Album detail
Catalogue number: SU 4335-2

The Supraphon label is joining the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Bedřich Smetana’s birth with a special edition of selected recordings commemorating Smetana’s complete operatic works. Now for the first time, Smetana’s complete operas are being released in a luxurious limited edition 17CD box containing seven separately packaged 2CD sets plus one 3CD set along with detailed information about the individual operas, a 40-page booklet with a comprehensive study, a wealth of photographic documentation, and a link to downloadable librettos in Czech and English. The new digitally transferred and remastered recordings faithfully capture the sound of the Czech Smetana tradition. At the same time, the recordings are available digitally in Hi-Res quality.

Supraphon’s vast archives contain many noteworthy Smetana performances, some of which have become legendary over the decades as reference recordings in many respects. These are some of the best recordings ever made in this country, true audio treasures that adorn the collections of many fans of Czech music. The first and last time that Smetana’s operas were issued as a complete set was 40 years ago on LPs as part of a vast four-part project for Smetana’s complete works released in 1984, a Year of Czech Music.

In 2024, a Year of Czech Music, the Suprapon label has been inspired to make a detailed review of our Smetana operatic legacy and to prepare a 17CD box containing all of Smetana’s completed operas and of one opera that remained just a fragment. The main criteria for choosing the recordings were their artistic and technical quality and the fact that some of them are no longer available as physical product on the market in the Czech Republic or abroad. A balanced presentation of singers also played a part in making selections. The post-war tradition of Smetana interpretation was a driving force of Czech culture, and many singers who created that legacy have remained unsurpassed to this day in performing Smetana roles. Their artistry was associated with the National Theatre in Prague.


The composer’s eight finished stage works have been a natural part of the National Theatre’s repertoire, fostered with legendary precision, humility, and emotion, and above all with respect for their creator. This can be heard very clearly in the present release of the resulting complete set of Supraphon recordings. These performances document the special sound of the orchestra of the National Theatre as shaped by wonderful conductors, some of whom have come over time to be viewed as true Smetana specialists. This involves Zdeněk Chalabala (The Devil’s Wall, 1963), Jaroslav Krombholc (Dalibor, 1968), and Zdeněk Košler (The Secret, Libuše, and the fragment Viola, 1983). The recordings made by the conductors Jan Hus Tichý (The Brandenburgers in Bohemia, 1964) and František Jílek (The Two Widows, 1976) are also characterised by their personal passion for the respective scores. The collection also allows comparisons with recordings featuring the orchestra of the Janáček Opera in Brno (The Kiss, 1980) under the baton of František Vajnar and the Czech Philharmonic (The Bartered Bride, 1982) led by Zdeněk Košler. Those two recordings are characterised by their cultivated sound and brilliance.


By listening to all of these recordings, we get a comprehensive picture of Smetana interpretations as one generation of performers followed another. On the recording of The Devil’s Wall, in the role of Vok Vítkovic we hear the baritone Václav Bednář, one of the best Smetana interpreters of the National Theatre’s post-war era. Appearing with him are the sopranos Milada Šubrtová as Hedvika and Libuše Domanínská as Katuška, both of whom were also indispensable in their day on the leading Czech operatic stage. The recording also features the prematurely deceased bass-baritone Ladislav Mráz, whose interpretation of the daemonic role of Rarach remains unsurpassed to this day. In The Brandenburgers in Bohemia we can admire the artistry of the bass Eduard Haken or of the tenor Ivo Žídek, while in Dalibor the Brno tenor Vilém Přibyl shines in the title role alongside the sopranos Naděžda Kniplová and Hana Svobodová-Janků in the roles of Milada and Jitka. The title roles of The Two Widows are sung by the sopranos Naďa Šormová and Marcela Machotková, while The Secret is dominated by the performance of the baritone Václav Zítek in the role of Kalina. We can also hear Zítek as Tomeš in the recording of The Kiss and especially as Přemysl in the live recording of Libuše from the gala premiere for the reopening of Prague’s National Theatre, when soprano Gabriela Beňačková appeared for a single evening in the title role; her Libuše has become a legendary, iconic interpretation of the 1980s. She also features in the recording of The Bartered Bride as Mařenka alongside the tenor Peter Dvorský (the recording won the 1983 Deutsche Schallplattenpreis).

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