[Met Performance] CID:350257
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
War and Peace {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/14/2002.

(Debuts: Anna Netrebko, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Oleg Balashov, Frank Dellapolla, Sergey Murzaev, Evgeny Nikitin, Mzia Nioradze, Trevor Kaplan-Newman, Christopher Dumont, Roy Stevens, Stefan Szkafarowsky, Peter Volpe, Warren Adams, Leonid Lyubavin, Kelly Ebsary, Mikhail Petrenko, Gints Berzins, Craig Hart, Robert Baker, Steven Tharp, Andrei Konchalovsky, Tatiana Noginova, Elaine McCarthy, Eugene Monakhov, Sergei Gritsay
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 14, 2002
Metropolitan Opera Premiere


WAR AND PEACE {1}
Prokofiev-Prokofiev/Mendelson

Prince Andrei Bolkonsky....Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Natasha Rostova............Anna Netrebko [Debut]
Sonya......................Ekaterina Semenchuk [Debut]
Madame Akhrosimova.........Elena Obraztsova
Madame Peronskaya..........Claudia Waite
Count Ilya Rostov..........John Cheek
Hélène Bezukhova...........Victoria Livengood
Count Pierre Bezukhov......Gegam Grigorian
Prince Anatol Kuragin......Oleg Balashov [Debut]
Czar Alexander I...........Frank Dellapolla [Debut]
Maria Bolkonskaya..........Delores Ziegler
Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky...Vladimir Ognovenko
Field Marshal Kutuzov......Samuel Ramey
Napoleon Bonaparte.........Vassily Gerello
Colonel Vaska Denisov......Sergey Murzaev [Debut]
Lieutenant Dolokhov........Evgeny Nikitin [Debut]
Balaga.....................Sergei Koptchak
Matryosha..................Mzia Nioradze [Debut]
Métivier...................Haijing Fu
French Abbé................Leonid Lyubavin
Tikhon Shcherbaty..........Mikhail Petrenko
Fyodor.....................Gary Rideout
Matveyev...................Vladimir Ognovenko
Trishka....................Trevor Kaplan-Newman [Debut]
Marshal Berthier...........Edward Crafts
Marshal Caulaincourt.......Christopher Dumont [Debut]
Marshal Davout.............Mikhail Petrenko
General Belliard...........Roy Stevens [Debut]
General Bennigsen..........Sergei Koptchak
General Barclay de Tolly...Iosef Shalamayev
General Yermolov...........Stefan Szkafarowsky [Debut]
General Rayevsky...........Haijing Fu
General Konovnitsin........Ronald Naldi
Captain Ramballe...........James Courtney
Captain Jacqeau............Peter Volpe [Debut]
Lieutenant Bonnet..........Bernard Fitch
Gérard.....................Vladimir Grishko
Monsieur de Beausset.......Leonid Lyubavin
Ivanov.....................Dennis Petersen
Columbine..................Rachel Schuette
Harlequin..................Warren Adams [Debut]
Host.......................Leonid Lyubavin [Debut]
Character Ballerina........Kelly Ebsary [Debut]
Footman....................Ronald Naldi
Lackey.....................Vaclovas Daunoras
Valet......................Mikhail Petrenko [Debut]
Housemaid..................Jane Shaulis
Joseph.....................Gints Berzins [Debut]
Gavrila....................Philip Cokorinos
Dunyasha...................Marjorie Elinor Dix
Orderly....................Charles Reid
German General.............Craig Hart [Debut]
German General.............Vaclovas Daunoras
Staff Officer..............Robert Baker [Debut]
Staff Officer..............Richard Vernon
Adjutant...................Ronald Naldi
Adjutant...................LeRoy Lehr
Adjutant...................Dennis Petersen
Adjutant...................Maria Zifchak
Adjutant...................Gary Rideout
Offstage Voice.............Emmanuel de Villarosa
Offstage Voice.............John Fiorito
Factory Worker.............Steven Tharp [Debut]
Shopkeeper.................Claudia Waite
Mavra Kuzminichna..........Mzia Nioradze
French Officer.............Stefan Szkafarowsky
Platon Karatayev...........Nikolai Gassiev
Madman.....................Michael Forest
Madman.....................Craig Hart
Actress....................Janet Hopkins
Actress....................Beverly O'Regan Thiele

Conductor..................Valery Gergiev

Production.................Andrei Konchalovsky [Debut]
Set Designer...............George Tsypin
Costume Designer...........Tatiana Noginova [Debut]
Lighting Designer..........James F. Ingalls
Projection Designer........Elaine McCarthy [Debut]
Associate Set Designer.....Eugene Monakhov [Debut]
Choreographer..............Sergei Gritsai [Debut]

Performance interrupted briefly in last scene when a super jumped into the orchestra pit. Before the final curtain calls, Joseph Volpe announced that the super was unhurt

Co-production with the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

War and Peace received ten performances this season.

