Tschaikowsky, Yevgeny Onegin
I tried out a new opera house this evening – and the Stanislavsky has a better reputation than the Bolshoi these days. A moody production of Tschaikowsky‘s Yevgeni Onegin was especially appropriate, since Fall is in the process of giving way to Winter here in Moscow.
The young enthusiastic cast (good Onegin and Lensky) was supported by a good orchestra, with the conductor struck the right sound balance and reflected the moodiness of the work well. It’s a nice theater, too: I liked the space.
I enjoyed it… but why do people in Moscow opera houses talk so much during performances?
Tschaikowsky‘s Iolanta, which I just experienced for the first time at the Bolshoi, was charming. I can see why it is not often performed, though. The music is “western” (not especially Russian) – typical Tschaikowsky in that regard (I prefer the more authentic Russian sounds of other Russian composers), and Westerners who like Tschaikowsky usually go for his bigger works. There are not a sufficient number of showy arias to have this one championed by some famous singer. And for an opera which has mystical overtones, it does not have mystical music. But it’s still a fairy tale. Tschaikowsky himself was not sure of the work and did not champion it either.
Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov
Figure my first major opera in Moscow should be Mussorgsky‘s Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi.
The Bolshoi Theater is being reconstructed (it was supposed to be finished already, but corruption intervened, and they had to rip out the badly-reconstructed theater and start over, so now it won’t be done until late 2011 if then), so the performance was on the New Bolshoi Stage next door. I’m told the Bolshoi is not what it once was and there are better opera companies in Moscow, which I will need to explore. And while tonight was not actually that special, at least now it’s official.
Kálmán, Gräfin Mariza
The final of my three Viennese performances at the Moscow Operetta as I wait for the opera houses to open their seasons: Gräfin Mariza by Imre Kálmán.
First two acts were by-the-book. Third act used substitute dialogue, which I could not follow. Penetschek seems to have been turned into a leprechaun. I have no idea why.
Imre Kálmán‘s Csárdásfürstin at the Moscow Operetta tonight. They altered Act One somewhat, and crunched the second and third acts into one longer act. That was fine and kept with the plot (with some small modifications to take into account the altered first act). Not necessarily great theater, but mostly, the cast of Csárdásfürstin was having a lot of fun, and these operettas are always that much more fun when the cast is having a good time.
Joh. Strauß II, Die Fledermaus
Who knew the Muscovites were fans of Viennese operetta? There is a theater next to the Bolshoi (called, appropriately, the “Moscow Operatta“) that does only operetta, more than half of it Viennese. While waiting for the opera season to begin (next week), I got tickets for three operettas this week. I figured it would also be good for my Russian comprehension skills if I picked operettas I know very well and so could listen to dialogue (and singing) in Russian when I already knew what they were saying.
The idea was good in part, but did not account for any changes they make in the plot when translating for the Russian stage. So tonight I saw something that only resembled Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauß II. Unfortunately, my Russian is not yet good enough after six days here to fully understand what they did to the plot.
I am really not sure what I saw. It was a “traditional” staging, in that it was neither modern nor designed to be shocking, but they clearly reworked the plot (and deleted a lot of music), and my Russian simply was not up to it.
That said, who would have expected my first musical experience in Moscow to be Die Fledermaus?
A very excellent new (as of last season) production of Gounod‘s Faust at the Staatsoper.
The cast contained Vienna regulars, which is to say they knew what they were doing. Well-sung and well-acted, the cast members were all comfortable with each other. Piotr Beczala sang a dynamic but tortured Faust. Soile Isokoski is too old to look the role of Gretchen any more, but she certainly knows how to sing and act it. Kwangchul Youn was a vibrant Mephistopheles. And Adrian Eröd, as Valentin, is an up-and-coming baritone who has an expressive voice which is also large enough to fill the house.
Musically the production was very fine, under the baton of Bertrand de Billy.
But in addition, the staging was simply executed by Nicolas Joel. This is a man who clearly familiarized himself completely with the opera, something that very few directors do these days. Although the scenery was minimal (not minimalist, just minimal), it contained everything that the libretto required (for example, Mephistofeles comments in passing at one point that he wears a feather in his hat – his hat did indeed have one feather). The cast members were directed to interact with each other, and to really act. So there really was no explanation of the staging necessary – it spoke for itself, which is exactly what a good director should do. Simple and elegant.