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The Fiery Angel

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 17 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Philips - Universal Special Imports
  • ASIN: B0000041BE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #107,640 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Disc: 1
1. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act One: 'Zdes', gospodin rycar' (Ruprecht)
2. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act One: 'Da, on rassejalsja' (Renata, Ruprecht)
3. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act One: 'U vas vse vremja sum kakoj-to' (Renata, Ruprecht)
4. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act One: 'Ne dovol'no l'' (Renata, Ruprecht)
5. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act One: 'Sista... sista... sista...' (Renata, Ruprecht)
6. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Two: '...iz trech magiceskich krugov' (Renata)
7. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Two: 'A, Jakov Glok' (Renata, Ruprecht)
8. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Two: 'Slysis li ty stuk?' (Renata, Ruprecht)
9. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Two: 'Zaklinaju tebja' (Renata, Ruprecht)
10. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Two: 'Tam net nikogo' (Renata, Ruprecht)
See all 12 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Three: 'Genrich, vernis', vernis', vernis'!' (Renata)
2. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Three: 'Ubej ego, Ruprecht!' (Ruprecht, Renata)
3. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Three: 'Renata, perestan' ze plakat'' (Ruprecht, Renata)
4. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Three: - Entr'acte -
5. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Three: 'Milostivaja dama, on opasno ranen' (Renata)
6. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Four: 'Renata, molju tebja...' (Ruprecht, Renata)
7. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Four: 'Baraniny! Vina i baraniny!' (Renata)
8. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Four: 'Ach, negodjaj!' (Ruprecht)
9. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Five: 'Sestra Renata' (Renata)
10. Opera In Five Acts And Seven Scenes, Op. 37: Act Five: 'Vozljublennye brat'ja i sestry'
See all 13 tracks on this disc

Product Description

L'Ange de feu est sans nul doute le chef-d'oeuvre lyrique de Serge Prokofiev. Avec Valery Gergiev à la tête du choeur et de l'orchestre du Kirov de Saint-Pétersbourg, la partition retrouve ses sources. La version que nous propose le jeune chef russe est évidemment chantée dans la langue de Pouchkine. La principale qualité de cet enregistrement est résolument l'expression de puissance qu'il s'en dégage. Les musiciens du Kirov n'ont pas de concurrence dans l'expression de l'oppression. Un Ange de feu haut en couleurs. --Pierre Graveleau

