36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2000
'Prince Igor' was left in a state of total disarray at the time of Borodin's death - after working on it for 25 years there was still not a fixed libretto, so it has come down to us in a version by Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. There are rumbles that they corrected and improved it as much as Rimsky's well-meant but over-polished versions of Mussorgsky and a new version (radical) has been performed in Russia, but not yet made generally available. This recording adheres to a 'new performing edition by the Mariinsky theatre', which means that you get the Polovstian Act - usually 2, first, after the Prologue. This works extremely well, despite the fact that a lot of the most gorgeous music comes earlier on in the story. The old first act follows - making much more dramatic sense and bolstered by some unfamiliar music, amplifying the role (and villainy) of Igor's brother-in-law, Prince Galitsky, left to mind the shop in Russia, and carouse and abuse long suffering sister and wife of Igor, Jaroslavna. The third act (the second Polovstian act) is less anti-climactic than usual by being thus separated from its musically much more substantial predecessor and by from by the inclusion of a new solo, resurrected from Borodin's sketches, for the hero, Igor, where he calls upon the spirits of past russian heroes to help him out of his capture. Only the end strikes me as a little arbitrary, the opening chorus from the Prologue is re-instated intead of the customary final chorus - it's effective, but strikes me as caprice masquerading as scholarship, particularly as this 'old' final chorus (which we don't hear) was actually all by Borodin, and even more unusually, partly orchestrated by him. You can hear the more conventional (published) layout of the on the Sony recording conducted by Emil Tchakarov, but it really doesn't hold a candle to the intensity of this performance.
Olga Borodina is marvellous as the sexy Konchakovna - the legato in her sultry entrance-aria is breathtaking (CD 1 track 10). Michael Kit wants a little of tonal allure at times, but gives a very emotive and heroic performance, both bass roles are very strong indeed. There is a video of a flawed Covent Garden production conducted by Bernard Haitink (on Decca - nla) with Anna Tomova-Sintov as the long suffering wife of Igor, Yaroslavna, who set the stage alight with almost religious tragic fervour, besides this Galina Gorchakova is found wanting - she sings creamily as Yaroslavna, but is not as involving as she could be. Gegam Gregoriam sings an old-fashioned robust Vladimir. Gergiev as ever, paces the opera beautifully. What a score it is! Dramatically, if you regard the piece as a medieval icon, ruined in places and with bits missing, and not a well-made play a la Tosca, it is very compelling. The recording quality is not great, a little recessed in the treble and slightly grainy, but it conveys the big moments readily enough.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2000
Valery Gergiev's new re-working of Prince Igor does indeed make much more sense than the conventional version, dramatically and musically, and, beyond that, it is an excellent performance. There may be some parts "missing" from this version, but there are also some new parts which have been excluded from most performances. Most notable is Igor's Monologue, which takes place in the final Polovstvian act. Also, there are two additions to the finale of the Yaroslavna act.
The principals in the opera are universally excellent. Galina Gorchakova has often been unjustly criticized, but she truly has one of the most beautiful voices in the modern opera world. One of the most touching moments in this recording is the end of her arioso, which she performs beautifully in one breath--and ON PITCH, which is something she is often criticized for, particularly when she is singing softly as she is here. True, she can have pitch problems, as in her lament in the last act, but it's a small price to pay for her voice itself, and she always manages to get back on pitch when she goes flat. She is a standout in the cast, as are Olga Borodina as Konchakovna and the singers who portray Igor and Yaroslavna's brother Vladimir.
As for the sound quality, someone earlier said that it sounded very good for being recorded live, and I agree. Actually, I didn't know it WAS recorded live until I read that review, and I'm still not sure. It certainly doesn't sound like it, and I can't find anything in the booklet that says that it was. Either way, the recording quality is excellent.
The conducting is also admirable, although Gergiev tends to rush at points. For example, during Yaroslavna's lament, there is a very beautiful section in the middle ("Ach, ty veter, veter bunyi") that Gergiev flies through.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2000
Russian opera (Mussorgsky & Tchaikovsky aside) has a somewhat limited exposure here in the United States; after listening to a CD like this, you have to wonder why. Yes, Borodin's libretto is no masterpiece--the fouth act is rather scrappy and winds itself up far too suddenly--but the music itself is sumptuous and constantly inventive. (I find it to be one of the few operas without any dull musical moments.) This particular recording is especially fine, with detailed liner notes to explain just how the work has been tinkered with over the last century. The soloists are quite expressive, and Gergiev brings out fine playing from the orchestra--he even makes the Polovtsian Dances sound barbaric and fresh, which is quite an accomplishment given the number of times they've been beaten to death before. Although this is a "live" performance, the noise interference from the stage and the audience is lesser here than on many of the other Kirov sets. This is an excellent recommendation for the opera fan who wants to branch out from the standard repertory.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2005
This version of Prince Igor has some fantastic perks, and some drawbacks. If you are new to this opera, buy the Tchakarov version (Sony, The Russian Opera) first. Then pick this up, and enjoy its advantages. If you are a veteran listener, buy this one.
