Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Mikhail Kazakov as Boris Godunov [Photo © Karen Almond, Dallas Opera]
13 Apr 2011

Dallas Boris a monument to Tarkovsky

In those dark days before VCR and DVD, knowledgeable film buffs craved the return of Solaris and Stalker to a local art house screen.

Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov

Boris Godunov: Mikhail Kazakov; Marina: Elena Bocharova; The Pretender: Yevgeny Akimov; Pimen: Vitaly Efanov; Varlaam: Mikhail Kolelishvili; Rangoni: Sergei Leiferkus; Shuysky: David Cangelosi; Xenia: Oxana Shilova; Shchelkalov: Andrei Spekhov; The Hostess: Meredith Arwady; A Simpleton: Keith Jameson; Missail: Steven Haal; Fyodor: Rebecca Jo Loeb; A Nurse: Susan Nicely; Nikitich, a police officer: Mark McCrory; Mityukha: Stefan Szkafarowsky; Boyar-in-attendance: Aaron Blake; Khrushchov: Dan Crowell. Conductor: Graeme Jenkins. Original Production: Andrei Tarkovsky. Stage Director: Stephen Lawless. Production Designer: Nicolas Dvigubsky. Lighting Designer: Robert Bryan. Choreographer: Nicola Bowie. Chorus Master: Alexander Rom. Assistant Director: Matthew Ferraro. Children's Chorus Master: Melinda Cotten. Dallas Opera; Winspear Opera House, April 9, 2011.

Above: Mikhail Kazakov as Boris Godunov

Photos © Karen Almond, Dallas Opera

 

The films — Solaris, allegedly a reaction to Kubrick’s 2001, and Stalker, a major meditation in science fiction — were the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, then widely celebrated as the greatest genius of Russian film since Eisenstein.

BG_18.gifElena Bocharova as Marina Mnishek

Today, alas, Tarkovsky seems largely forgotten despite a further pair of masterpieces made after his defection from the then-still Soviet Union: Nostalghia [sic], made in Italy in 1983, and Sacrifice, in Sweden, in 1986, the year of his death. (For the latter he had the help of several Ingmar Bergman regulars.)

It was also in 1983 that Tarkovsky directed Boris Godunov at Covent Garden, and Dallas Opera is to be praised — and thanked — for bringing this production to its Winspear Opera House to conclude its current season. Stephen Lawless, who recreated the London staging in Dallas, had been Tarkovsky’s assistant at Covent Garden. His essay in the Dallas program is a tribute — both fitting and moving — to this late master. (Tarkovsky, by the way, had been the choice of Claudio Abbado who conducted the British Boris.)

Lawless speaks of this Boris as the product of “a unique apostolic succession of Russian artists,” pointing out that while Tarkovsky was influenced by Eisenstein, Eisenstein, in turn, was inspired by the epic sweep of Boris. Mussorgsky, of course, turned for his libretto to Pushkin, the father of Russian literature who had defined the Russian language.

BG_05.gifVitaly Efanov as the monk/historian Pimen and Evgeny Akimov as Grigory

This revival of Tarkovsky’s Boris might well have run aground on so much scholarship, but — happily — it did not, thanks largely to Lawless’ understanding — and appreciation — of the heritage of which he became a part in his work with this production. For it, designer Nicholas Dvigubsky has built a single set focused on a huge arch at the rear of the stage. All action flows through it. Still a work in progress, it arises out of the debris of earlier projects.

In the Coronation Scene a bell is suspended from the arch; at other times a huge ball swings ominously behind it. The people, the helpless victims of history, reside largely in darkness before the arch. A profound expression of his views, the set magnificently complements the counterpoint of the personal and political at the heart of Tarkovsky’s concept.

Born in 1932, he experienced the worst of history: the terror and deprivation of the Stalin years, the sufferings of the Great Fatherland War — as the Russians called it — and the Orwellian machinations of the post-war era. (Small wonder that — once permitted to work in the West — the director chose not to return home, even though it meant separation from his only child for his remaining years.) His Boris is both a loving father and — no matter how he got there — a leader who would be just. But — as Bert Brecht said — “the conditions just aren’t right.” Surrounded by petty ambition on all sides, he can only fail.

BG_07.gifMeredith Arwady as the cheeky Hostess of the Inn shares a lighter moment with Mikhail Kolelishvili as Varlaam, a vagabond monk.

One might wish that the production — “Boris” is presented largely as Mussorgsky intended- ended with the agonized death of the tsar, but that would leave him a sympathetic — even tragic — hero. Thus the lengthy final scene with the people — defeated again in their hopes — gather around the Simpleton — a “holy fool” in Russian — who removes his hood to stare at a shining apparition of a better world high on the stage. Tarkovsky’s view of the hopelessness of history make this a shattering — and uncomfortably contemporary — experience.

This extensive description of the production — seen on many stages since it was new — in no way overlooks the musical excellence — indeed, the musical perfection — achieved in Dallas. As its conductor DO music director Graeme Jenkins has raised his orchestra to a new level of richness and technical ease, and it must be his growing international reputation that accounts for the assembly of a mostly-Russian cast without one weak link. (Most were making Dallas Opera debuts.)

BG_29.gifThe mad Tsar Boris (Mikhail Kazakov), sensing that death is imminent, prepares his son (Rebecca Jo Loeb) to assume the throne.

Mikhail Kazarov was a Boris of unusual depth and warmth. He brought grandeur to the Coronation and made his later suffering near-palpable to the audience. Tenor Yevgeny Akimov moved the growing ambition and shifting fate of pretender Dmitri beyond theatrics, while in her selfish lust for power mezzo Elena Bocharova made Lady Macbeth an amateur. Bass Vitaly Efanov’s account of Russian history from Pimen’s chronicle radiated lyric beauty, and Sergei Leiferkus — the only member of the cast previously well known in the US- was an appropriately cunning Jesuit Rangoni. In this august constellation tenor David Cangeloni acquitted himself admirably as Shuisky, Boris’ No. 1 enemy among the Boyars. For his preparation of the many and massive chorus scenes Alexander Rom would win acclaim at the Bolshoi, and Melinda Cotton had the kids of the Opera’s Children’s Chorus singing Russian as if it were Texan slang.

In sum, an extraordinary performance of a production of Boris so earth-shaking that — one hopes — it will survive many more decades in the world’s opera houses.

Wes Blomster

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):