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Thread: Miscellaneous Russian opera from composers w/o their own threads, on DVD/blu-ray/CD

          
   
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  1. #16
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The Miserly Knight, opera in three scenes (one act), composed in 1903-5, on DVD
    Music by Sergei Rachmaninov
    The opera sets to music the text as written, in the drama by the same name, by Alexander Pushkin

    Score:
    2 Tenors, 2 Baritones, 1 Bass (no female voices)
    Piccolo, English Horn, Bass Clarinet, Timpani, Cymbals, Bass Drum, Triangle, Tam-tam, Harp, Strings.

    World Premiere 1/11/1906, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow. Conductor: Sergei Rachmaninov

    Most recommended recording:
    Anatoly Kocherga/Sergei Aleksashkin/Sergei Larin/Gothenburg Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Neeme Järvi - Deutsche Grammophon DG 453 454-2GH

    Synopsis:

    The opera is set in England, in Medieval times

    A young knight Albert lives a life of jousting and courtly pleasure, which his father, an extremely rich but miserly baron, refuses to support. As a result Albert is now deeply in debt and unable to appear in high society, so he tries to borrow money once again. The money-lender refuses to provide a loan, but offers poison by means of which Albert can kill his father. Sending the money-lender away in horror at the idea, he decides to appeal to the duke who rules them all. Meanwhile the baron visits his cellars alone to celebrate the fact that he has now amassed enough gold to fill his sixth and last chest. Filled with greedy delight and terror, he lights candles before the chests and opens them to gloat on what they hold. In a powerful monologue, he fluctuates between ecstasy at the sight of all this twinkling gold and despair that he might soon die and then his son would be able to claim it all and spend it. In despair, Albert asks the duke to help. The duke conceals Albert in a nearby room and summons the baron to persuade him to support his son. Cross-questioned by the duke, the baron tries to protect his fortune and accuses his own son of wanting to steal from him. Outraged, Albert leaps from his hiding-place and accuses his own father of lying. The baron challenges his son to a duel, which Albert accepts, provoking the duke to expel him from his court. The strain is too much for the baron’s heart. He dies, calling not for his son, but for the keys to his beloved chests of gold.

    This DVD:
    BBC/Opus Arte 0919D
    Recorded Live at Glyndebourne in July of 2004
    London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
    Annabel Arden, director

    NTSC widescreen, LPCM Steero, DTS 5.1, Aspect Ratio 1.78:1, Region 1 (US and Canada only) ASIN B0009K7J5K

    Sung in Russian with English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian subtitles

    Run time 95 minutes (with the extras; the opera itself lasts for 60 minutes). Release date July 19, 2005 (attention, there is another release in 2008 by Kultur with 1.33:1 aspect ratio).

    It must be said that the same production is available as part of a Glyndebourne double bill on blu-ray disc, with Puccini's Gianni Schicchi - which is actually how this short piece was presented, that night, coupled with Puccini's comedy, as strange as it may sound, to pair together such deep drama with such light comedy, although both focus on the topic of greed and avarice, and they are both early 20th century pieces, so, an interesting pairing, after all.

    Extras include a spoken synopsis, illustrated with production pictures, and interviews with Arden, Jurowski, and Leiferkus. There is also a trailer for the above-mentioned Gianni Schicchi.



    Cast

    Sergei Leiferkus is The Baron - baritone
    Richard Berkeley-Steele is Albert - tenor
    Maxim Mikhailov is The Servant - bass
    Vyacheslav Voynarovsky is The Moneylender - tenor
    Albert Schagidullin is The Duke - baritone
    Matilda Leyser is The Aerialist (this silent character/dancer is not in the libretto and was added by the stage director to personify Greed)

    ---------

    This is one of the three Rachmaninov operas (the other two are Aleko, and Francesca da Rimini), a dark, psychological work that intentionally avoids lyricism in the music in favor of the horrifying debased human nature that is depicted. The score is therefore appropriately haunting and brooding, and relies extensively on recitatives. The opera has received criticism for possible anti-Semitic content in the figure of the Moneylender. The stage director has successfully tried to convey the work with equally dark and claustrophobic sets.

    This particular product is excellent to display the outstanding Russian baritone Sergei Leiferkus, in this role initially composed with the great Feodor Chaliapin in mind, although he withdrew from the production, so that the role was, instead, created by Georges Baklanoff.

