Rimsky-Korsakov The Tsar’s Bride, Royal Opera House
Friday 15 April 2011
The Royal Opera’s first ever staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s rich and surprising opera The Tsar’s Bride sees history repeating itself in unsettling ways.
The poster-coloured prelude has no sooner run its course - one of the composer’s most exhilarating lyric themes in uplifting reprise with sumptuous horns in bracing canon - when the curtain rises not on the 16th century Russia we’ve come to know from 400 years of iconography but the here and now of Putin’s 21st century. The music says one thing, Paul Curran’s mis-en-scène says another; but the reality is one and the same.
In a Moscow restaurant, Grigory Gryaznoy (the charismatic Johan Reuter), a member of the Oprichniki (the KGB that no longer speaks its name) is putting the finishing touches to a hooded, bloodied, half-naked, enemy of the Tsar. But his “loyalty” is about to backfire big-time as Marfa Sobakina, the woman of his dreams, makes the short-list in the Tsar’s search for a new bride. Behold the superstructure of the new free-enterprise Russia: the bought women, the drug tsars and their high-tec merchandise, the penthouse pool parties (wicked designs from Kevin Knight), the hired heavies – all sunglasses and glocks. So here’s Curran’s reality check: the social divide is as great as it ever was in Russia’s Imperial past and those old workers songs, innocent and folksy – Rimsky’s score is rich in them - now take on a compelling irony. Hell, there’s even talk of a royal wedding.
The musical resonances run deep thanks to the swagger and unashamed luxuriance of Mark Elder’s conducting – and there’s a wonderfully varied texture of voices across the casting from the contrasting basses of Paata Burchuladze’s sonorous and worldly weathered Sobakin to the thrilling virility of Alexander Vinogradov’s wily and physically lithe Malyuta-Skuratov. Dmytro Popov’s vibrant tenor epitomises the abandon of young love in the figure of Ivan Likov, Marfa’s intended.
Marina Poplavskaya’s Marfa displays her customary cool but little warmth on stage and the voice (too much vinegar in the mix for my taste) is undermined by failings in technique which don’t allow for those ethereally spun pianissimi in her climactic mad scene.
She is anyway sung off the stage by Ekaterina Gubanova whose Lyubasha – a blond bombshell of a mistress scorned if ever there was one – arrives with an a capella folksong which throws the old and new of this exciting evening into startling relief.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
lifeIt takes year-long dedication to get Selfridges ready for 25 December. And they're already working on plans for 2015...
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Paris charity auction staged to save the ancient city of Tyre
scienceScientists find the answer to a question that even puzzled Darwin
A very timely Great Train Robbery and a frantic 24 Hours in A&E among the highlights
Arts & Ents blogs
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, film review
Brian Griffin returns: Cartoon dog back from the dead in Family Guy Christmas episode
Christmas has come early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
Coriolanus, theatre review: 'Tom Hiddleston has blazing stellar power'
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Ian Watkins: Paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences, as judge labels him a 'dangerous sexual predator'
- 4 Christmas has come early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >