[Met Performance] CID:354392
Khovanshchina {34} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/01/2012.

(Review )


Metropolitan Opera House
March 1, 2012


KHOVANSHCHINA {34}
Modest Mussorgsky/Dmitri Shostakovich--Modest Mussorgsky

Ivan Khovansky..........Anatoli Kotscherga
Andrei Khovansky........Misha Didyk
Marfa...................Olga Borodina
Dosifei.................Ildar Abdrazakov
Golitsin................Vladimir Galouzine
Shaklovity..............George Gagnidze
Scrivener...............John Easterlin
Emma....................Wendy Bryn Harmer
Susanna.................Maria Gavrilova
Kouzka..................Mark Schowalter
Strelets................Paul Corona
Strelets................Jeffrey Wells
Varsonofiev.............David Crawford
Streshniev..............Michael Todd Simpson
Servant.................Jeffrey Mosher

Conductor...............Kirill Petrenko

Production..............August Everding
Set designer............Ming Cho Lee
Costume designer........John Conklin
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........Benjamin Millepied
Stage Director..........Peter McClintock

Review of David Shengold in May 2012 issue of Opera News

Mussorgsky's "Khovanshchina" never seems to lose its relevance to its country origin. Russia continues to debate its path vis-a-vis the West, continues to divide into murderous factions, to repress residents due to any number of kinds of "difference," to govern with violence predicated on putting down supposed assassination plots. One of the more pessimistic works in the repertory, "Khovanshchina" nevertheless holds rich musical rewards when well performed The second performance of the Met's current revival, on March 1, certainly proved such an occasion, thanks to Kirill Petrenko's expert, detailed conducting Shostakovich's edition and apt casting from depth - involving a largely Russo-phone principal ensemble - that is now rare in almost any world-class house's schedule.

Marfa has long been among Olga Borodina's great roles; she's now more limited in volume, and here she approached high, loud passages with caution that occasionally proved justified. But much ravishing vocal beauty remains, in addition to her sumptuous chest register, and she was very moving. Borodina worked beautifully with the restrained, impressive Dosifei of her husband, Ildar Abdrazakov - an ever-growing artist whose well-graded "basso cantante" is somewhat light for Dosifei in this house, but who accomplished wonders through superb phrasing and dramatic nuance.

No volume restraints governed two experienced artists joining the company for this revival as the violent, demanding Khovanskys, father and son. Anatoli Kotscherga's Ivan boasted huge physical and vocal stature. Sometimes his legato- free hurling of blocks of tone approached "Sprechstimme," but then he'd turn around and field a fantastic "messa di voce" in the farewell to his Streltsy. As Andrei - possibly Slavic opera's least pleasant character - Misha Didyk used his good looks and flashy, hyperbright tenor to advantage.

Vladimir Galouzine showed his astonishing dramatic tenor in a role often miscast with a lyric voice; Galouzine's Golitsin was a credibly feared general. George Gagnidze's elemental Shaklovity represented his best Met work thus far. Wend: Bryn Harmer offered glorious vocalism as Emma, Mussorgsky's Freia figure. Maria Garilova's spinto, sometimes harsh on top, aptly limned the vindictive

Susanna. John Easterlin's lively, admirably projected Scribe needs some pointers in Russian vowel reduction. Baritone Michael Todd Simpson showed a fine voice as Tsar Peter's officer Streshniev. The male chorus sang wonderfully; the sopranos need some freshening.

Peter McClintock crafted a logical narrative from the remnants of August Everding's staging, which dates from 1985. Ming Cho Lee's physical production is redolent of a less gracious era. The gorgeous "Dawn on the Moscow River" prelude plays before a very squeezed St. Basil's Cathedral, with no hint of river; indeed, the sets lack any trace of the natural world until some shadowy trees in Act IV ring the Old Believers' Hermitage, which unfortunately resembles a WPA-built water tower. The set for the Streltsy Quarter is particularly bare and colorless. Except for similarly beige and anodyne uniforms for Peter's forces (the Petrovtsi), John Conklin's costumes offer more color and substance. Still, "Khovanshchina" especially with the quiet, Old Believer-perspective 1913 finale by Stravinsky, deployed here for the first time at the Met and quite haunting - is all about transcending physical limitations.

One major miscalculation was hiring choreographer Benjamin Millepied to rework Act IV's ballet sequence. Having late-seventeenth-century Persian slave girls carry on like Isadora Duncan disciples spasmodically satirizing Bronislava Nijinska proved an anachronism that caused titters and matched nothing of the music's sensuality. Nonetheless, this "Khovanshchina" marked a genuine triumph for the Met.



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