    ----------

    The overture is simply outstanding and deserves to be heard on its own. Here the LPO does a great job, resonant, full, deep, with perfect transitions. The dancer Matilda Leyser makes of her added character a creepy and interesting presence - usually I'm against these additions but here it seems to work well, given the dark traits of this piece. Sets are bleak. Image definition is not the best, given the dark lighting (most likely the blu-ray product is better at this). Sound balance is very good; we can hear both the singers and the orchestra very clearly.

    Richard Berkeley-Steele sounds wobbly and with articulation problems in Russian (in this, he'll be of course at a disadvantage, when compared to his fellow cast members who are native speakers). His acting is intense enough. The comprimario role of the Servant is well done by Maxim Mikhailov. Vyacheslav Voynarovsky as The Moneylender is vocally excellent although prone to stock acting (not with his face but with his hands). The music is very Russian in character.

    Sergei Leiferkus is very impressive both vocally, with a beautiful timbre and powerful, crystalline projection (or at least, that's how it's been captured by the sound track - hard to judge without being there in person, but he does sound strong), and acting-wise. The second scene, a long monologue by The Baron, with the dancer adding an even more phantasmagorical feel, is very well done by this phenomenal opera company, Glyndebourne. This scene is of Iago proportions in terms of depiction of evil. The score matches its intensity in a crescendo of sounds. Masterful! A very satisfying scene, sealing my perception of this piece as a high-quality opera. Bravo, composer; bravi orchestra and conductor, and bravo, Mr. Leiferkus! Not to forget sets, lighting, and stage direction, very effective here, with, as the scene progresses, little doors opening everywhere to reveal the various deposits of gold, while the dancer looks horrified at what she sees.

    It is certainly not easy to keep this scene going during his monologue of almost half an hour, and Sergei Leiferkus does it effortlessly, keeping the colors in his voice interesting and expressive. This is the kind of opera that can fall flat with a less talented group, not the case here.

    The third and last scene brings up the last singing character, Albert Schagidullin's Duke. The singer here, being unlike his first name would lead one to believe, also Russian, continues to show clear articulation like his fellow countrymen in this production, and I very much like his voice. Actually I believe that he does as well as Mr. Leiferkus, and their dialogue that opens scene 3 is another high point of this production.

    They are joined by Mr. Berkeley-Steele, and one again laments that in this almost all-Russian, very well done production, Glyndebourne did not go out to hire a proper Russian tenor, because the bit of uneven quality with this singer being the weaker link, is in full display in this scene. The end, curtain calls, with the public going berserk for Mr. Leiferkus bow.

    -----------

    The extras are also good. The interview with Maestro Jurowski is informative in terms of situating the piece in its musical context in Russia and in the larger European musical movement. He also appropriately underlines how different this score is from other Rachmaninov pieces, which tend to be more melodic and more centered in a core of three or four notes, while this piece moves away from the Westernized romantic style of Tchaikovsky, approaching more the Wagnerian influence, with more variation in keys and leitmotifs. The Maestro also talks about why Chaliapin refused to sing this, using the excuse that he didn't like the composer's treatment of Pushkin's text, while probably it was because he thought he couldn't sing it, given that its tessitura is too low for a baritone and too high for a bass like Mr. Chaliapin, in spite of the fact that the composer wanted to write the piece for the famous Russian bass. Jurowski proposes that Mr. Leiferkus infused new light into the vocal score. The very elegant singer on a tux and bowtie also gives an interview, saying that he indeed thought he would be able to do it, and do it well. The wild-haired stage director is also interviewed, and underlines how sexual is the relationship between The Baron and his gold - which is very well rendered by the singer/actor and the dancer.

    The conductor next discourses about the literary aspects in Pushkin's works, and does it very well. Maestro Jurowski, so young, is indeed clear-thinking, articulate, and a good teacher. One would want to see him talk about his scores more often. He could be a good competitor to Maestro Pappano in educating the public about opera.

    The Gianni Schicchi trailer contains almost the entire O Mio Babbino Caro, except for the very end. Jurowski and Arden justify why they paired these two in the double bill, and it makes sense.

