Martinů: Short Operas / Meister, Stuttgart State Orchestra

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Martinů is a musical chameleon. On the one hand, there’s an unmistakable from to his output, on the other hand, he would adopt and adapt just about any style that happened to be en vogue or to his liking. These two one-act operas, presented on record for the first time in their respective versions, are a case in point. There’s that cracking little shocker that is Knife Tears (in its original French version), in which Martinů set an absurdist libretto to the sounds of Le Jazz Hot, Stravinsky, and anything in between. This is juxtaposed with the English version of his Comedy on the Bridge (the one that helped this work to brief fame), which is wildly different (if anything more in the style of Hanns Eisler), despite being separated by a mere seven years.


Martinů’s short one-act operas make for a bright and entertaining double bill, and they receive bright and entertaining performances on this new recording from the Staatsoper Stuttgart under its music director Cornelius Meister. First up is Les larmes du couteau, a surreal farce from 1928 and the height of Martinů’s Paris period...A banjo strums drolly through the chamber-size score; there are the usual foxtrots and at one point the heroine Eléonore slides into a sultry and distinctly Weill-ish song to the moon. This is the first time, apparently, that the opera has been recorded with the original French text and Elena Tsallagova, as Eléonore, makes it sound effortless.

The Comedy on the Bridge is a more substantial proposition, composed as a Czech radio opera in 1935 but revised and staged in the USA in 1951 in the English version that is recorded here. Václav Klicpera’s plot – four characters, in wartime, are given permission to step on to a bridge but are forbidden from leaving it – must have had a personal resonance for the much-exiled Martinů. And yet the musical-dramatic world that he creates is recognisably kin to Smetana and Janáček: the bickering sweethearts, the querulous schoolmaster and the lyrical, dancing warmth that offsets what might otherwise have been a very black comedy indeed. The ensemble cast here sounds fresh and committed, enunciating clearly while Meister finds both the bite and the tenderness in Martinů’s lilting melodies and toytown march tunes. A little gem.

-- Gramophone

Product Description:

  • Release Date: November 04, 2022

  • Catalog Number: C5477

  • UPC: 845221054773

  • Label: Capriccio

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Bohuslav Martinu

  • Conductor: Cornelius Meister

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Staatsorchester Stuttgart

  • Performer: Elena Tsallagova, Esther Dierkes, Bjorn Burger, Adam Palka, Maria Riccarda Wesseling, Stine Marie Fischer, Andrew Bogard, Michael Smallwood, Steven Ebel, Andrew Lieflander, Paul McCann


  1. Larmes de couteau (Tears of the Knife), H. 169

    Composer: Bohuslav Martinů

    Ensemble: Stuttgart State Orchestra

    Conductor: Cornelius Meister

  2. Veselohra na mostě (Comedy on the Bridge), H. 247

    Composer: Bohuslav Martinů

    Ensemble: Stuttgart State Orchestra

    Conductor: Cornelius Meister