RIMSKY-KORSAKOV The Tsar’s Bride • Fouat Mansourov, cond; Vladimir Valaitis (Gryaznoy); Irina Arkhipova (Lyubasha); Galina Vishnevskaya (Marfa); Yevgeny Nesterenko (Sobakin); Andrei Sokolov (Dr. Bomelius); Vladimir Atlantov (Read moreLykov); Bolshoi Theater O & Ch • OPERA D’ORO 1481 (2 CDs: 151:10)
Each of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas was conceptualized from a fresh starting point. Instead of being poured into a pre-existing mold, he created a distinctive formal design for each of these works—so that Mlada is truly an opera-ballet; The Invisible City of Kitezh is an opera-religious ritual; and Tsar Saltan is a fairytale framed by repeating thematic narratives. Of The Tsar’s Bride he wrote in My Musical Life, “The style of this opera was to be cantilena par excellence; the arias and soliloquies were planned for development within the limits of the dramatic situations. I had in mind vocal ensembles, genuine, finished, and not at all in the form of any casual and fleeting liking of voices with others, as dictated by the present-day requirements of quasi-dramatic truth, according to which two or more persons are not supposed to talk simultaneously.” In other words, this was to be Rimsky-Korsakov’s verismo opera, at least in a musical sense. Normally ruthless in criticizing his own finished works, the composer professed himself very pleased with the result—as well he should have been. The Tsar’s Bride is among his finest operas for its characterizations, inventive part-writing, and consistently high level of inspiration.
The only modern digital recording of the work is on Philips 462 618. Olga Borodina is a fine Lyubasha, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a sonorous Gryaznoy—though he misses the darker character elements that are important to both plot and arias. Gergiev is in his worst form, however, pressing forward relentlessly without any focus or detail, and Marina Shaguch only sounds comfortable when singing quietly, which she seldom does.
So it’s good to see this re-release. It’s the same version of the opera that appeared first in the U.S. on Melodiya/Angel SRC 4122, back in the 1970s. Opera d’Oro lists it as deriving from a live 1973 Moscow performance, but the “live” portion is wrong: it’s a studio recording, with the slightly cavernous, over-reverberant ambience that Melodiya favored at the time for its classical releases. This in no way affects the enjoyment afforded by these singers. Valaitis is a superb Gryaznoy, his voice dark and effortlessly produced, his manner conveying perfectly the mix of idealistic love, shrewdness, and volcanic anger so necessary to the part. Arkhipova is his match on the distaff side, caught at the top of her form: hauntingly lyrical in her unaccompanied act I song, a passionate fury, elsewhere. A typical Slavic spread had just begun to affect Vishnevskaya’s voice at the time this was made, but it does little to damage a brilliant portrayal of the sweetly vulnerable Marfa. Sokolov and Nesterenko are excellent as Dr. Bomelius and Sobakin, respectively; however, Atlantov’s steely tone and endlessly loud singing does little for his Lykov. Mansourov is very sensitive to the score and sympathetic to his cast, and the Bolshoi Orchestra responds with disciplined, attractive playing.
Regrettably, Opera d’Oro provides no libretto, just a very short synopsis with slight notes. Still, it’s better than nothing at all, and the recording’s sound quality doesn’t appreciably differ from my LP originals. Barring the reappearance of a 1950s Tsar’s Bride with the Kiev Shevchenko Theater forces (Elizaveta Chavdar’s Marfa being one for the ages), this is the version to get.
Tsar's Brideby Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Performer:
Vladimir Valaitis (Baritone),
Vladimir Atlantov (Tenor),
Boris Morozov (Bass),
Yevgeny Nesterenko (Bass),
Galina Vishnevskaya (Soprano),
Irina Arkhipova (Mezzo Soprano)
Bolshoi Theatre Chorus,
Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1898; Russia
Featured Sound Samples
Act I: "Zachem ty"
Act II: "Akh, chto so mnoy"
Act III: "Pobol'she zhenikhu"
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
A Fortuitous FindApril 20, 2012By D. Hamilton (Indianapolis, IN)See All My Reviews"This is a really good find. The opera is certainly not a mainstay of the operatic repertoire and is probably unfamiliar to many; yet it is a beautiful opera deserving to be heard by all. This recording of the opera is performed very well and the quality of the recording is very good. "Report Abuse
Unforgettable VishnevskayaMarch 27, 2012By Colin Smith (Wellington, New Zealand)See All My Reviews"I heard Galina singing for a few minutes on the radio whilst I was at work one day well back into last century. I've never forgotten her gorgeous voice. Vishnevskaya was one of the very best sopranos. I'm buying this 2-CD set to hear her VOICE OF THE CENTURY!"Report Abuse
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