A first release on CD for the first recording in stereo of Rimsky-Korsakov’s enchanting springtime love-story.
With this and six companion issues, Eloquence makes available for the first time on CD the seven complete Russian operas recorded in 1955 by Decca with the company of the Belgrade Opera.
Fresh from a successful tour of Boris Godunov in Switzerland the previous year, the Belgrade Opera in 1955 was keen to make an impression on an international public. At the same time, the Decca company perceived a cost-effective but artistically assured opportunity to expand both its small but rapidly growing stereo catalogue and its opera discography with classics of the Russian opera repertoire in the original language.
Composed in 1882, The Snow Maiden was Rimsky-Korsakov’s third opera, and he would go on to write another twelve but even late in life he thought it his finest. It brings nature to life with magical representations of the forest, of frost and spring and even a Shrovetide doll, alongside the villagers who come across the maiden and adopt her. The score is rich in flower songs, shepherds’ piping and even a restrained deployment of Wagnerian leitmotifs associated with the Snow Maiden, the trouser-role shepherd Lel and Mizgir, the merchant who is doomed never to take the Snow Maiden as his bride with the final arrival of spring.
Recorded in both mono and stereo but originally issued only in mono, the stereo versions were held back for the US market and finally released in Europe in the 1960s, by which time the Belgrade Opera had acquired an international reputation for excellence. The original stereo tapes have been remastered for the first time, and they are demonstration-quality examples of the renowned early Decca sound.
The booklet for this newly remastered release prints both a synopsis and an essay by Peter Quantrill giving full historical context to the Belgrade opera recordings.
The Snow Maiden
Springtime tale in a prologue and four acts
Libretto by the composer after the ‘springtime fairy-tale’
by Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky
Spring: Biserka Cvejić
King Frost: Miroslav Čangalović
Snow Maiden (Snegurochka): Sofija Janković
Wood Spirit: Drago Dimitrijević
Lel: Milica Miladinović
Kupava: Valerija Heybal
Tsar Berendey: Stepan Andrashevich
Bermyata: Ilija Gligorijević
Mizgir: Dušan Popović
Bobil: Nikola Jančić
Bobilikha: Ljubica Versaykova
Shrovetide Straw-Dummy: Ivan Murgaški
First Herald: Bogoljub Grubač
Second Herald: Krsta Krstich
Page: Anita Yelinek
Belgrade National Opera Chorus & Orchestra
FIRST CD RELEASE ON DECCA
Recording Producer: James Walker
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (mono), Roy Wallace (stereo)Recording Location: House of Culture, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 26–30 September, 1, 2 & 4 October 1955
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
Original LP Releases: Decca LXT 5193–97 mono (January 1957); Decca ‘Ace of Diamonds’ GOS 642–45 stereo (March 1974); London XLL 1418–22/XLLA 45 mono (June 1957)
‘The performance conveys a great sense of enjoyment… Sofiya Jankovic’s Snow Maiden is charmingly sung… she characterises the part very well and is most touching in her death scene… The smaller parts are all well cast… Baranovic and his company have secured a very vivid and engaging interpretation of this lovely score.’ Gramophone, February 1957
‘The sound is amazingly smooth and clear, and the stereo spread even in those experimental days is really first rate.’ Opera magazine, August 1974