    ---------

    In summary, given all of the above (good staging, good sound balance and clarity, the orchestra and the conductors take on the music beautifully, four out of five interpreters are outstanding, the opera itself is good - short, but very interesting, and it is all topped with informative, educational extras), this is a highly recommended product to which I'll give an overall score of A+ (could be A++ with a better tenor), although most likely in terms of purchasing this product, it is probably a better value if one gets the blu-ray with the Gianni Schicchi as a bonus (it is also a very good production which I've seen as well and liked very much).
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); July 6th, 2013 at 01:59 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #17
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Prince Igor on DVD

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    Prince Igor, opera in four acts (here presented in three acts) with a prologue, sung in Russian (premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1820)
    Music by Alexander Borodin, finished by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov, with additional orchestration by Pavel Smelkov
    Libretto by Alexander Borodin, after a scenario by Vladimir Stasov, based on the ancient Russian epic The Lay of Igor's Host or The Tale of Igor's Campaign, from circa 1185, also with material from two medieval Kievan chronicles.

    Metropolitan Opera new production (2014) by Dmitri Tcherniakov
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Gianandrea Noseda
    The Metropolitan Opera Chorus, chorus master Donald Palumbo
    The Metropolitan Opera Ballet, choreographer Itzik Galili

    The performance on this DVD was recorded and broadcast live in HD on March 1, 2014; video direction Gary Halvorson

    Production and Set Design by Dmitri Tcherniakov
    Costumes Design by Elena Zaitseva
    Lighting Design by Gleb Filshtinsky
    Projections by S. Katy Tucker

    Cast

    Prince Igor - Opera Lively interviewee Ildar Abdrazakov
    Yaroslavna - Oksana Dyka
    Vladimir Igorevich - Sergey Semishkur
    Prince Galitsky - Mikhail Petrenko
    Khan Konchak - Stefan Kocan
    Konchakovna - Anita Rachvelishvili
    Ovlur - Mikhail Vekua
    Skula - Vladimir Ognovenko
    Yeroshka - Andrey Popov
    Yarolswvana's nurse - Barbara Dever
    Polovtsian Maiden - Kiri Deonarine

    ---------

    A Deutsche Grammophon / Met Opera release on September 16, 2014
    2 DVDs NTSC 16:9 HD, region code zero (worldwide), sound LPCM stereo and DTS 5.1, subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean, running time 192 minutes (opera) + 10 minutes of backstage interviews with host Eric Owens:

    Introductions to Act 1, 2 and 3
    Interview: Ildar Abdrazakov 2:27
    Panel: Gelb, Tcherniakov; Noseda (+Lidiya) 2:26
    Interview: Dyka; Petrenko (+Lidiya) 1:38
    Interview: Rachvelishvili 1:25
    Interview: Donald Palumbo 1:00

    The insert contains three color and five black-and-white production pictures, credits, track numbers with titles, characters, and durations; a two-page essay by David Shengold, a two-page synopsis, and the essay and synopsis are repeated in German and French.

    -----------

    The prologue opens in stark sets, looking rather like a Chernobyl pavillion; costumes are evocative of the Red Army of the Soviet Union, presumably at some point between the two World Wars. Immediately we are treated to extremely excellent singing by both Ildar and Oksana. We're used to the powerful Russian bass' voice - he is consistently outstanding in all productions I've seen with him - and the nice surprise comes with the big booming voice Oksana is able to produce. The Met Chorus is simply thrilling in the prologue, and the orchestra is throbbing and resonant in this "macho" score. Rarely we seen in an opening scene such spectacular musical values. It's rather perfect. In search of this musical excellent, the rather tacky overture composed by Glazunov is thankfully not presented. This new edition of the score actually expunges the opera from almost all add-ons by the other composers (Prince Igor was left unfinished at Borodin's death, but subsequently more music for it was discovered so some of the newly found music replaces Rimsky-Korsakov's and Glazunov's music; this is how Act III and the overture disappeared from this show).

    Visually striking, impressive black and white projections of gruesome war scenes and explosions are shown over the melodic opening Act 1 chorus, and we are given the first view of the vast red poppies field, infamous in its exorbitant cost ($100,000) that was the object of criticism around season opening, due to the Met's budget troubles.

    It must be said that from the spectators' end, expensive or not, the field is gorgeous and rather a strike of genius in terms of set design. Anita makes her entrance, and she also adds impressively to the musical assets of the evening. The Polovtsian Dances scene is given right after the prologue, unlike in more traditional Prince Igor productions.

    The next singer to make a smashing entrance is Sergey Semirshku, and oh wow, he delivers big! This almost all-Russian cast is very, very good. Stefan Kocan is just as good.

