Author Topic: Russian Operas  (Read 18347 times)

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Offline OzRadio

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Offline knight66

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #41 on: January 31, 2010, 08:13:18 AM »
I also endorse the Bychkov discs. The cast is superb, though for me Shicoff has not the liquid ease I prefer in that part, but otherwise, all is first rate. I did rid myself of Levine, Freni was too old to record her role convincingly.

Mike
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Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #42 on: May 12, 2010, 09:07:05 PM »
Apologies for dragging this topic back into the limelight.  I've enjoyed reading your many informed and well-considered comments :)

If we're considering the "unfairly neglected" Russian repertoire, then we don't have to look far - since even mainstream pieces by the central core of Russian composers get neglected. 

But there are many understandable, if not perhaps justifiable reasons why pieces slip through the cracks.  Not every foreign singer has the time or inclination to learn roles in Russian operas, and wonky pronunciation doesn't aid the enterprise - although I ought to add warm words of praise for Nathan Gunn, Christopher Ventris and Simon Keenlyside here.  Nor is the banal but necessary business of getting hold of the printed scores and orchestral parts always easy, especially for works printed in the USSR era.  Often the publishing houses have gone out of business amid today's commercial pressures, and tracing copies is hard.  There might be a set in a theatre somewhere - but the parts are hand-written, there are huge unauthaurised cuts (and the notes are missing for the cuts), or even rewritings. The situation isn't always better with the "classics", because the USSR forced "ideological" cuts in works, and scenes got rewritten if they appeared to praise the Royal Family overmuch etc - so one has to go back to a pre-1917 edition of the work, if it can be found intact.  Another reason these works are neglected is finance - the Russian Imperial Court didn't stint itself on cost, and the USSR never even gave a thought to it - often these are enormous-scale works with hundreds of characters, costume-changes, on-stage bands and orchestras.

I was pleased to see enthusiastic support for the lesser-known Tchaikovsky works.  For me, this is a corpus of work that's "up there" with the Verdi output - and if Verdi's more obscure stuff like ATTILA, DUE FOSCARI, and GIORNO DI REGNO are getting performances and recordings,  then how much more do we miss masterpieces like ORLEANSKAYA DEVA (The Maid Of Orleans), MAZEPPA, or OPRICHNIK ("The Bodyguard").   But even PIKOVAYA DAMA (The Queen Of Spades) is a rare appearance overseas.  MAZEPPA is surely Tchaikovsky's masterpiece, combining bravura writing in the famous crowd scenes with lyrical insight into the characters in the solo scenes - a "must-listen", in fact (and there's a good Mariisnky recording now).   OPRICHNIK is the "cinderella" of his output - unloved and unwanted.  Soon after the (box-office hit) premiere, Balakireff began a "whispering campaign" against Tchaikovsky, claiming the work had "sold out" and was a feeble copy of French Grand Opera, lacking any Russian "soul".  (It's true that the piece is purposely designed to appeal to audiences outside Russia, even through to having the traditional Parisian "mezzo soprano breeches role" of Basmanov.  Balakireff was particularly angered by a Russian officer with a female voice.)  Within a few weeks, Tchaikovsky himself had become convinced that he'd written a monstrosity that had offended the entire nation, and tried to have it pulled from the repertoire.  He even had the publishers destroy the printing-plates.  Even the Bolshoi hasn't done the piece since 1948 :(

We need to revisit the soviet-era works too.  Nice to see that someone mentioned Shostakovich's CHERYOMUSHKI ("Cherry Fields" - the optimistic name of a new soviet-era Housing Project in S Moscow, which is in fact still there).  There are other Shostakovich "operettas" and musical comedies, but mostly incomplete - "THE BIG LIGHTNING" is a madcap piece set in a hotel in London, where soviet delegates are attending an international conference and behaving extremely badly indeed.  Only Act One survives.

How do we deal with the real political tub-thumping pieces in praise of a Communism now widely despised even its own homeland?   [Or, as Mstislav Rostropovich observed in a radio interview, "Where have they buried all that sh*t now?" ]   This is a controversial area - do we really want these hymns to a madman like Stalin any longer, even as museum-pieces?

