Opera: From Russia with love
The Enchantress Royal Festival Hall (Saturday)
Monday 02 February 1998
So why, then, is this often beautiful and bizarre piece - an unsettling mix of headiness and austerity - so rarely heard, you ask? Too many notes? Perhaps. But it's the quality and the organisation, the dramatic cohesiveness, of those notes. Listen to Onegin and the miracle is in the concision. You couldn't add or take away anything. Not one note. The Enchantress could shed fistfuls and only sharpen its act in the process. But that would be a different opera, and Tchaikovsky believed in this one. So does Valery Gergiev. In Saturday night's concert performance, courtesy of the Royal Opera, he scoured the enormous score as if belief alone could turn it into a masterpiece. The Royal Opera Orchestra played for him in that full-on Russian way that makes no distinction between the good, the bad, and the inspired, while a healthy front-line of Kirov and Bolshoi singing talent lent idiomatic stiffening to an excellent (and largely British) supporting cast. In the title role, a femme fatale born into quite the wrong century (Bizet's Carmen and Berg's Lulu should be so audacious), Galina Gorchakova was not what she might have been a couple of years back. For sure, when she sang of the "endless horizons" of her native land, of "the wide expanse [that] fills you, enters your soul", the singing came from somewhere, the dusky timbre took hold. But whilst the big notes still resonate with a will, the brightness, the ring of confidence, has gone from the voice, and the subtler inflections (at a premium) are not well supported; interest flags.
Which could never be said of the sensational Larissa Diadkova (Princess Evpraksia). This was indomitable singing, mind, body, and soul making a drama out of the crisis of every confrontation. Her big scenes with Gegam Grigorian (as Yuri, her son), Nikolai Putilin (as Prince Nikita, her husband), whose upper reaches sounded somewhat dry and impaired on this occasion (too many "white" notes), and most especially Vladimir Matorin as his clerk Mamyrov (what a distinctive Slavic basso this is) were what made the evening really hum. If scorn can be registered in terms of its chill-factor, then her bottom notes took us into the realm of cryonics.
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Life & Style blogs
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Scientists ‘incredibly concerned’ for fate of banana as plagues and fungus infections spread across world’s supplies
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
£40000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer (WPF...
£45000 - £65000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Year 6 Teacher - Gilli...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Teacher of English - S...