    It is hard to understand the criticism that this production has generated, because so far it is musically and visually exquisite. It's too early to judge, though; we'll see.

    The contemporary choreography by Israeli artist Itziki Gallili in my opinion is rather successful in the Polovtsian Dances, unlike what many critics said - oh, well, there are always those traditionalists who expect classical ballet, but for me, it was rather well dones and consistent with the concept of this production which focuses on Igor's psychology and inner thoughts. The whole poppies field actually looks like a huge brain. Video direction could have used less close-ups, though, for us to see the dances a bit better.

    Acts II and III will follow, next post.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 26th, 2015 at 01:16 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  3. #18
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Nineteen days later, I'm finally having a moment to treat myself to acts II and III of this beautiful opera, in order to complete my review.

    Act II opens with a 9-minute arioso by Yaroslavna, and our singer in this role, Oksana Dyka, sings it touchingly and with great colors in her voice - she looks good, too. Her perfect diction and clear enunciation add to the quality of this number.

    Rousing chorus numbers follow, with the lecherous Galitsky. Singing is again, great. Surprisingly, the Met's sound engineering does capture his voice in uneven manner. Sometimes when he turns, the sound gets muffled and the stereo effect gets weird (I'm currently using the LPCM 2.0 track, with earphones).

    This scene with the boisterous men who support Galitsky (Skula, Yeroshka, and their crowd) goes on and on and becomes boring. It's all very Russian, with a lot of fanfare, but could have used some cuts.

    We move to the scene with Yaroslavna and the Boyars. Things get better immediately. The act ends with impressive effects: the city is bombed and the roof of the set collapses.

    Act III is sad and pungent, with the sets being trashy and the characters dressed in rags. Singing remains good.

    ---------

    The extras contain the Met Live in HD backstage interviews, and also a discussion between Peter Gelb, the stage director, and the conductor. The director explains his take of staging the opera as if it happened inside the psychological space of the title character's brain.

    ---------

    Verdict: I liked this DVD. Singing is top-notch. The staging has some interesting elements. I liked the poppy field that looks like red brain lobes, the lead female role is played by a rather charming lady, and Ildar was spectacular. While some criticize this production in musical terms for stripping the opera of the non-Borodin music (claimed that beautiful music got cut), what is left does make a coherent whole. Acts I and III are more successful than Act II.

    I won't go into rating details (tired, now), but will just give my overall score: A+
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 26th, 2015 at 04:24 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  5. #19
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya, on blu-ray disc, also available on DVD

    Opera in four acts, sung in Russian
    Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
    Libretto by Vladimir Belsky, based on the merger of two Russian legends: St. Fevronya of Murom, and the city of Kitezh that became invisible when attacked by the Tatars
    Premiered at the Mariinsky in St. Peterburg, on February 7, 1907, two years after composition was completed

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    Production by DNO (De Nederlandse Opera)

    Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Marc Albrecht
    Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera, chorus master Martin Wright

    Filmed at the Amsterdam Music Theater, in February 2012

    Production crew:

    Stage director, set designer, costume designer - Dmitri Tcherniakov
    Additional costume designer - Elena Zaytseva
    Lighting designer - Gleb Flishtinsky
    Directed for video by Misjel Vermeiren

    Cast:

    Svetlana Ignatovich (Fevroniya), John Daszak (Grishka Kuterma), Vladimir Vaneev (Prince Yuriy Vsevolodovich), Maxim Aksenov (Prince Vsevolod Yuryevich), Ante Jerkunica (Bedyay), Vladimir Ognovenko (Burunday), Alexey Markov (Fyodor Poyarok), Mayram Sokolova (Page), and various other minor roles.

    ----------

    OpusArte and NTR release on DVD and blu-ray disc
    All regions, LPCM 24-bit 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio sound tracks
    16:9 Anamorphic image, 1080i HD
    Subtitles in English, French, German, Dutch, Japanese, and Korean

    Bonus: cast and crew interviews, cast gallery - It's very informative and well done.

    Running time 187 minutes (opera) and 20 minutes (bonus)

    Insert - poorly done as it lacks track lists with durations and characters, which is a major impediment to figuring out who is who and reviewing voices, in this opera with multiple characters. This is uncharacteristic of OpusArte, and a shame. Four color production pictures. Credits. A 4-page essay and a 3-page synopsis, in English, repeated in French and German.

