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Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina [Import]

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Product Details

  • Actors: M. Mussorgsky, Vladimir Ognovenko, Vladimir Galouzine, Gran Teatre del Liceu
  • Format: Classical, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Import
  • Language: Russian
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
  • Region: All RegionsAll Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Release Date: March 25 2008
  • Run Time: 192 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • ASIN: B0012KOCNS
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Product Description

Khovanshchina (2 Dvd)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9cbc269c) out of 5 stars 5 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cb91e10) out of 5 stars Great Production, Despite Changes to Time Period Sept. 15 2008
By A. McIntyre - Published on
Format: DVD
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.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cb923b0) out of 5 stars Dark, very dark May 3 2008
By Mr. Daniel Zehnacker - Published on
Format: DVD 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cab9954) out of 5 stars Wonderful production, what Mussorgsky must have intended Jan. 14 2016
By Archie (Ottawa Canada) - Published on
Format: DVD
I cannot disagree more with the commentators regarding this production, particularly when compared with the early one conducted by Claudio Abbado which is quite static, and the most recent one directed by Tcherniakov which is over the top. The two directors (musical Michael Boder and stage Stein Winge) have tightened up the drama making it more coherent and timeless. The singing, acting, chorus and orchestra are all, in my opinion, first rate. Because Mussorgsky did not live to complete the opera, many have taken a shot at completing and/or revising it: Rimsky-Korsakov, Diaghilev, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich. This production uses the Shostakovich version but with a quieter fading away ending written by Voronkov. I have done much reading about this opera and I feel that it best follows what Mussorgsky intended.

The problem for many viewers is that Mussorgsky compressed many decades of historical events into the brief time he allowed in the opera. Also, explanatory bits in the libretto come and go quite quickly. If one knows the historical background then it is all clear; otherwise it can be confusing. For those who are having difficulty making sense of the libretto because they do not know the historical background (as with me before I started background reading), here is a very brief account:

There were two major conflicts going on in mid 17th Century Russia. One was religious which involved practically everyone. Attempts were being made to reform the doctrines and practices of the Orthodox Church. This was massively resisted by the conservative faithful, dubbed the Old Believers who would rather commit mass suicide (and did) then go along with the reforms.

The other concerned the political ramifications following the unexpected death of the young tsar, Fyodor Alekseyevich. Two families put forward their sons to succeed. One was sickly Ivan, whose sister Sophia was powerful and politically astute; and who acted as regent until she was ousted. The other was Peter (the Great), a robust aged nine. The undisciplined violent militia in Moscow, the Streltsy, rallied behind Ivan; and even though young Peter was favoured, threw their support behind Ivan and Sophia. The head of the Streltsy was Prince Ivan Khovansky who had ambitions himself to seize the position of tsar. Sophia recognised the threat and using her current lover, Fyodor Shaklovity, had the Khovanskys, father and son, betrayed and then executed for treason. The Streltsy rebelled against the executions, but Sophia managed to buy their loyalty and appointed Shaklovity as their new leader. At the same time, Sophia reputedly was having it off with Prince Vasily Golitsyn who was very Western oriented and tried to bring in political and cultural reforms. Over a prolonged period (but very brief in the opera) Shaklovity was killed, Golitsyn was exiled, the Khovanskys father and son were killed, the Streltsy revolted and were put down by forces loyal to Peter, Sophia was banished to a convent, whole communities of Old Believers committed mass suicide -- and as Mussorgsky put it “The people groan, and drink to stifle their groans, and groan all the louder.”

That does not sound like promising material from which to write a single opera; but Mussorgsky almost pulled it off. He did not have access to information available today, and he wrote the opera over an eight year period in whatever order of the events that caught his fancy; and between episodesof attempting to write a comic opera; and frequent bouts of drunkenness. Admittedly there is no personality development in any of the characters; but because of their ambitions and singlemindedness none should be expected. All their interactions were not dialogues, but rather monologues directed at whoever they were facing -- just like most politicians today. There is a balance between scenes involving the politicos and religious -- and whenever there was a conflict between politicos, things were calmed down by the religious, either Marfa or Dosifei. And, as expected in a time of great violent turmoil, nobody won. That is except for Peter who, unlike Boris Godunov who was not a Romanov, had to remain offstage because of censorship and legislation preventing the depiction of Romanov royals in a theatrical production. However, one way or another Mussorgsky managed to get almost all of the historical events in.

With that as a background, try again. I found that I got much more out of it with each viewing. It is a wonderfully realised total production depicting a society in chaos wih the strong suggestion that plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
HASH(0x9c976cd8) out of 5 stars Fine production of an interesting opera April 15 2013
By Richard Askenase - Published on
Format: DVD
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.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c976ba0) out of 5 stars Pluses and minuses of Liceu Khovanshchina Oct. 29 2008
By Paul Brians - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase

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.


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.