“Gergiev conducts a sweeping performance, with a typically superb cast of the Kirov's revival years, full of rising stars - Diadkova, Ognovenko, Bezzubenkov and the superb character tenor Gassiev. Charming also is the staging, reproduced from airy, painterly 1920s sets. Museum opera, maybe; but then museums are there to preserve treasures. And this is an absolute gem.”(Music Magazine)
Opera lies at the heart of Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful idiom, but performances are few and far between; this realisation 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 underrated dramatic instincts.
Rimsky-Korsakov epitomises the fantastic side of the Russian soul. Regarding opera as „essentially the most enchanting and intoxicating of lies,“ he drew on his country’s rich folk heritage to create a fairy-tale world in which the fanciful and commonplace were fused through extravagant orchestral virtuosity and fervently Romantic vocal writing. This Châtelet revival of Le Coq d’Or brings to the stage once again the great Kabuki actor Ennosuke III’s striking staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera first mounted in co-production with the San Francisco Opera in 1984. Born into one of Japan’s most important Kabuki families in 1939, Ennosuke III is a master of his art, who has worked to give this traditional theatre form appeal for modern audiences. As an actor, director and producer his aim has been to bring back the energy and excitement of Edo-period Kabuki. High-tech special effects, dynamic lighting, stunning costumes and minimalist sets have drawn new fans to his ‘Super Kabuki’ shows. He worked on this sumptuous production of Le Coq d’Or with an all-Japanese creative team and the result had an Oriental beauty and fascination entirely appropriate to this satirical fantasy opera. Completed in 1907, Le Coq d’Or, based on Pushkin’s 1834 poem, was Rimsky-Korsakov’s last opera.
Since it was founded, the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra has worked to develop not only as a symphony orchestra but as a showcase for music from different traditions – a multicultural mosaic where each little stone is carefully placed with the utmost respect for its neighbour, making a unique contribution to its surroundings. Our first two CDs have reflected this, combining music of composers from different backgrounds with a similar musical language. We now embark on another exploration of the eastern musical roots of Europe in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, identifying elements of the eastern side of the Bosphorus which have influenced the Western cultural background of most of these composers.
It’s splendid that these Nixa discs are once more back in the catalogue. I believe they saw some life back in the late 1980s with transfers by Mike Dutton but those have, in any case, long been unavailable. Scherchen takes on rather Stokowski-like repertoire here – Berlioz, Rimsky and Tchaikovsky and in the case of second composer, certainly, he proves a formidable guide. His Berlioz has divided critics for half a century and that’s not likely to change, however attractive the presentation – and it is extremely attractive with full colour artwork depicting the original LP sleeves, some excellent photographs and useful ancillary material in the form of critical commentary. This is one of Tahra’s increasingly valuable “book” sets – the four CDs and text and artwork housed in book form, ten inches tall.
n these days of big boxes, DG really ought to gather together everything Markevitch did and issue it as a set. He was a genius, and his recordings with the Lamoureux Orchestra, especially, combine interpretive brilliance with a classic French instrumental style that no longer exists. They are irreplaceable, and the playing here is amazing. Rimsky-Korsakov’s music demands just the sort of diamond-like precision and clarity that was Markevitch’s stock in trade as a conductor. There are more raucous, more traditionally Russian versions of The Golden Cockerel Suite available (Järvi’s for example), but none that point up the music’s anticipations of Stravinsky so compellingly. Both here and in the May Night Overture, Rimsky-Korsakov becomes a prophetically modern master.