Rimsky-Korsakov, Snow Maiden

An afternoon performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’Snow Maiden at the Novaya Opera.  Rimsky-Korsakov apparently wrote in his auto-biography that this was his own favorite of all his works.  However, although pleasant enough, I do not understand why.  It has some typically Russian chorus parts, and a few lyric arias, but is generally of no special interest that I could discern and appeared to need further editing (something that can rarely be said about the normally detail-oriented Rimsky-Korsakov).  This performance by the Novaya, under Evgeny Samoilov, was fine, so although perhaps a more inspired performance might bring out something special, I just do not see where.

Unusual for a Russian production, the strongest voices today came from women: Galina Korolëva (as the Snow Maiden) and Tatyana Tabachuk (as Lel) led a serviceable ensemble cast.  Benjamin Egorov, in the character role Bobil, also provided good-spirited amusement.

Fairy-tale staging was suggestive, and therefore better than most at the Novaya, although I do not think the director was entirely clear on the concept he was suggesting – or at least was not clear enough to convey his concept to me with this staging.  Distractions included forcing the Emperor and his Boyar to contort their bodies bizarrely as they sung rather than allowing them to act naturally like everyone else; some chorus roles were acted out on stage but sung by a chorus sitting in the box seats; and Spring and Frost, the parents of the Snow Maiden, sang their roles from the orchestra pit rather than from the stage, which somewhat limited their ability to interact with their daughter.

Distractions for which the director was not responsible also came from both backstage and from the theater.  Backstage, visible stagehands broke the fundamental rule: if they can see the audience, the audience can see them – very amateurish, and not what I have come to expect from this opera house.  In the theater itself, due to the 2:00 start time, many children attended; they behaved wonderfully, but the same can not be said of the adults they brought with them, who talked incessantly, got up and walked around (and in and out of the hall) during the performance, and took flash photos, which spoiled the fairy-tale mood and must have blinded some of the cast.  Someone should tell these children to leave their adults at home next time.

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