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Mussorgsky;Modeste Khovanshchi [Import]

M. Mussorgsky , Vladimir Ognovenko    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

List Price: CDN$ 47.99
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Production, Despite Changes to Time Period Sept. 15 2008
By A. McIntyre - Published on Amazon.com
The Barcelona production is a gem, despite changing the time period from Peter the Great to Russia in the 1950s. The change is especially confusing because Peter the Great is still the tsar during the post-Stalinist period in Russian history in this production. The plot has always been the problem with "Khovanshchina," so I suggest concentrating on the staging and music, especially the choral music.

The music is enough on its own to buy the DVD. The staging is wonderful, especially as the climax approaches in the final two acts (acts four and five). "Khovanshchina" will never attain the poularity of "Boris," nor should it. But, no not pass this DVD by if you like Mussorsky.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, very dark May 3 2008
By Mr. Daniel Zehnacker - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
La Khovanchtchina est une oeuvre complexe qui met en avant des problèmes aussi bien politiques, sentimentaux que religieux. Le peuple y exprime ses doutes, ses pulsions, et son envie d'un dirigeant qui soit l'incarnation de ses attentes, d'où une suite d'espérances et de déceptions qui peuvent aller jusqu'au suicide collectif en dehors des tensions personnelles.
Il existe plusieurs versions de cet opéra. Celle-ci, choisie par Stein Winge, rejette la pompe et les beaux costumes. Elle refuse la splendeur des mises en scène du KIrov, et se veut plus moderne, pour nous faire sentir que, dans chaque pays, les luttes pour le pouvoir sont éternelles, et que certains nouveaux Messies arrivent encore à mystifier la population par des espoirs fallacieux dans une vie de l'au-delà plus jouissive que l'existence terrienne.
Dans un décor unique, les solistes, tous excellents, se plient à une discipline efficace pour nous faire entendre une musique riche en contrastes et en vibrations aussi bien charnelles que spirituelles.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pluses and minuses of Liceu Khovanshchina Oct. 29 2008
By Paul Brians - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Pluses:

1) The box claims the production was recorded in high-definition. Even though the DVD is not a high-def DVD, it is very detailed and sharp--one of the best pictures I've seen in an opera DVD, done in widescreen format.

2) The music is wonderful, including some folk song adaptations. Very colorful, produced in great stereo sound. At least on my player, it seemed to be two-channel only.

Minuses:

1) The story is chaotic and gloomy, very hard to follow. All the factions involved are either evil or deranged. It's really about the early career of Peter the Great; but he was kept offstage by imperial censorship, so his story is told through subordinates and enemies. Read a good plot summary from somewhere else before trying to experience this opera.

2) The English subtitles were obviously not written by a native speaker. They are in laughably poor English. It is often difficult to figure out what meaning is intended.

3) Most of the singers are fine, but Elena Zaremba (Marfa) has a severe wobble in this performance that makes it difficult to tell most of the time what notes she is trying to hit.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine production of an interesting opera April 15 2013
By Richard Askenase - Published on Amazon.com
Modest Musorgsky is one of the most original, nationalistic composers in all of classical music. He rejected any formal musical training, and based his compositions on the uniqueness of Russian speech, and his innate feel for Russian folk music, song, melody and harmonics. Along with Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, and others, he formed a group of musicians (only Rimsky-Korsakov had full musical training) that sought to invigorate Russian classical music with the human folk idiom. And none did it as thoroughly as he did.

Unfortunately, the lack of such formal musical education has its consequences. Among them are disorganization, incompleteness, and lack of discipline. So, when he died of alcoholism at the age of only 42, most of his major works, OTHER than his songs, were left unfinished- often in a very scattered condition. "Khovanshchina" is one of those.

Essentially, he wrote this opera as a series of scenes, rather than a straight narrative. Musorgsky didn't like to work from a full libretto, so he wrote the lyrics as he composed the piece. So, well into its composition, Khovanshchina never really coalesced into a complete work. Late he was persuaded to organize the material which he did in something called the "blue notebook", which put the pieces in the order in which he intended them to be. But, he never orchestrated the work at all (other than two small sections) at the time he died.

It was once again left to Rimsky-Korsakov to take it up, organize it, edit it, and orchestrate it into an opera that could be performed. (He had done this also with "Boris Godunov" and with "Prince Igor" by Borodin.) Apparently, this finalization was heavily criticized later, and Dmitri Shostakovich undertook to re-orchestrate and re-organize the piece. It is this version that is presented here.

And what is presented? Well, it doesn't really deviate from its source in that it is a series of scenes and not a straightforward plot/story. I have no problem with that. As many opera plots are often ludicrous, not having much of a plot is not, in itself, the worst fault. I do struggle with understanding the characters, their interaction, and their place in Russian history. Not being especially knowledgeable about Russian history, I had a hard time following the narrative, but, nonetheless, enjoyed the scenes, and especially the glorious music. (The dvd includes a plot synopsis which is helpful. There is also an interesting discussion by Michael Boder, the conductor, on how their performing edition was arrived at.)

Musorgsky's music, both here and in Boris Godunov, has a raw power that is very compelling to me. It moves me greatly, especially the chorus pieces. After all, when we think of Russia, we think of the masses of Russian people, and it is those scenes/musical numbers that struck me the most.

The production here in Barcelona is strong, especially noting Vladimir Vaseev as Dosifei. His role, as the leader of "the Old People" is crucial as he closes each of the 5 Acts, and completely dominates the short final Act where the Old People, commit themselves to ritual suicide by immolation in fire. Powerful stuff.

I want to particularly highlight the work of the chorus in this production. I love the chorus sections of operas. (It was my love of large choral works that led me to opera in the first place about 15 years ago, and those numbers still offer me the greatest thrills.) Here, it is especially noteworthy that the Spanish chorus had to learn to sing in Russian- not an easy task. Note that almost all of the main roles were performed by Russian singers (as is usually the case for these Russian works at ALL of the major houses). The chorus must work that much harder (and for relatively little pay) to learn their parts. (I worked as a supernumerary at a few opera shows in Boston and had nothing but admiration for the chorus in those productions who worked so hard to get it right.) Here, they were terrific. Sombreros off to them.

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