    Technical aspects - image and sound engineering are close to perfect. Video direction is exquisite. There is nothing to be better desired, technically speaking.

    ------------

    This is an extraordinary production of a stunningly beautiful opera. Rimsky-Korsakov's lush orchestration is Wagnerian in quality, and this is arguably his most successful opera in terms of sheer beauty. It's not for nothing that it is known as the Russian Parsifal. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra under Marc Albrecht did a simply sublime job playing this magnificent score. Helped by the outstanding sound engineering, opera lovers will get from this product waves and waves of aural pleasure.

    To add to the great orchestral and conducting quality, DNO gathered a phenomenally gifted cast of singers. It is hard to comment on the individual artists given that it is a bit difficult to know who is who with the numerous singing roles and OpusArte's epic failure of not providing track and character lists (the cast gallery in the bonus feature doe come to the rescue), but it hardly matters because I can't think of a single weak link in this extraordinary ensemble of spectacular singers. Not only there almost isn't anyone who sings any worse than at an A++ level (well, Maxim Aksenov is a bit below the others), the chorus is also among the best I've ever heard.

    Of course we *can* identify Ms. Svetlana Ignatovich, and oh wow, I'm an instant fan. She is gorgeous, in singing, looks, and acting. She couldn't be any better. I look forward to seeing her live at some point! She is a star of first magnitude, putting together here a luminous performance for the ages! What a tour de force! In-cre-di-ble! This is Anna Caterina Antonacci's level, and a mix of Natalie Dessay's acting with Anna Netreko's singing!



    Looking at her schedule, she is currently doing Otello in Basel (Desdemona), and she will be back to Amsterdam in June for Pique Dame (Lisa). Oh... if I could afford a trip to Europe right now... Apparently she has never been to this side of the pond. Met, wake up!

    John Daszak as Grishka was just as excellent in singing and acting as Svetlana. Mayram Sokolova as Page is another impressive artist, and so is Vladimir Vaneev. Mayram is also a pretty lady:



    Now, as far as the staging goes, buyer beware. Be warned that this is one of the most extreme Regie productions to ever make a DVD/blu-ray release, complete with full frontal male nudity (although briefly, and on the side - one might miss it), realistically depicted rape (with a Tatar brutally forcing the maiden Fevroniya to perform oral sex on him), point-blank executions, beatings (including a woman being savagely kicked and punched) and a lot of blood.

    Still, it all works. After all, this opera *is* about a brutal Tatar invasion, and the rawness of the staging does match the dramatic lines in the libretto, which do talk about despicable acts of torture and mass killings. Acting is *incredibly* good. There isn't a single instance of overacting; everything is done well and for a reason. The impression we have is that we're witnessing the real thing, and the events on stage as shocking as they are, do highlight the music.

    The stage concept depicts very well what happens to a society that is about to be killed - people turn to debauchery, to despair, to religion, to fighting/denial...

    Sets, blocking, make-up, lighting, etc., it's all rather perfect. This staging combines intense and ravishing visual beauty in some scenes, with disturbing ugliness in some others, and it is powerful all along. The wildly imaginative and expressive finale is stunning. This is how it's done, directors! The reality/dream dichotomy was perfectly rendered!

    One gets the somewhat uncomfortable feeling of being privy to two facets of mankind - the one that can compose such divine music as Rimsky-Korsakov's, and the one that gets involved in wars and torture, complete with pillaging and raping.

    I've spoken against what I call "extreme Regie" - but I must say, when it works, it works. This one does. This production is actually a striking example of the power of opera - to put on stage the most despicable aspects of human nature, simultaneously with the most wondrous musical beauty.

    I'd call this staging nothing short of brilliant. It is of uncanny theatricality. Add to it a brilliant cast of actors/singers, a brilliant orchestra, and a brilliant chorus, and you have an A++, highly recommended product that is a mandatory buy for all opera lovers who can stomach the shocking elements of Mr. Tcherniakov's concept. Oh boy, this is a wild ride, but one that is *entirely* satisfactory from beginning to end. I'd rank this blu-ray among the best ever released; it's the desert island kind.