The key problem with this version is with the singer who plays Igor. A strong, resonant basso is essential to Russian opera. In this case, Igor is virtually missing, his voice and interpretations are so weak. And yet, his character should be key to the opera. This Igor rushes the tempo and often doesn't take advantage of dramatic moments. He lacks resonance and depth. His projection is insufficient.
Galitsky's basso performance is variable. He does superbly in his duet with Yaroslavna. But later, he lacks depth and resonance, and doesn't take advantage of dramatic opportunities. Sometimes his voice is nasal.
Konchak's vibrato is too rapid, and clouds his voice. His low notes are weak.
Igor's son Vladimir has a fine voice, and uses it very expressively. I'd usually found this character to be bland, but not in this case.
Konchakovna's voice is occasionally so nasal that it is grating and painful to listen to, especially in her initial solo. Later, she improves, but her voice is too soft.
Yaroslavna is one of the crowning points of this recording. She has a truly lovely voice, and is very skilled and expressive. For veterans of this opera, her performance alone is worth buying this version.
But there are other reasons to buy it as well. The chorus is very strong, and has beautiful Slavic pronunciation. Excellent choirs are essential to Russian opera. The orchestra gives fresh, exuberant interpretations to the music, although occasionally at too fast a tempo. The recording quality is excellent.
I was very intrigued by the new sections of music included in this recording. Listen to them. What do you think?
The altered ending, which became a reiteration of the beginning, worked well for me. I was never happy with the original ending.
May I offer a request? Please, will someone make Ovlur's part into the gem that it is? I was raised on the Popovich version of Igor, by the Belgrade National Opera Orchestra. The director made Olvur's part into a piquant, deeply touching moment of light in the darkness of Igor's imprisonment under Konchak. Every conductor since then has rushed the part and ignored its possibilities.
Prince Igor is, quite honestly, my favorite piece of music. It introduced me to the rich, melodious, unique sounds of Russian music. It is more enticing than Boris Godunov, and is an excellent introduction to Russian opera.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2003
While this is a competent reading of the score -- there are certainly better recordings. Unfortunately the recording industry has allowed Gergiev to dominate the Russian Repetoire and he is not necessarily the best conductor for all operas.
There are 2 older recording from the Bolshoi released by Le Chant Du Monde under license from Melodiya which are far superior in conduction and voice. There is a 1952 with the great Alexander Pirogov as Glalinski, Andrei Ivanov as Igor and Mark Reisen as Kontchak. The director is Alexander Melik-Pachaiev -- one of the greatest conductor who ever conducted at the Bolshoi.
There is also a 1976 recording from the Bolshoi which has Mark Ermler conducting and has Artur Eisen as Galitski, and Alexander Vedernikov as Kontchak, and Ivan Petrov as Igov. It has a good set of women's voice in the great Tougarinova as Jaroslavna.
Frankly I prefer either of these 2 recordings to Gergiev. While they may be digitally remastered there is a sumptuousness and authority in voice and direction which Gergiev can't match. To me Gergiev it must too driven a conductor who wants to dominate the score and this gives a hard edge to his work.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Russian opera has many grand epic historical works in the repertoire, and after BORIS GODOUNOV, PRINCE IGOR may be the best known. As a matter of fact, if BORIS was not performed so regularly on operatic stages, chances are PRINCE IGOR would be staged more often. Some of its music is among classical music's most familiar: The Polovtsian Dances and overture are well known pieces in concert halls and are often included in recorded classical music compilations. Yet these familiar works are only part of the larger opera. There are beautiful arias and duets, powerful choral scenes, and challenging music that requires great vocal abilities. Many opera lovers only know a few of the opera's excerpts, but those familiar with the entire recorded work know it's a fascinating, moving, and exciting work.
One of the challenges of PRINCE IGOR is its length. It's over three hours long and it can have a tendency to be a bit lethargic. This recording shows this doesn't have to be the case. There are a number of recordings of this work, and in the past I have owned to others: The EMI recording with Boris Christoff and the Sony set under the direction of Tchiakarov. Both of these sets have wonderful attributes, but the Christoff set has cuts and the Sony set, while beautiful, is somewhat slow and tends to drag at points. This set, another great recording by the Kirov Opera under the direction of Valery Gergiev, seems like something that can actually work on stage. The pace is exciting and the musicianship superb. This may be due to the fact that this recording is based on the edition used by the Kirov so the performers are well versed in the music. The strongest voices are those of the four principals: Mikhail Kit as Igor, tenor Gegam Grigorian as Igor's son Vladimir, soprano Olga Borodina as the Polovtsian princess and love interest of Vladimir and Galina Gorchakova as Igor's wife Yaroslavna. While all the performers are admirable, I especially enjoyed Gorchakova's ability to have a beautiful yet melancholy sound to her voice as she sang a role of a woman fearing for the lives if her husband and son. Grigorian and Borodina's love duet is sumptuous. The deep voices necessary for Russian opera, especially for the role of Igor, are excellent. The orchestra is nearly perfect and the chorus, which has to be powerful one moment and plaintive the next, handles the challenges well. In short it's a vibrant and pleasurable work.
