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Mussorgsky - Khovanshchina / Nesterenko, Vedernikov, Arkhipova, Simonov, Bolshoi Opera

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5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product Description

Khovanschina is an opera in 5 acts by Mussorgsky, completed and orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov. Libretto by the composer and Vladimir Stasov. First performed St. Petersburg, 21 Feb. 1886. Khovanschina is one of Russian opera's infrequently performed masterpieces, a work which has been gaining steadily in popularity in recent years. "The Khovansky Uprising" (as the title is often translated) is a sprawling tale of the struggle for power in Russia at the beginning of the reign of Peter The Great. This performance, taped "live" at the Bolshoi Opera in 1979, stars the great Russian bass Yevgeni Nesterenko as Dosifei, the Old Believer at religious and psychological war with the new order, led by Prince Ivan Khovansky. The manipulative Khovansky is powerfully portrayed here by Alexander Vedernikov, another of the world's great basses, little known outside of the Soviet Union. Marfa, one of Dosifei's followers and a fortune teller, is sung by the legendary mezzo-soprano Irina Arkhipova in a performance of great authority and dignity. Russian opera at the Bolshoi is the genuine article, and a remainder of the cast is equally impressive, from the mistrusting Prince Galitsyn of Evgeny Raikov to the clever, informing Shaklovity of Vladislav Romanovsky.