    It is hard to think of a single downside to this superlative production by the DNO. I'd call it perfect. It reaches a score of 100 out of 100. All elements of it click as a Swiss clock. I've rarely seen anything of this level of quality. It has me in tears, at the end. Bravissimo! My impulse is to go hug Mr. Tcherniakov - and I'd love to kiss Ms. Ignatovich too!
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); April 13th, 2015 at 12:42 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #20
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    I am a big fan of this opera and I did think Svetlana Ignatovich's Fevroniya was perfect. It was absolutely as good as every performance of TLOTICOKATMF I have ever attended in the magical theatre of Clayton's mind.

  7. #21
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The Tsar's Bride, opera in four acts, sung in Russian
    Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
    Libretto by the composer and Ilya Tyumenev, after the drama of the same name by Lev Mey
    Premiered at the Private Opera of S.I. Mamontov, a theater in Moscow, in 1899

    A BelAir Classiques 2015 release on blu-ray disc, recorded live at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater, Berlin, Germany, in October 2013

    A co-production of Staatsoper unter den Linden and Teatro alla Scala di Milano

    Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim
    Staatsopernchor, chorus master Rustam Samedov
    Stage Direction Dmitri Tcherniakov

    Set Design Dmitri Tcherniakov
    Costume Design Elena Zaytseva
    Lighting Desing Gleb Filshtinsky
    Dramaturgy Detlef Giese
    Video Desing and Production Raketa Media
    HD recording produced by François Duplat
    Directed for TV and video by Andy Sommer

    Cast

    Vasily Sobakin - Anatoli Kotscherga
    Marfa - Opera Lively interviewee Olga Peretyatko
    Grigory Gryaznoy - Johannes Martin Kränzle
    Grigory Malyuta-Skuratov - Tobias Schabel
    Ivan Lykov - Pavel Cernoch
    Lyubasha - Anita Rachvelishvili
    Bomelius - Stephan Rügamer
    Domna Saburova - Anna Tomowa-Sintow
    Dunyasha - Anna Lapkovskaya
    Petrovna - Carola Höhn

    Runtime 152 minutes
    Audio PCM 2.0 and DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio
    Video 1080i full HD, 16:9
    Region code A, B, C
    Subtitles in English, French, and German
    No extras - 1 blu-ray disc

    The booklet is not very informative. We get credits, tracks with musical numbers, characters, and duration; synopsis in English, French, and German. Nothing else. Not a single essay.

    -------------

    When I interviewed Olga Peretyatko in May of 2014 (by the way, in person she is one of the most attractive and most beautiful women I've ever met in my entire life) she mentioned this production of The Tsar's Bride that was given first in Berlin in 2013, then in Milan. I'm glad that it has been released on blu-ray disc, so that I got the opportunity to witness what Olga was talking about. Here is what she said to me about this show:

    OL - Your The Tsar’s Bride at La Scala was in a very modern production, rendered as a TV studio. What did you think of the update?

    OP – Oh, that production I liked very much! Tcherniakov is a very intelligent stage director. He convinces you, really. First I did it in Berlin, and then at La Scala, almost with the same cast. In Germany, you know, Regietheater, they are all used to seeing this stuff, and that was very interesting. The idea was that everything was happening right now. He made it very contemporary. I liked it very much.

    OL – But the public at La Scala is very traditional, so how was it received there? When they don’t like it, they boo it.

    OP – Oh yes! Oh, yes! The singers, they received us well, but the stage director was booed so much, you can’t believe it! Tcherniakov’s Traviata was booed too, to open the La Scala season. Actually it is suicide to take such a production of Traviata to open the season at La Scala! From the beginning, it was clear that he would be booed! [laughs] So it happened again with The Tzar’s Bride, but in Berlin six months earlier it was a great success for him. You know, it’s a different public.
    Sure, the La Scala public is tough, but after watching this, I can't imagine why on Earth someone - even the most traditionalist person - would boo such an outstanding production. There is the utmost respect for the music and nothing is tasteless or excessive.

    This is pure genius, and belongs in the rarefied Pantheon of the best opera stagings of all time. It's simply brilliant!

    We've extensively discussed Regieoper on Opera Lively, and I like to say that there is what I call good Regie, and extreme Regie. This is definitely the former. Like Olga said, this staging is utterly convincing. It is able to perfectly render the ancient Russian story in a modern setting, with stunning, inventive visuals, interesting solutions, surprising and creative touches, resulting in a feast for the senses with not a single scene or image out of place.

    The conclusion one gets from this production has to do with how perennial our beloved art form gets to be: this piece is able to cross the centuries to remain as consequential and as relevant today as it was 118 years ago.