[Note: Evgeny Nikitin was billed as Evgenij Nikitin until 3/1/07.]


Production photos of War and Peace by Winnie Klotz / Metropolitan Opera.
Chapter: Early Attempts to stage War and Peace at the Met.


Review of John W. Freeman in OPERA NEWS

Although a special event, Prokofiev's epic "War and Peace" took the Metropolitan Opera by storm. Though performed more often than its scope and difficulty would seem to permit, Prokofiev's "War and Peace" will always be a special event, like a complete "Ring" cycle, in the international repertory. New to the Met's repertory, the work appeared on the Met stage in previous productions by the visiting Bolshoi Theater in 1975 and English National Opera in 1984. This coproduction with the Mariinsky Theater opened in St. Petersburg in 2000; it opened in New York on February 14.

Prokofiev's score, an outgrowth of his experience in ballet and film as well as his other operas, combines effusive lyricism with subtle characterization, running full range from delicate introspection to jingoistic jubilation. Its libretto. fashioned by the composer and his common-law wife Mira Mendelson, compresses Tolstoy's novel drastically, yet there are still sixty-eight roles, divided at the Met among fifty-two singers. For the extensive public scenes, the Met uses a chorus of 120, forty-one dancers and 227 supers, plus a horse and several other animals.

Filling a stage with hundreds of people, however, could result in nothing but a crowded stage, like a high-school graduation ceremony. That this didn't happen is a credit to director Andrei Konchalovsky (Met debut) and his four busy assistants, as well as to choreographer Sergei Gritsai (another house debut).

Their efforts were both expedited and impeded by George Tsypin's ambitiously conceived stage, a dome-shaped semicircular spin-off from the Bayreuth world disk. (There's still plenty of mileage left in this half-century old innovation of Wieland Wagner's.) But Tyspins version suffers from steepness and height. The designer used it as a hill, bridge or redoubt in the second, "War," half of the opera. Everyone had to step carefully and in the finale a retreating French grenadier slipped off into the orchestra pit, where he was caught by a safety net. This briefly stopped the performance. During curtain calls, general manager Joseph Volpe brought the man onstage, reassuring the audience that he was all right.

Tsypin designed the rest of the picture as if for a ballet, limiting broad imagery to the cyclorama, where Elaine McCarthy (new to the Met) supplied projections of scudding clouds, a Moscow skyline, [and] smoke and flames from the burning city. Against this changing background, Tsypin suspended pieces of architectural scenery and arranged a few small, quickly removed, realistic props. This system permitted fluid transitions among the opera's thirteen scenes. By leaving the stage mostly open, it allowed for crowds and movement. It had two dampening effects: one on the intimate scenes, which looked lost, the other on the soloists' ability to project voice and character, perched as they were high on the ramp, far from the audience, without acoustical support from built scenery.

The one element that fit Tsypin's concept equally comfortably in Parts I and II was the costuming by the Kirov's Tatiana Noginova. In her Met debut, she anchored the generalities of the stage framework with an imaginative authenticity and energetic variety that made the period come alive, focusing the episodes in a time and place more specific than what one saw in the sets.

In other respects, Tsypin's vision suited Part I, "Peace," less comfortably than Part II. The [beginning] scene takes place in May - too early for the White Nights, perhaps, but too late in the year for the inky, starry sky that negated the characters' descriptions of springtime and nature. In a quick transition, translucent columns, lit from within (a 1940s Hollywood touch), descended to suggest, rather than define, the ballroom for Scene 2. The dancing mostly choreographic, rather than ballroom dancing - felt as distant as it looked. In Scene 3, the contrast of the stuffy, confined Bolkonsky drawing room could only be imagined, not felt. Scene 4, a reprise of the party atmosphere, added a boudoir mirror in the middle of the dance floor, a symbol of vanity and duplicity. The remaining three scenes of Part I worked more effectively, either by playing closer to the audience (in Lt. Dolokhov's apartment) or by expanding the furnished playing area to allow more movement.

