This is a magnificent recording and provides a great introduction to the operas of Rimsky-Korsakov. The story reminds one of Verdi or Bellini might have written in that the story revolves around betrayal, love and jealousy. The story is loosely based on an event from the reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible) whose third wife, the daughter of a Novgorod merchant) died following her wedding. The Tsar is never on stage but his eye falls upon Marfa, whom he surprisingly selects as his bride. Marfa is betrothed to Ivan Lukov but is desired by Grigory Gryaznoy, who wants to discard his current lover, Luybasha. Lyubasha is equally determined to hang onto Gryaznoy. There follows plots and counter-plots with a sinister German named Bomelius dispensing love potions and poisons.
The music is perfectly suited for the intrigue and double-dealing of the story. The famous overture sets the tone for the opera of excitement and is rousingly performed by the Kirov Orchestra. The cast in this recording is superb: Olga Borodina is terrific as Luybasha and Dmitri Horostovski makes an excellent Gryaznoy, a part that is difficult to bring off as a sympathetic villain. Marina Shaguch is great in the role of Marfa, the mad scene being particularly well sung. Valery Gergiev conducts with sensitivity for the drama of the opera and allows the singers full expression of their characters. The Kirov Opera Chorus is on top form.
The Tsar's Bride is popular in Russia but is rarely performed in western countries. I hope that it discovered by opera companies in the US but until then, we have the superb recording.