Charles Mackerras has long been a passionate advocate of Janácek
's music, and this is his second recording of "The Makropulos Case," the first being a 1978 version in the original Czech with Elisabeth Söderström
. The recording for Chandos is part of its growing Opera in English series. Janácek so adamantly insisted on the inseparability of his vocal music from the Czech language that any performance in translation must be cautiously evaluated. Much is changed when the composer's scrupulous text setting is sacrificed for the sake of comprehensibility, but in an opera as full of critical narrative details as "The Makropulos Case," the trade-off seems reasonable. The quality of the translation done by Norman Tucker
further justifies the decision; the meaning is always clear and the English prosody is natural and unforced. The soloists in the production by the English National Opera
are uniformly excellent, creating believable and vividly imagined characters. Soprano Cheryl Barker
holds the stage with her riveting portrayal of Emilia Marty, and sings radiantly in the opera's remarkable apotheosis. Mackerras conducts with fervor and draws a fiery performance from the English National Opera Orchestra
. Chandos' sound is clean and spatially realistic. The set includes an intriguing 30-minute interview with Mackerras, in which he describes his discovery and promulgation of Janácek's music and discusses "The Makropulos Case."