Opera lies at the heart of Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful idiom, but performances are few and far between; this realisation of his penultimate and grandest stage work is a very rare and special experience. Kitezh is known as ‘the Russian Parsifal’, which encapsulates its mystical flavour and steady unfolding of a legend of redemption. A largely Russian cast (headed by the stunning Svetlana Ignatovich) and production team works within a set that moves from opulent naturalistic scenery to some startling theatrical coups worthy of Rimsky’s underrated dramatic instincts.
Andris Nelsons is one of the most sought-after young conductors on the international scene today and once again served notice of his extraordinary talent in Summer 2011 when he conducted two concerts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam at the prestigious Lucerne Festival. This concert, available on DVD and Blu-ray features, amongst a programme of Rimsky-Korsakov, Beethoven and Dvořák, the Grammy Award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven’s majestic Fifth Piano Concerto and Chopin’s Etude in F major.
This release is by Camerata Bariloche with a very nice Classical program issued on the PRICE-LES$ label in 1987.
Even with 15 other versions of Rimsky's masterpiece of orchestral virtuosity to choose from — some in the top flight — this was recognized from the first as one of the most rewarding, thanks largely to Krebbers's exceptionally sweet, gently appealing and bewitching personification of the story - spinning Scheherazade and to Kondrashin's skill in pacing and shaping movements as a whole, relating the diverse tempos and building up tension and dynamics by careful control so as to create climaxes of thrilling intensity and power. the 'shipwreck' finale, in particular, was overwhelming; and this was achieved without resorting to the ultra - fast tempos adopted by some conductors to whip up excitement. The Concertgebouw's crisp, sonorous and sensitive playing (full marks both to the splendid strings and to the wind soloists) was caught with the utmost fidelity; but the Compact Disc's total exclusion even of minimal extraneous background now marks a still further improvement, as can be judged by the dead silence against which Scheherazade's pleadings are heard. The final coda is ravishingly beautiful.
“Gergiev conducts a sweeping performance, with a typically superb cast of the Kirov's revival years, full of rising stars - Diadkova, Ognovenko, Bezzubenkov and the superb character tenor Gassiev. Charming also is the staging, reproduced from airy, painterly 1920s sets. Museum opera, maybe; but then museums are there to preserve treasures. And this is an absolute gem.”(Music Magazine)
Rimsky-Korsakov epitomises the fantastic side of the Russian soul. Regarding opera as „essentially the most enchanting and intoxicating of lies,“ he drew on his country’s rich folk heritage to create a fairy-tale world in which the fanciful and commonplace were fused through extravagant orchestral virtuosity and fervently Romantic vocal writing. This Châtelet revival of Le Coq d’Or brings to the stage once again the great Kabuki actor Ennosuke III’s striking staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera first mounted in co-production with the San Francisco Opera in 1984. Born into one of Japan’s most important Kabuki families in 1939, Ennosuke III is a master of his art, who has worked to give this traditional theatre form appeal for modern audiences. As an actor, director and producer his aim has been to bring back the energy and excitement of Edo-period Kabuki. High-tech special effects, dynamic lighting, stunning costumes and minimalist sets have drawn new fans to his ‘Super Kabuki’ shows. He worked on this sumptuous production of Le Coq d’Or with an all-Japanese creative team and the result had an Oriental beauty and fascination entirely appropriate to this satirical fantasy opera. Completed in 1907, Le Coq d’Or, based on Pushkin’s 1834 poem, was Rimsky-Korsakov’s last opera.