for a recording of its time and geographical provenance: clean, balanced, and realistic.