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A superb performance of a strange, compelling opera March 4 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is an absolutely superb performance of an strange but compelling opera. All the principles--Gergiev, Gorchakova, Leiferkus--acquit themselves brilliantly and the Kirov forces couldn't be bettered. Most important, this is one of the most powerful and original scores Prokofiev ever composed, and that's saying a lot.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
An Outstanding Performance May 28 2003
By David A. Wend - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The Fiery Angel is a presents some difficulties in the performance and tends to turn-off people with its bizarre plot. The story concerns Renata, who was visited by an angel named Madiel from the age of 8, and who taught her how to lead a life of purity. He appeared to her wearing a white gown and bathed in light. However, Renata fell in love with the angel and desired a more carnal relationship. At this suggestion, Madiel was enraged and becomes enraged. Before disappearing in a ball of flame, Madiel promises to return in human form. Thereafter, Renata searched for the angel and believed she found him in Count Heinrich. With him, she has a
passionate relationship but he disappeared leaving her searching for him and having terrifying visions. Ruprecht falls in love with Renata and becomes her protector.
The story is one of occult interest with the heroine (or perhaps
anti-heroine) Renata being possessed by the angel Madiel and, in turn, attempts to posses the knight Ruprecht. While one is sympathetic toward Renata because of the constant visions that torture her we can sense her manipulative power as she provokes Ruprecht in an attempt to kill Count Heinrich, whom she suspects is Madiel returned to earth in a different form.
Prokofiev based The Fiery Angel on a novel by Valery Bryusov, published in 1907, that he discovered in America in 1919. He began the opera in 1920 but the work did not go smoothly and it was not completed until 1927, and revised it later in attempts to have it performed (it was not performed until 1955). Eventually, the music found its way into the Third Symphony
in 1928. The action of the opera is episodic than flowing. The scene with Faust and Mephistopheles is gratutitous and does not advance the story but does have occult interest. Also, in the last act of the opera, Ruprecht only observes as Renata is condemned to death, taking no part in defending the woman he loves. The opera has been described as being more a symphony in the guise of an opera. For me, despite the shortcomings of this opera, it is a remarkable work that has some powerful moments.
The occult subject matter and the difficulty of the role of Renata consigned the opera to oblivion until recently. This recording of The Fiery Angel is from a landmark production by the Mariinsky Theater in 1993 and won the Gramophone award for best opera. This is a live recording but the audience is quiet, and stage noise is minimal. Galina Gorchakova is perfect as Renata and conveys her vulnerability and torment. Sergei Leiferkus is excellent as Ruprecht, and the remaining cast members give wonderful performances with Vladimir Ognovenko being particularly sinister as the Inquisitor. Most of all, Valery Gergiev deserves praise for his peerless conducting of this opera and proving that The Fiery Angel is among Prokofiev's masterpieces.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Phenomenal performance of a difficult opera Oct. 26 2001
By M. Tietjen - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Anyone who doubts the vocal or dramatic talents of Russian soprano Galina Gorchakova need only listen to her performance here as Renata to understand her success. It is perhaps the most difficult opera role ever--the sheer volume of music for her is astounding. But Gorchakova is, vocally and dramatically, perfect for the role, and her (live) performance recorded here can only be described as spectacular. Her histrionic mad scene in the beginning (actually the whole opera can be considered one big mad scene) is truly chilling. Her compatriots are also phenomenal, and Gergiev's conducting is brilliant. The Kirov transforms this difficult opera into something truly fascinating and, sometimes, genuinely terrifying. My only regret is that the video of this performance seems to have gone out of print. I wish they would re-release it, or, better still, release it on DVD.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A no holds barred performance July 29 2000
By John - Published on
Format: Audio CD
If you're a Prokofiev fan or a fan of 20th century music you owe it to yourself to experience this opera. It's not for the faint-hearted, with its story of demons and and Satanic posession- and music to match; And this performance does not hold back, it unleashes the full power of one of Prokofiev's most exciting and terrifying scores. I highly recommend it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Demons and Inquisitors Feb. 27 2011
By Gio - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is easily the best of the two CD recordings available of "The Fiery Angel" but I can't recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who can possibly see the opera on DVD or -- fat chance! -- on stage. There's a stunningly fine DVD released by ArtHaus, with the same cast as this CD, performed by the Kirov Opera in 1993. The same production was offered in London and San Francisco, and perhaps in other cities. What's the problem then? Alas, the DVD is available only in "region 2" format and will not be playable on the "region 1" equipment of nearly all American homes. You'll need an "all region" DVD player, or possibly you can watch it on your desk-top computer, using headphones. Americans, unite and riot! You're being cheated, mistreated, deprived of many very fine films, not just of operas, that are available to Europeans but not to you!

"The Fiery Angel" is indeed a flaming spectacle of an opera. It begins with a scene of demonic possession, or else of dementia, in which the beautiful Renata is found raving, tormented by writhing near-naked demons (the men of the Maryinsky Acrobatic Troupe), who continue to lurk on the stage throughout the production. Eventually the drama will include a sword fight, a lurid ludicrous tavern scene, and a climactic orgy in a nunnery, in which the nuns are stripped of their habits by the demons and flung naked around the stage, while the Grand Inquisitor hurls imprecations and exorcisms in vain. It seems that even today The Fiery Angel is too flamboyant for many opera audiences, and it remains 'controversial' even while off-stage nudity has become standard fare at the Salzburg Mozart Festival.