    The extremely competent stage director Dmitri Tcherniakov makes of this utterly Russian tale something universal and contemporary, without losing any bit of its Russian-ness.

    There are so many good things I could say about details of this staging... Listing them all would actually become tedious, so numerous they are. I'd rather leave to the viewer the ability to be surprised, because this is a nice ride. There is always something unexpected and stimulating to see and hear.

    Now, how can we make the most interesting staging I've seen in a long, long time into an end-product for the consumer that is close to perfection? By adding phenomenal singers, accomplished actors, and tremendous orchestral playing. Now, get these incredibly talented people to perform a truly beautiful and lush score by Rimsky-Korsakov that is intense and melodious in its soaring vocal phrases... and you have operatic bliss. What a pleasure! This is paradise!

    By the way, the technical aspects couldn't be any better. The 1080i image is sharp and colorful, and the DTS sound has exquisite balance and clarity. The one minor glitch in such an extraordinary blu-ray disc release is the less-than-informative booklet.

    Now, if you guys haven't realized yet that I, well, LOVED it (I can imagine Amfortas saying "I wonder if Alma liked this thing," LOL, let's break it down into our customary rating system to make it all crystal-clear. It's a no-brainer:

    Physical Production:

    Stage direction: A++ (sublime, brilliant!)
    Acting: A++ across the board
    Blocking: A++
    Lighting: A++
    Costumes: A++ (the mix of contemporary and lush period Russian costumes highlights the enduring beauty of this piece)
    Set Design: A++ (very, very interesting)
    Video Direction: A++ (very skillful capture)
    Sound Engineering: A++ (perfect sound track with competent orchestra/singers balance and surround effects)

    Erm... it sounds like the average is... A++, go figure!

    Musical Production:

    Orchestra: A++
    Conducting: A++
    Chorus: A++
    Singing: A++ across the board - simply spectacular by our beloved Olga Peretyatko, and Johannes Martin Kränzle as well as Anita Rachvelishvili were great too!

    Hm... looks like the average is... A++ again!

    And the opera itself is really, really beautiful.

    So, should you guys buy this? Yes! Yes! Yes! This is top 10 material, folks, in terms of opera videos. You know that Giulio Cesare and that Così fan Tutte from Glyndebourne that we like to say should be in the library of places like Julliard, to teach students how to stage, conduct, play, sing, act, and film/record opera? Yep, this one is one of those.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); April 9th, 2016 at 12:23 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #22
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Re-reading my review right above the last one, I realize that both these PERFECT stagings are by the talented Mr. Dmitri Tcherniakov. Question: is he the very best Regieoper stage director in activity these days? The answer might very well be an enthusiastic yes!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  9. #23
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The Tale of Tsar Saltan on blu-ray disc and DVD (the package includes both)
    Opera in four acts with a prologue (7 scenes)
    Full title, The Tale of the Tsar Saltan, of his Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan



    Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
    Libretto by Vladimir Belsky, based on the poem of the same name by Aleksandr Pushkin
    Premiered in Moscow, in November 1900

    Filmed at the Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, in July 2015, a production by the State Academic Mariinsky Theater

    Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev
    Mariinsky Chorus, Ballet, and extras

    Stage Director Alexander Petrov
    Set Designer Vladimir Firer after sketches by Ivan Bilibin
    Costume Designer Vladimir Firer
    Lighting Designer Vladimir Lukasevich
    Video Director Anna Matison (she needs to be fired)

    Cast

    Tsar Saltan - Edward Tsanga
    Tsaritsa Militrisa - Irina Churilova
    Tkachikha - Varvara Solovyova
    Povarikha - Tatiana Kravtsova
    Barbarikha - Elena Vitman
    Swan-Princess - Albina Shagimuratova
    Old Man - Vasily Gorshkov
    Messenger - Andrei Spekhov
    Jester - Denis Begansky
    First Shipman - Vitaly Dudkin
    Second Shipman - Alexander Gerasimov
    Third Shipman - Timur Abdikeyev

    Simultaneous blu-ray disc and DVD package released by the Mariinsky Label in 2017. Video formats (all regions) BD50 16:9 HD 1081i, and DVD9 16:9 NTSC. Audio formats 16bit 48hz 2.0 PCM Stereo (no other options). Menus in English, subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. The back cover contains three thumbnails, and the insert contains three color production pictures, credits, and the synopsis in Russian, English, French, and German. Maestro Gergiev's artistic biography is given in the same languages. There is no other documentation, or bonus. Running time 150 minutes. The subtitles are good (very visible white letters that are not too big).

