On 22 May 2020, Supraphon will for the first time release a unique recording of the performance of Bedřich Smetana’s opera Libuše on 29 May 1939 at the National Theatre in Nazi-occupied Prague. The album also features the Overture, recorded in 1940, and fragments from Act 3, including Libuše’s Prophecy. At the end, the audience sings the Czech national anthem.
The recording of the concert performance in Nazi-occupied Prague of Smetana’s My Country conducted by Václav Talich, which took place on 5 July 1939, drew considerable attention worldwide (released on Supraphon in 2011; Gramophone Special Historic Award 2012). It seemed that Talich’s discography had thus been rounded off for good.
Yet the personal effects of the late soprano Marie Podvalová, renowned for her outstanding portrayal of Princess Libuše, provided another gem. A week prior to the mentioned performance of My Country, on 29 May 1939 a recording was made at the National Theatre of Talich’s account of Smetana’s opera Libuše. Fragments of Act 3 have been reconstructed from the miraculously surviving foils (the present CD also contains the 1940 recording of the Overture).
The producer Matouš Vlčinský said: „In 1939, Libuše’s Prophecy must have sounded to Czech ears like an immensely bold declaration of national pride and courage. Although incomplete and far from being perfect in terms of the quality of sound, the recording’s value is truly immense. It is the one and only recording of an opera conducted by Talich, the oldest surviving transmission of an opera performance from the National Theatre in Prague, and the penultimate staging of Libuše during the Nazi occupation before performances of it were banned outright. The audience’s long tumultuous applause and spontaneous singing of the national anthem attest to the moment’s enormous emotional gravity, imbuing the recording with exceptional energy.“
Cast: Marie Podvalová (Libuše), Stanislav Muž (Přemysl), Vilém Zítek (Chrudoš), Josef Vojta (Šťáhlav), Ota Horáková (Krasava), Marta Krásová (Radmila), Jaroslav Veverka (Lutobor), Josef Křikava (Radovan). Chorus and Orchestra of the National Theatre in Prague, chorus master: Jan Mario Ouředník; Czech Philharmonic (Overture), conductor: Václav Talich
Supraphon will release the recording in world premiere on 22 May 2020, both on CD and in electronic formats.