Renata has been "possessed" since childhood by her vision of the beautiful spirit Madiel, but whether Madiel is indeed a 'fiery angel' or a devil is the core question of the drama, amounting to a synedoche of the conflicting perceptions of Religion of any sort, as Possession by Good or Evil. But expect a straightforward resolution of that conflict! The Grand Inquisitor is no more patently the spokesman for God in this opera than is the cynical Mephitopheles, who appears in the tavern scene of the fourth act, with Doctor Faustus in tow. Both the Inquistor and Mephisto are costumed in bright red. Renata is 'rescued' from her tormenting visions, in the opening scene of the opera, by the wandering knight Ruprecht, who first attempts to seduce her but who then becomes "possessed" by unreciprocated Love for her. Together, Renata and Ruprecht travel to Cologne in search of Renata's previous lover, Count Heinrich, whom she identifies as the incarnation of Madiel but who abandoned her in disgust. The duel in act three will be fought by Ruprecht and Heinrich, after which Renata will seek 'sanctity' in the convent. This plot might sound convoluted and obscure, but it isn't. The libretto, which Prokofiev prepared himself, is quite lucid, and the dramatic structure of the opera makes the bizarre magical events of the tale expressively immediate. This is surely one of the most intense, emotionally challenging operas ever composed!

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote The Fiery Angel slowly, over the course of at least eight years, from 1919 to 1927, as he traveled from the USA to the Bavarian Alps (Oberammergau) to Paris. He interested conductor Bruno Walter in staging the opera in Berlin, but the project failed. In fact, The Fiery Angel was not staged anywhere until 1954, a year after the composer's death. That production used a French libretto; the original Russian libretto was lost until 1977. The opera was not performed in Russia until the onset of "perestroika".

Meanwhile in 1933 Prokofiev returned to Russia, to the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin, the Grandest Inquisitor of all. It was perhaps the lack of acclaim for his music in the West that sent Prokofiev back to Russia and into a kind of "possession" as demonic as anything suffered by Renata or Ruprecht in his opera. In fact, Prokofiev was highly successful in Russia, despite his avant-garde dissonance. He found an outlet for his music in the greatest films of the Soviet era and in his ballets. His later operas, including "War and Peace", were successfully staged and well received. Even so, in 1948 he was condemned for 'formalism' and forced to humble himself in apology; his wife was condemned for anti-Soviet acts and sentenced to prison. Prokofiev's health was damaged and he had to compose the merest hour a day for the rest of his life. Aptly and symbolically, he died on precisely the day in 1953 when Stalin's 'cult of personality' was publicly denounced. The composer of this potent operatic drama of Possession and Inquisition had lived to experience his own nightmarish vision.

"The Fiery Angel" is one of the very greatest operas of the Twentieth Century. I'd go out on the limb and call it one of the ten greatest. But it's not just the drama and the symbolic depths that make it great. It's the music, which is as fiery and witty as anything Prokofiev ever wrote. No other composer except Leos Janacek succeeded as completely as Prokofiev in subsuming the melodic lyricism of 19th C Romanticism with the astringent tonal/atonal complexities of modernism, melding the best of both. Ironically, Prokofiev's 'Soviet era' music has been extremely popular in the United States; in fact, his compositions are heard more often on American 'classical music' radio broadcasts than those of any other composer! One of the marches from his early opera "Love for Three Oranges" was the theme song for a radio serial about the FBI in the 1950s. Even so, his music has been persistently under-rated by critics and musicologists of the elite in the USA, and his operas have been neglected in favor of other inferior works. Let's all shout at or write to our local opera impresarios and try to change that!

The role of Renata in "The Fiery Angel" is extremely demanding, by the way. Renata sings about two-thirds of all the vocal passages in the opera; the difficulty of the role might be one of the factors that limit the productions of the work. For a successful staging, everything depends on the casting of Renata. Galina Gorchakova, who sings Renata on this CD and on the DVD, is superb both vocally and dramatically, from her first shrieks of madness to her final fiery apotheosis.