    -------------

    I have a few complaints about this product, upfront: the blu-ray disc image, although sharp as usual, suffers from annoying movement lag. The audio is good and has appropriate balance between the stage and the pit, but it does not include surround options, which is almost unheard of, these days, for blu-ray. The documentation is quite limited, with no track list with the name of the musical numbers, and no essays, just the synopsis. This is weird, since they went to the trouble of providing a double DVD-Blu Ray Disc package but failed to get the technological and academic aspects quite right. The Mariinsky certainly does have the expertise to provide better documentation with essays about the composer, the piece and its music, and the stage direction. It is also interesting that only the conductor's artistic biography is listed, while nothing is said about any of the other artists. Video direction is very annoying too, changing from close-ups to panoramic views too often - fortunately more stable at times, but at other times reaching the absurd extreme of one take change every second!!! What was she thinking???

    The sets are very handsome and the costumes are of the period traditional Russian kind (these costumes are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen). The sets, like the French do to their Baroque operas, reproduce the theatrical arts from the time the opera premiered, with the sort of cardboard backdrops and props that look particularly good here. They were done based on the original drawings by Bilibin for one of the book editions of Pushkin's poem, published in 1905. This Russian illustrator and set designer also did the drawings for the sets of the premieres of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration version of Boris Godunov (1908), and The Golden Cockerel (1909). There are projections in the back, but they reproduce the same stile. Great colors, both for the sets and the very interesting costumes. This is a very nice physical production, and the fact that it recovered the old drawings is quite a gem!

    This is one of the Bilibin drawings:



    During the prologue, it is easy to quickly realize that this ensemble of native-speaking singers does a very good and homogeneous job with one of their national operas, as expected. Certainly we shouldn't be fostering the emphasis on looks which is wide-spread enough (often unfairly) in the world of opera, but we've been so spoiled with gorgeous-looking Russian opera singers, that it is a bit surprising that the cast for this production is not made of particularly good-looking people. They do sing well, which is what is most important, of course, including the older singers who are still in good voice. Maybe the only exception is the singer manning the role of Guidon, whose pitch control can be faulty at times (at other times, he is fine).

    Regarding the piece itself, it is quite pleasant, with the composer treating us to very energetic and lively music, and his customary great orchestration that is extremely well-rendered by the excellent Mariinsky Orchestra and its star conductor. This opera is well-known for the Act III "Flight of the Bumblebee." The introduction to Scene 2 of Act IV, "The Three Wonders," is also very famous as a concert piece. Surprisingly, the "Flight of the Bumblebee" is rendered discreetly. I was expecting the orchestra to go for it at full force, but Gergiev used soft dynamics allowing the focus to be on the stage rather than on the pit. Maybe that's what NR-K's dynamic marks say in the score which I've never seen, but in concert, orchestras won't have the same constraints, so we're more used to hear the piece played more loudly. Gergiev did conduct "The Three Wonders" with high dynamics; very satisfactory!

    The scene changes and musical introductions count on very interesting cartoon-like animation (recovered from a traditional Russian animated film from 1984 that tells the fairy tale of the Tsar Saltan - although it doesn't entirely overlap with the libretto, but who cares?) and shots of the musicians. Oh, the eye-candy factor missing from the cast can be found in some very attractive instrumentalists, hehe; and oh again, some of the dancers are stunning, like one expects from these privileged genes the Russians have - they seem to churn out beautiful people very easily, over there...

    This opera might qualify for the longest title ever... 22 words! Quite funny!

    Despite the deficient technical aspects (oh God, that movement lag drove me crazy, and what a bad video director! - I don't know if the DVD also has this blurry lag, since I only watched the blu-ray disc, one of the blurriest ever!), this is a very recommended purchase. The opera itself is sublime and highly entertaining; the musical aspects are formidable (orchestra, conductor, chorus, singers); and the physical production is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. A better insert with some essays, surround sound, and the elimination of the technical defects would have made of this product a rather perfect one. And let's fire the video director, please! Apparently she has ruined the Mariinsky's The Golden Cockerel, too.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); February 3rd, 2019 at 09:17 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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