Helikon Opera here in Moscow have been experimenting out on the edge of things, and recently produced a new version of Prokofiev's STORY OF A REAL MAN,  which they purposely retitled THE MAN WHO FELL OUT OF THE SKY to distance it from the original version.  It's  a WW2 tale of a Russian "air ace", Morozov (a real-life pilot) who lost both legs when his plane was shot-down over no-man's-land, but dragged himself back across the lines using his ams alone.  The story was heavily politicised, and the opera ends in a scene in which Stalin himself (he isn't named, but it's clear that he's the "Leader") arrives in the hospital, and grants an apartment to the bed-ridden hero.  Helikon decided to rework the ending - justifiably so, I'd say?  Instead of Stalin, a German journalist has arrived to interview the legendary airman - who is a forgotten man in a country that regards him as a waste of a hospital bed.  There were "lively scenes" at the premiere, and the clearly anti-government line in the production was strongly noted... but war veterans among the audience leapt up to defend the production, "this is us!  this is how Russia treats us now!".   By subverting the story,  the opera has acquired a relevance for a new generation - and returned to the repertoire.

 
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Offline The new erato

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #43 on: May 12, 2010, 10:21:15 PM »
I see Brilliant Classics are reissuing some stuff lately:



and this:



Any comments on works and performances?
« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 10:24:06 PM by erato »

Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #44 on: May 12, 2010, 11:47:29 PM »
Rimsky's SNOW MAIDEN is - IMHO - his finest work :)  Probably because it has the best libretto, a welcome change from his two-dimensional cardboard Olde Russian Knights Of Yore :)   Instead SNOW MAIDEN is a tale of lost innocence, cupidity, and stupidity...   all of them compete to have her, marry her, sell her, buy her... and in the end she just (PLOT SPOILER!) melts away :)    It also has a pre-Stravinsky take on earth-religion and shamanist lore in the Russian forests, which is quite unusual.  And a poignant score of exceptional delicacy too :)   Along with MAY NIGHT and KASHEI THE INVINCIBLE it's up at the top of my Rimsky list :)  The famous mezzo breeches role for Lel is one of the "favourite moments" in the opera, and "Lel's dances" are often performed - with clarinet obbligato - as a concert item on their own (usually the third one).


SNOW MAIDEN at Novaya Opera, Moscow (current production)

I wish I could like Dargomyzhsky's STONE GUEST (his version of the Don Juan story) more than I do.  This is a recording of the Bolshoi's leaden performance of some years back - just listening to the music is preferable, because the production was miserably dull.  It's the bass's evening, and it takes a famous perfomer to bring this piece off.   Frankly you could do much better to listen to Dargomyzhsky's lovely RUSALKA instead :)
« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 11:49:09 PM by False_Dmitry »
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Offline The new erato

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #45 on: May 12, 2010, 11:56:10 PM »
Thanks fpr the exhaustive answer (and welcome to the board BTW; you already are a valuable member), but the Brilliant reissue is The Tchaikovsky Snow Maiden.... Though not knowing Rimski's operas terribly well, your points seems to agree with my own (few) experiences.

Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #46 on: May 13, 2010, 12:53:43 AM »
Whoops, I'd missed that!   :o  Must get these glasses checked!   Tchaikovsky's incidental music for SNOW MAIDEN is a rare treat indeed.   I wonder if he planned a ROMEO & JULIET opera too?  There's a love-duet remaining from it, but nothing else I know of.
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"Of all the NOISES known to Man, OPERA is the most expensive" - Moliere

abidoful

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #47 on: May 14, 2010, 09:36:19 AM »
Jevgeni Onegin was one of the first operas i got know- and fell in love! I used to listen it over and over again...! The other Tchaikovsky operas i'm not familiar with, besides MAZEPPA which I only heard once. Left me quite cold... I'd like to hear the "MAID OF ORLEANS"!

Then Rachmaninovs operas THE MISERLY KNIGHT and FRANCESCA DA RIMINI are very nice, beautiful vocal writing in the latter for soprano...!

Offline bosniajenny

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #48 on: May 22, 2010, 10:31:20 PM »
Hello everyone - new member, from UK but currently living in Sarajevo, Bosnia/Herzegovina!

