Rimsky-Korsakov: Legend of Invisible City of Kitezh
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Opera lies at the heart of Rimsky-Korsakov's colourful idiom but performances are few and far between; this staging of his penultimate and grandest stage work is a very rare and special experience. Kitezh is known as 'the Russian Parsifal', which encapsulates its mystical flavour and steady unfolding of a legend of redemption. A largely Russian cast (headed by the stunning Svetlana Ignatovich) and production team works within a set that moves from opulent naturalistic scenery to some startling theatrical coups worthy of Rimsky's under-rated dramatic instincts. Filmed in High Definition and recorded in true Surround Sound.Press Reviews
"Svetlana Ignatovich's soprano rode the orchestra here with ease, singing with an appealing Slavonic glint (but never edge) and warmth; even if the colours in her voice get paler near the top, at least this very moving singing-actress has the top notes required. Marc Albrecht, the Netherlands Opera's new music director, did a magnificent job ... stamping his mark on the long score and drawing warm playing from the very start, where melting wind solos spun their lines over a cushion of strings—forest murmurs that suggest Siegfried perhaps more than Parsifal. The orchestral playing was consistently brilliant, not least in the battle interlude. And in the final scene, where the grandiose diatonic chords that accompany Fevroniya's spiritual transformation do call to mind Parsifal's ‘Dresden Amen’, Rimsky's score attains a fascinating mix of Wagnerian and Slavonic elements to be found nowhere else." (Opera)
"[Tcherniakov's staging] worked perfectly and the long evening was a triumph. Thanks to the conductor Marc Albrecht, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the excellent Chorus of Dutch National Opera this became a great event also musically. Star of the production is the soprano Svetlana Ignatovich who created a totally believable character out of Fevroniya. Opera at its best." (Trouw ★★★★)
"Dmitri Tcherniakov's staging of Rimsky-Korsakov's ‘The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh’ is a masterpiece, and on the musical side there is no less power under the inspired baton of Marc Albrecht. For anyone who does not know this outstanding and certainly underrated work, this video is a must-buy. " (Pizzicato)Cast
Vladimir Vaneev (Prince Yuriy Vsevolodovich)
Maxim Aksenov (Prince Vsevolod Yuryevich)
Svetlana Ignatovich (Fevroniya)
John Daszak (Grishka Kuterma)
Alexey Markov (Fyodor Poyarok)
Mayram Sokolova (Page)
Vladimir Ognovenko (Burunday)
Ante Jerkunica (Bedyay)
Chorus of Netherlands Opera; Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra; Marc Albrecht
Company: De Nederlandse Opera
Stage Director: Dmitri Tcherniakov
Catalogue Number: OA1089D
Date of Performance: 2012
Running Time: 187 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, JP, NL, KO
Label: Opus Arte
Top customer reviews
So… what is the point of transforming an almost mythical legend into a scene at a present-day pub, with the Tatars depicted by modern hooligans and thugs? The whole modernized staging is insensible to the opera itself and detracts so much from its essence that, after watching the first act, you will be better off turning off the video and listening to the soundtrack alone.
The sound is of very good quality; my only concern is that the orchestra is too loud and swallows some of the voices. The singers are using tiny microphones, so this technical issue should not be very difficult to overcome. Svetlana Ignatovich has a very nice voice that is perfectly suited for the role of Fevroniya. We will have to wait for Valery Gergiev to produce this beautiful opera at the Mariinsky to hope for a really good production and recording.
Russia is portrayed as a bowl of swarming and moving lice. Very good singing and acting do not help the production. The best part of this purchase is the disc box, unusually well made.
The first thing to note about Tcherniakov's direction is that he changes the plot slightly in order, presumably, to highlight the contrasts in the work and perhaps find a way to bring them together. Consequently he invents an 'end of the world' scenario, where Fevroniya is not some holy fool who communes with nature in the woods, but has fled there because, in Tcherniakov's prelude description, "after what has happened on earth, life can never go on as before". The beautiful set for Act I and II consequently depicts a Tarkovsky-like post-apocalyptic spiritual view of nature seen in The Sacrifice, while the long central third act highlights the ugliness of drunken revelry, the horror of the invasion of the Tartars and the lamentations of the citizens at the destruction that has been visited upon them. Tcherniakov isn't able to bring the two views convincingly together in the third act, which should be the dramatic turning point but - as beautiful and uplifting as the music is - it's debatable whether Rimsky-Korsakov, the composer opposed to the religious Wagnerian liturgical touches of Belsky's libretto, manages to reconcile them either. Despite this, and despite the staging attempting to undercut the mysticism further, the third Act is still wondrously operatic.
If it all does indeed manage to come together and even raise itself onto another plane by the final fourth act, much of it is to do with the singing and Rimsky-Korsakov's writing for the voice. There are no real arias in The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, or overt folk dances and set pieces that you might find in other fairytale works by the composer like Sadko or The Golden Cockerel. It's more through composed, with a Romantic sweep and even some Wagnerian quotes in spite of Rimsky-Korsakov's opposition. It's the naturalistic roll of the Russian consonants however, flowing out unstrained in long solid arioso singing and in glorious, glorifying choral arrangements that anchor the sentiments in the real world even as they achieve a level of rapturous transcendence. The Amsterdam production is marvellous then in that it has the deservedly much-praised chorus of the De Nederlandse on fine form, but it also has a fine mostly Russian cast that give solid, unfailing performances throughout. They are led by the young soprano Svetlana Ignatovich, who fulfils every vocal and visual requirement for the saintly role of Fevroniya, her transformation into martyrdom and sainthood at the end of the work achieved with an ecstatic acceptance of her fate.
Tcherniakov again downplays any elaborately literal vision of paradise much in the same way that Rimsky-Korsakov refuses to let the music push it too far (the direction of the orchestra under Marc Albrecht similarly restrained yet ecstatic, resisting the usual Russian bombast), but everything that needs to be expressed has been done so in the writing for the voices and in the performances here. There are hints at conflicts between the music and the staging in the short 20-minute featurette that provides an informative look behind the scenes at De Nederlandse. The High Definition transfer is superb in terms of picture and sound. The BD is region-free and subtitles for this release are in English, French, German, Dutch, Japanese and Korean.