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Cat. No. CHAN 3138(2) Price: Ł18 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3138 - Janacek: The Makropulos Case
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Available From: 01 February 2007
Sir Charles Mackerras, a world authority on the great Czech composer Janácek, conducts this poignant drama of love and immortality in the production by Christopher Alden for ENO in 2006. Set in a dream-like vision of 1920s Prague, the opera centres on the enigmatic and sexually irresistible Emilia Marty, an opera diva who after taking an elixir has lived for more than 300 years. As she approaches the end of the term for which the elixir spared her death, the opera powerfully explores Emilia’s dilemma of whether to prolong her life a further 300 years.

The soprano Cheryl Barker here made her role debut as the mesmerising Emilia Marty, and American tenor Robert Brubaker appears as Albert Gregor, a role he has sung at The Metropolitan Opera, New York, to great acclaim. Janácek was a late developer, coming to creative maturity in his fifties, and driven by a fierce nationalism, a passionate obsession with a younger woman and a preoccupation with what he described as ‘the fascination of what’s difficult’. In the ten years which witnessed the birth of almost all of his musical masterpieces, Janácek took large artistic risks. In particular, in his three last operas – The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Case and From the House of the Dead – he set himself challenges which were not merely difficult but well-nigh insane – and surmounted them triumphantly.

These three music dramas are among the most humane and moving musical documents of the twentieth century. None of them is stranger or more affecting than the opera which is known in the English-speaking world as The Makropulos Case. The music is some of the most transcendent in all of twentieth-century opera.
Reviews

This electrifying performance has been captured in sound that is exceptionally full-bodied, and it also has great immediacy. I very much welcome a recording in English – especially such clear English – but this new set enshrines an account that is altogether exceptional irrespective the language… The cast led by Barker’s stunning Emily Marty, is superb, and Charles Mackerras has probed ever deeper into this astonishing work. The result is one of the great Janacék opera sets.
International Record Review

Cheryl Barker is thrilling as Emilia Marty in this ENO performance recorded at the Coliseum last spring. Sir Charles Mackerras recorded the opera in Czech in Vienna 25 years ago and this Opera in English can stand the comparison. His interpretation is as compelling as ever. No one else can get as far inside Janácek’s score as he does. Then ENO orchestra plays splendidly, and there are excellent cameos from Graham Clark and Hauk-Sendorf and Elena Xanthoudakis as Kristina. A valuable extra is Mackerras’s discussion with Rodney Milnes.
Sunday telegraph ‘Best of 2007’

So good it hurts… some of the greatest operatic music ever… Entrust Janácek’s case to one of his greatest champions, Sir Charles Mackerras, and you have one of the most memorable evenings at English National Opera… Cheryl Barker is outstanding as Emilia Marty… Uprecedented eloquence from ENO’s fine house orchestra.
The Observer

Reviews from the performance:

Sir Charles Mackerras conducts with the energy of a man possessed, confirming his status as the world’s pre-eminent Janácek interpreter and producing a blistering performance from the ENO orchestra… It’s the humanity of Janácek’s music that finally triumphs in this magnificent, insightful production.

The Guardian

The performers range from the vocally imposing (Jane Eaglen in Tosca and Turandot, Susan Patterson in Manon Lescaut) to the more graceful and delicate (Mary Plazas in Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica, Cynthia Haymon in Boheme, the trio of Mandarins in Turandot). Cheryl Barker is vocally and dramatically impressive in Butterfly.
American Record Guide

Mackerras’s reading, recorded in live performance, is slightly more expansive than his benchmark Vienna version, and inevitably less finely played, but the passionately lyrical urgency and sense of mysterydrive it along just as compellingly… But this is more vivid and dramatic, and its immediacy also offers English-speaking listeners easier access to this strange but rewarding masterpiece.
BBC Music Magazine

Barker conveys the title character’s coolness and vulnerability with real power, and she has excellent support from Brubaker and Wegner as the men besotted with her.
Classic FM

Cheryl Barker matches Elisabeth Söderström’s famous turn in the first Mackeraas recording of this endlessly fascinating opera. As always, there is no conductor who better understands Janacék’s sound-world nor its conversational rhythms. A strong cast and excellent translation makes this a Janacék must-have.
Gramophone Editor’s Choice

These CDs make the best possible case for Makropulos, with Cheryl Barker outstanding as Emilia and well supported by a strong team of men, led by John Wegner’s powerful Baron Prus. On this occasion the English language is an asset and the diction of the entire cast exemplary.
Daily Mail

Here, recorded during the opera’s run at the Coliseum… is Sir Charles Mackerras’s compelling interpretation of this remarkable piece, with Cheryl Barker hypnotically thrilling as Emilia Marty in a performance that can stand comparison with Elisabeth Söderström’s on Mackerras’s Decca set with the Vienna Philharmonic made in Czech 25 years ago. The smaller parts are well sung… The orchestral playing( of a revised edition) is magnificent and there nis an additional track of a fascinating interview between Mackerras and Rodney Milnes about Sir Charles’s devotion to Janacék.
Sunday Telegraph

Chery Baker plays the diva whose three centuries of youthfulness are beginning to wear off. Her sense of desperation colours every phrase… She is admirably supported by Neal Davies, Robert Brubaker, John Wegner, John Graham-Hall, Thomas Walker and Graham Clark as the various men who fall under her Lulu-like spell. All the singing is closely miked – essential in this most wordy of Janacék’s opera – but it never compromises the depth and richness of sound from the orchestra pit in the overall balance. And in the pit itself, Mackerras responds to the composer’s fecund writing with a performance of rhythmic vitality and textural clarity.
Daily Telegraph

 

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