Prince Igor, London Coliseum, opera review

Production has too many echoes of Gilbert and Sullivan and Monty Python

The story of Prince Igor is suddenly topical, dealing with medieval Russia’s centredness in the Ukraine: how apt that this should be the first production which the Kolobov Novaya Opera Theatre of Moscow brings to London.

Director Yuri Alexandrov underlines this topicality: for him, the opera is about Russia’s place in history, with Igor’s wife Yaroslavna being the noblest embodiment of patriotism.

This work may be seldom staged, but everyone knows its Polovtsian Dances and the immortal melody which became ‘Hold my hand’ in Kismet.

And indeed, Alexandrov’s production has a strong whiff of Fifties Hollywood, with its tastefully choreographed scenes of histrionically fearful townsfolk and cleanly carousing peasants; everybody has their own way of going OTT, but Alexandrov’s has too many unintended echoes of Gilbert and Sullivan and Monty Python to allow us to watch with an entirely straight face.

Borodin left this work unfinished, with Rimsky-Korsakov completing the orchestration, and though it bowls smoothly along its cardboard pageantry is simply an excuse for a few lovely arias and a couple of bewitching choruses.

If Elena Popovskaya’s Yaroslavna is delivered with chilly perfection, Aleksey Tatarintsev and Agunda Kulaeva make a nobly-sung pair of young lovers, while Sergey Artamonov’s sound as Igor has thrilling authority.