The liner notes are helpful too. PRINCE IGOR has a complicated history. Composing was Borodin's second job. By profession he was a chemistry professor. PRINCE IGOR is not bad for what was for all intents and purposes an avocation. Borodin died before completing the work so Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazounov completed the work based on Borodin's notes and sketches. Who did what and how much of the opera is what Borodin intended is the subject of great debate, but the performance notes on the edition explain it all, or at least some and includes a bibliography for those interested in further info.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2002
If you've always strongly suspected that there must be more good music in Borodin's unfinished opera Prince Igor than just the Polovetsian Dances, you're right. This excellent performance, brillantly recorded in St. Petersburg's famous Mariinsky Theater, home of the Kirov State Opera, conducted by Valery Gergiev, proves this resoundingly. Dramatically, this opera (the libretto, that is) is a mess. It was left unfinished by Borodin, whose career in chemistry kept him too busy.But musically, it's full of magnificient stuff which should be heard much more often!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Good recordings of Borodin's masterpiece have been surprisingly scarce (it's relative scarcity in the opera house is partially due to the fact that it is a little, shall we say, unwieldy, and the third act is relatively weak compared to the preceding ones, at least in the usual performing versions) but this Gergiev recording certainly remedies that situation. It is in fact an essential acquisition for several reasons. First of all, few recordings compete with it in terms of sheer power, color and exotic flamboyance. Secondly, it includes several passages and numbers recently discovered among Borodin's papers that were rejected by Rimsky-Korsakov and edited and score by Yuri Faliek. Admittedly, none of those restored passages contain great music (frankly, Rimsky knew what he was doing, as he did when he edited and improved upon Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, although that latter assessment is somewhat controversial).
What is immediately striking about this recording (apart from the new music) is the control Gergiev retains over the various lines of musical development and his unerring vision of the work - ever interpretative choice seems guided by an overarching idea, so that every theme or musical idea seems to be performed according to the role it plays in the development of characters or the action of the opera. Maybe this impression is in part caused by the fact that in Gergiev's version the various sequences are restructured in a dramatically more sensible manner (and according to an outline by Borodin himself); that adds to the effectiveness of certain scenes that could otherwise have come off as anti-climactic by being positioned right after the Polovtsian dances, for instance. Yet the fireworks of colors and glitter are never compromised in this performance, neither is the ferocity, vigor or dramatic power of this work - even the almost wistful fairy-tale atmosphere is retained (although Gergiev's real forte, in addition to his magnificent dramatic pacing, is despair and anger, and those also characterize the very strongest parts of this version).
Among the singers, the star is in many ways Olga Borodina as Kontchakovna; her control, range and tonal color are simply breathtaking. Galina Gorchakova's Yaroslavna is stunning in the more tender and reflective parts, but a little hit-and-miss in the bigger scenes. Michael Kit's Igor is generally glowing, but stronger in terms of imposing power than subtle tenderness. Cegam Grigorian's Vladimir is generally good, if a tad to loud and insensitive at times. Vladimir Ognovenko's Galitzky is, on the other hand, consistently impressive and Bulat Minjelkiev as Kontchak is generally very satisfying, if perhaps a little too free in his characterization. The smaller roles are consistently good if not always completely refined. The orchestral and choral contributions are superb throughout, however - powerful, vibrant and colorful - and the sound is generally splendid, although a little bass-heavy. As it is, this set is not perfect, but it is very, very good, and I do not think any of the other versions around could possibly beat it (though I am admittedly unfamiliar with the old Melik-Pashaev set, which looks enticing although the sound quality presumably prevents it from being a top recommendation in any case). As such, this version remains something of a must have - the five stars reflect that fact more than any claims to actual perfection.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2011
Nicely directed by Valery Gergiev, that performing edition is completed by a very interesting booklet including lyrics in russian and in front english texts. Easy to follow and we are in the heart of action. I think it's necessary to listen that opera in original language. Borodin gives us a very joyfull present through a so romantic and powerful music. Very good choirs, a real "russian" orchestra, very good soloists. A reference version.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2013
Wonderful production. The costumes and scenery are fantastic and well worth seeing over and over. One of the most famous Russian operas. Great educational material for schools.