- Hubicka (The Kiss), opera, JB 1:104
Smetana's frothy, almost operetta-like opera "Hubicka" (The Kiss) is a standard, popular work in Czech-speaking lands and has been since its premiere in 1876. This makes one wonder why it has not been recorded more often. The recording under consideration here, made by the then Czech state label Supraphon in 1952, was the only complete one for many, many years. A more contemporary recording, made by the Brno Janácek Opera in 1980 under conductor Josef Pancik, just simply is not as successful as this monophonic recording led by the great Zdenek Chalabala, so this version remains the gold standard for "Hubicka." This 2006 Supraphon package is especially nice and well made as not a single member of this excellent cast is left alive at its issue, thumbnail biographies are provided for each member. The full text of Eliska Krásnohorska's famous, and controversial, libretto is given in four languages, and this brings the book up to 172 pages, but listeners will be very grateful nonetheless. Smetana's music is at its typically lively best, and Chalabala keeps the orchestra at a riotous intensity throughout. The Supraphon recording engineers, working with primitive, Soviet bloc technology, are kept very busy as they back the orchestra off the singers at every entrance and pipe it back up at every exit. Nevertheless, one's ears become accustomed to this arcane practice and overall the recording is superior to average mono opera recordings being made in the Soviet Union at that time.