My season opened in the Conservatory with a concert performance of Daisi by Zakharia Paliashvili, the father of Georgian classical music. The Tbilisi State Opera House is under renovation, so the State Opera is performing in other venues. I saw this opera staged, with a similar cast, in Spring 2009, but since Paliashvili is virtually unknown and never performed outside Georgia, it is worth hearing live again and again (I have Soviet era recordings of this and another one of his operas – Abesalom da Eteri – stored on my iTunes, so I do get to listen to recordings of this wonderful music even in Moscow). Truly beautiful music, combining traditional Georgian modes with Western Classical structures.
In the intimate confines of the Conservatory, the cast came off very well. The lead tenor, Armaz Darashvili, and especially the lead baritone, Sulkhan Gvelesiani, even more so, were particularly strong, and the audience reaction nearly forced Gvelesiani to sing every one of his arias twice (certainly, from the looks he and the conductor, Revaz Takidze, kept giving each other, I think they seriously considered it – and since it was not a staged performance, reprising an aria would not have disturbed the drama). The strings got off to a slow start with a very student-like sound, but once fully warmed up did fine. Bizarrely, it looked like they handed out string instruments based on the age of the performers – violinists looked like they were about 20 years old, violists averaged about 35, cellists averaged about 65, and double bassists were around 50. That cannot be a way to set up an orchestra. Winds were of all ages and were very good, particularly the solo oboe.
I went to closing night at the Tbilisi State Opera: Daisi (“Dawn”) by Paliashvili. Good cast and beautiful music, but unclear what the title had to do with the dark plot. Nevertheless, very pleased to hear this music and to get to know this composer, apparently (and unjustifiably) unknown outside his homeland.
Paliashvili, Abesalom da Eteri
Considered the masterpiece of Georgian classical music, Zakharia Paliashvili‘s opera Abesalom da Eteri from 1919 combined Georgian polyphonic modes with Western operatic traditions. Gorgeous, moody, raw music – I wish it were performed outside Georgia (and that there were a reasonable-quality recording available on CD).
The music was sort of like Rimsky’s Kitezh, but with the rawness of Mussorgsky. I have no idea if it has ever been performed outside Georgia – the Georgian language being somewhat obscure, I am not sure it would be performed by non-Georgians except in translation.
This is my first performance at the Tbilisi State Opera, which has an ornate neo-Persian theater. The quality of the opera company is better than in many eastern European houses, most of which seem to have had their talent drained to higher-paying western houses. This was quite a good performance. Staging was minimal but sensible. Costumes were appropriate for the mythical setting.
I think the house saved its money by not installing lightbulbs. The lobby, hallways, and bathrooms were all mostly dark. But the building itself was floodlit from the outside – I presume that comes from the city’s budget and not from the opera house’s.