In Part II, with the action outdoors and the scenery turned realistic, the breadth of the stage felt more natural. The nervous rallying of the troops on both sides, criss-crossing with banners, matched up with the sights and sounds of battle. At last the sky showed daylight. There was no falling back on the static, May Day cantata style of Socialist realism for choral scenes. The opera made its point: eventual success depends on a coalition. The Russian military, trained and uniformed much like Napoleon's, drew support from the civilian population, which improvised its own campaign against the invaders.

At the head of this endeavor stood an unlikely hero, Marshal Kutuzov, himself no longer in great shape physically, but possessed of both military savvy and peasant shrewdness. Samuel Ramey, who has usually played strongmen in opera, gave this character its more interesting dimension. He acted the role with some signs of weakness and faltering, causing concern that Kutuzov might not be up to the job; but during his big monologue, his voice grew in determination and conviction, overcoming its own initial hints of hesitancy. A touching moment was his meeting and immediate mutuality with Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, an officer from a social background opposite to his own. While war is an abomination, Tolstoy's novel tells us, it does bring people together in awareness of what's important.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky's fluent nobility of sound suited Prince Andrei as perfectly as his tall physique. The baritone built this character from early stirrings of self- awareness (the nocturnal musings of Scene 1) to a death scene in which his initial vision of Natasha materializes again from fragments of consciousness, much as Tolstoy described. Possessed of a dramatic voice and powerful legato, Hvorostovsky also has a remarkable capacity for registering degrees, for finding the musical equivalent of "le mot juste." During the death scene, director Konchalovsky gave Andrei a hallucinatory rise from his hospital bed to reenact his first waltz with Natasha. While this seemed dramatically questionable, it did illuminate Prokofiev's reasons for writing such a dreamy, distant, unreal waltz in the first place.

Anna Netrebko, slim, radiant and fresh-voiced, is a lighter-weight Natasha than the usual spinto soprano, but her lines carried with clarity and assurance, while she acted with an easy blend of näiveté and youthful impetuosity in her Met debut. After a bad reception by Andrei's relatives (Scene 3), she was off balance and susceptible to her would-be seducer, Anatol Kuragin. In that role, Oleg Balashov (Met debut) conveyed a volatility and impulsiveness that dangerously ignited hers. In subsequent scenes with fellow officers and with Anatol's brother-in-law, Count Pierre Bezukhov, the tenor probed his character's shallow depths for further traces of instability and cowardice - no small achievement for so brief a role.

Tenor Gegam Grigorian made the most of Pierre's sympathetic nature. To him belongs a memorable line, delivered in disgust at the social whirl around his scheming wife, Helene. (blowsy, full-throated Victoria Livengood): "The only value of such a life lies in the pleasure of giving it up." Pierre's decency, his thoughtfulness and concern, came through in Grigorian's measured delivery and temperate acting. Vassily Gerello's studiously deranged Napoleon, on the other hand, showed how a corrosive mixture of idealistic theory and military genius could dehumanize life, reducing it to a chess game. There were numerous other vivid characterizations - Vladimir Ognovenko's crusty Bolkonsky père, Elena Obraztsova's hoarsely indignant Mme. Akhrosimova, Ekaterina Semenchuk's Met debut as a gentle Sonya, Nikolai Gassiev's patiently philosophical Platon Karatayev. As the list of cast members grew longer, their roles grew shorter. The ensemble, uniform in its readiness, dealt fairly with all these assignments.

Valery Gergiev, a solid advocate for Prokofiev's operas, dug his hands into the score, bringing out its glinting details as well as its sprawling grandeur. Because of the staging - the height and distance of the chorus from the stage apron in the first ballroom scene, for example - and the characters' frequently insecure footing, it wasn't always possible to maintain close coordination. But choristers and orchestra players alike put their backs into it, lifting the mighty apparatus until it soared. There were times when less might have been more, but this mass effort was every bit the sum of its parts.


Chapter: War and Peace

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