Out of all the four new operatic releases by Gergiev and Kirov this year, this one by far is the newest of the crop. There is much impressive about this new recording, but something missing, in the whole effort really cutting to the heart of the matter. Gergiev plays the work in the most Imperial, patrician manner possible. As Rimsky-Korsakov wrote this opera, in a way, as a tribute to his fallen rival, Tchaikovsky, there is some merit in that. At the same time, the brilliance and panache of the execution of so much of the music takes over to the extent of glibly covering some of the most elemental facets of this enigmatic work. One's taste for a saltier approach to especially some of the choral passages, and to the wild anguish of the final scene, remains unfulfilled. Most impressive in the cast is Olga Borodina as Lyubasha, just leaving to the imagination what her Amneris at the Met must have been like this season, in (in a number of subtle ways) a similar enough Verdi opera. Impassioned, voluptuous in tone to full measure, and incisive with the words, she is about all that anyone could ask, and almost surpassing Irina Arkhipova on the 1970's Bolshoi set. Dmitri Hvorostovsky is also good and sympathetic as Gryaznoy, but a little effortful at delivering the earthier and more venal aspects of the character. In the effort, he comes out sounding just a tad bit too earnest for his own good. Marina Shaguch is the strident Marfa, perfectly adequate in relaxed passages, of which there are few in this part, and only finally coming into her own in her final aria. She is heard to better effect in Kaschhey the Deathless, also released by Philips last month. Evgeny Akimov is the thin, reedy sounding Lykov, not matching tone in duet with Shaguch well. The remainder of the cast is simply adequate, with the exception of the Petrovna (minor role) of Lyubov Sokolova, who is well above that. Five stars for Borodina, two to three for the rest.