Just to say I lived in Moscow for some years during the '70s, and had the opportunity to see a lot of opera both at the Bolshoi and (then) Kirov. Interestingly, I went to a performance of Gianni Schicci at the Sarajevo opera house the other week, and the supporting work was one of Shostakovich's chamber operas (I can't remember the title, will look it up, but it was about the Soviet approach to music! Politically interesting, perhaps musically not quite so interesting!)

Adore Ruslan, and saw it live at the Bolshoi years ago.....plus all the "big" Russians.

Thanks for this forum, should be fun!

Offline jowcol

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #49 on: May 23, 2010, 01:12:01 AM »
Opera is not my strong suit, but as a coincidence I've just  found myself addressing Mussorgsky's Khovanschina on another thread, and I can honestly say I like it more the Boris (in either the RK or Shostakovitch versions).  In particulary, the choral writing in the second half is really powerful. 
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Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #50 on: May 23, 2010, 07:20:31 AM »
the supporting work was one of Shostakovich's chamber operas (I can't remember the title, will look it up, but it was about the Soviet approach to music!

I'd be interested to know what that piece is?  :)
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Offline listener

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #51 on: May 24, 2010, 11:34:39 AM »
I'd be interested to know what that piece is?  :)
Probably Antiformalistic Rayok (1957/89) a parody of an official meeting of the Union of Soviet Composers, ending in a rejection of formalism in favour of the "people's music"
Alexei Mochalov, bass     Moscow Chamber Music Theatre, Anatoly Levin cond   on the Triton label has it with a good translation and set of notes.  I'll add the cover on my current listening post.

and a second recording on another shelf: Chant du Monde LDC 288075 Russian Musical Satire: Sergei Yakovenko, State Symphonic Cappella    Valery Poliansky, cond., with songs by Dargomyzhsky, Mussorgsky Prokofiev and Kalinnikov.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2010, 12:40:22 PM by listener »
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Offline bosniajenny

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #52 on: May 25, 2010, 09:59:38 AM »
Yes, that is exactly it! Thank you. Modernism and atonality versus the "people's music". Interesting to see it performed in a country which was at war over Communism/nationalism as recently as 1994.

Offline Ciel_Rouge

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #53 on: June 19, 2010, 04:39:37 AM »
Hi bosniajenny, and how about Russian opera in Bosnia? Is there any chance for a performance there?

Offline Guido

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #54 on: February 22, 2011, 09:24:54 AM »
Where has False Dmitry gone?
Geologist.

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Offline The new erato

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #55 on: February 22, 2011, 11:48:03 AM »
He left soon after joining due to what (IIRC) I consider a minor triffle.

Offline Mozart

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #56 on: March 27, 2011, 05:14:31 PM »
Has anyone seen Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla with a young Anna Netrebko? How is it?

http://www.amazon.com/Glinka-Ruslan-Lyudmila-Vladimir-Ognovenko/dp/B000093FQI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1301274756&sr=8-3


I never imagined I'd like Russian opera, but Eugene Onegin hooked me and surprised me, I like it more than most of Verdi's stuff. I'll check out Pique Dame tonight :) 
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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #57 on: March 27, 2011, 08:32:11 PM »
Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon was apparently popular in its day. There was one Melodiya recording and nothing since, that I know of. The Amazon samples make it seem quite enjoyable, though one of the singers is a bit dodgy.


(Click image for link.)

Offline knight66

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #58 on: March 27, 2011, 10:25:19 PM »
I never imagined I'd like Russian opera, but Eugene Onegin hooked me and surprised me, I like it more than most of Verdi's stuff. I'll check out Pique Dame tonight :)

I have never managed to crack Pique Dame, how did you find it?

Mike
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I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Russian Operas
« Reply #59 on: March 27, 2011, 10:54:58 PM »
Has anyone seen Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla with a young Anna Netrebko? How is it?

http://www.amazon.com/Glinka-Ruslan-Lyudmila-Vladimir-Ognovenko/dp/B000093FQI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1301274756&sr=8-3


I never imagined I'd like Russian opera, but Eugene Onegin hooked me and surprised me, I like it more than most of Verdi's stuff. I'll check out Pique Dame tonight :)
That Ruslan and Ludmila is quite good - good singing all around (very good cast) and quality playing. It's not like you have much choice though. This same set can be found on cd, as can a couple older ones. But that is all that is available to my knowledge.
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