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Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is the only existing version of Mussorgsky's Kovanshchina that I own or want to own. It is a genuine Russian (the Bolshoi) performance with positive 'old-fashioned' production values that make those of its rival from Vienna seem ridiculous - I have watched but declined to buy that version. English subtitles are embedded, but following the somewhat complicated plot does require prior attention to a synopsis. The plot is a real slice of Russian history centering on the Seventeenth Century modernizing reforms of Peter the Great, with particular focus on those affecting the Church. The "Old Believers" resent these reforms bitterly and wish both to retain the simplicity and purity of the earlier liturgy and do away with the political modernising that accompanies the reforms. (For those so inclined, some of the reactions to the fate of the Latin Mass in Roman Catholicism, and the virtual demise of the Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican/Episcopal Communion, might provide modern if less dramatic parallels on the religious side. The best parallel on the political side is probably the Sixteenth Century English one involving the reaction to Henry V111 and his breach with the Church of Rome). The spiritual leader of the "Old Believers" is the monk Dofei, sung spectacularly by the great bass Nestorenko who is not, however, in quite the same league as an actor. The secular leader is Prince Khovansky - a man of great dignity, of which he is at times excessively conscious - again a bass role well sung and this time also well acted. He is assassinated before the final act and the secular leadership devolves on his son, Prince Andrei Khovansky, who comes across as a rather useless and distinctly unpleasant person. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good "traditional" performance of"Khovanshchina" July 17 2008
By rwu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a very good performance of Mussorgsky's sprawling masterpiece, with excellent voices, old-fashioned staging,and gorgeous costuming.
The ability of the performers to "act" is variable, but acceptable.
English subtitles are automatic (and somewhat "modern"). No other languages offered.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery Masterpiece March 3 2011
By Dr. John W. Rippon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
As one reviewer has already said, Khovanshchina is a "sprawling" masterpiece. But it has a number of mysteries associated with it also. The opera was little more than a collection of scenes written over a period of years that were collected by Vladimir Stasov as the "blue notebook". These were divided into acts by Rimsky Korsikov who also took Mussorgsky' music sketches (only two small scenes had been orchestrated) and fashioned an opera out of them. There were revisions by Rimsky-Korsikov himself; another by Stravinsky and Ravel for the Paris premier as well as by Shostakovitch who in time reorchestrated the whole thing for the Marinsky and a classic film. Thus there is no "final" authoritative score. The opera itself remains a mystery in what the composers judgement was for the actions portrayed in the opera. It came into existence in Tsar Peter the Great bicentenary year and concerns the history of his consolidating power against old Russia and forming a modern state in the "western-European" mode. He did this by destroying the old serf state, the old princes powers, the old church beliefs and gave rise to the modern state of Russia; but it was a very bloody road. This situation came about when his father Tsar Fyodor Alexeyevich (Romanov) died age 20 leaving a 16 year old brother, dim-witted Ivan and a half brother Peter. A nasty mess of palace intrigues followed so that both brothers were installed as Tsar with an older sister Sophia as regent. In order consolidate his power he needed to eliminate the Strel'tsi ( a militia) and their leader Ivan Khovansky and son Andrey (their two revolts are called the Khovansky affairs (Khovanshchina).Only the latter is represented in the opera. In the opera Shaklovity elininates Khovansky as Peter's agent and the son dies in flames in the end of the opera. Peter's second opponent is Sophie as represented by Golitsin her chief minister (and lover) but she plots Peter's murder with Golitsin and she is banished and Golitsin is exiled. The final opposition is represented in the opera as the "Old Believers". They want the church reforms of Peter and Peter's father annuled and a return to "'that old time religion". In the opera they are the only ones that remain undefiled by plots, ambitions or greed. Yet they along with the evil actors in the story end in the dust bin of history. There is the mystery: the opera as done by Rimsky-Korsakov lets us think that all the plots and the burning of the "Old Believers" was worth the price to form modern Russia and Peter is the Hero. But from Mussorgsky's notes, conversations with Stasov (collector of Mussorgsky's librettos) and writings he may have said that Peter and his culprits should be condemned by history. This would mean that at the ending of the opera the Old Believers singing should fade out and end instead of having the triumphal trumpets of Peter the Great's army in thier French-inspired uniforms heralding the "New Russia".
Yes, there are many technical problems with this DVD and many other little things to find fault with but I cherish this album to hear one of the greatest basses in my memory: Evgeny Nesterenko. Only Boris Christof comes close.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The history of Russia in one opera. Sept. 26 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Khovanshina is an opera that you can not understand unless you see it a few times. The opera has three different forces, all of which are political opponents, but they unite against the reforms of tsar Peter I. The best vocal performance comes from Nesterenko. He is the best Dosifey since Mark Reyzen. His Dosifey is not a sweet-voiced preast, nor a humble monk. In Nesterenko, Dosifey becomes a great force, who virtualy scares away all of his opponents. During the final sceene, Nesterenko seems to be so sure about the mass burning, that you get his feeling to. Arkhipova is also a great Marfa, but her appearance is not exactly one of a young girl, who has fallen into religion. Raikov is a good Golitsin and Romanovskiy is a liric Shaklovitiy. Andryuschenko is not the best Andrey khovanskiy, but Miglau and Vlasov are both outstanding as Emma and the Scribe. Aleksandr Vedernikov seems to be the best Ivan Khovanskiy on video. He does not sing as well as he plays, but Khovanskiy is a role where dramatical abbilities of a singer are more importaint, than his vocalism. Yuriy Simonov conducts with style. The production of Leonid Baratov has perhaps lost some dramatism after the death of the director. The Sets by Feodor Fedorovskiy are magnificent. His Khvonshina (and Boris Godunov) has the best operatic sets I ever saw.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Image Quality Sept. 17 2010
By Kirsten Lodge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful opera! However, I needed to order it quickly, so I did not have time to compare the different versions available on DVD/VHS. I am especially interested in the final scene, when the Old Believers burn themselves up in their church rather than submit to Peter's men. I am rather disappointed, particularly because the image quality is poor, and the sound isn't great either. The scene that interests me is all right, but it is very short and not very dramatic. Maybe I should have gone with the Kirov: I own several opera DVDs and videos of their performances, and all of them are good. I just thought I should post this in case someone else is in the same position I was, and cannot tell from the comments and descriptions which version is best.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent Jan. 20 2003
By "anirika" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
This version is a splendour, however it is not as good as the earlier film (this is, on the other hand, a recording of performance in Bolshoi). Arkhipova is truly the best Marfa there could ever be: she is not at all young in this film but her voice is outstanding. THe decorations and the whole "mise en scene" of the film are of the top world class, the Bolshoi choir is as magnificent and astonishing as ever (it has always been our greatest pride - I am Russian, from Moscow). Nesterenko and Raikov lack some of the passion that are essential for the parts of Dosifei and Galitsin, Shaklovitiy should also be much more passionate in his astounding aria "spit streletskoe gnezdo". The ending is terrific, however, when Petr's soldiers come out in the forest at the very end, when all the raskolnicks burn themselves, it looks a little out of place. Overall, the film is terrific, highly recommended.
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