A solid reading of Rimsky-Korsakov’s remarkable and dramatically astute first opera.
The received view of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas is that they are essentially for Russian consumption only, placed beyond the scope of a wider audience by complex questions of language, legend and arcane tradition. However, [this recording] underline[s] the fact that, on a musical level and in terms of dramatic impact, Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas reach beyond national boundaries, whether performed in Russian (as here) or not. On a purely geographical point, there is no reason why we should need a detailed knowledge of north-western Russia simply because the maid happens to come from Pskov, any more than we need a gazetteer of Spain to prepareRead more for Il barbiere di Siviglia or, indeed, one of Merseyside for Emilia di Liverpool.
The themes on which Rimsky-Korsakov touches in his stage works – love, loyalty, remorse, death and so on – are scarcely peculiar to Russia, but his art was to place them musically in an unmistakably Russian context and to create in his operas a rich tapestry of national colouring. That he devised diverse ways of doing so is demonstrated in these four scores spanning, as chance would have it, almost the whole of his creative life. The Maid of Pskov, Rimsky’s remarkable and dramatically astute first opera, has points of contact with Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. This is no mere accident, for both composers, sharing common creative ideals, were writing their operas at the same time, in the same flat and at the same desk. Both operas have a vivid backdrop of Russian history; each centres on a Russian Tsar, Boris in the Mussorgsky, Ivan the Terrible in the Rimsky. Neither Boris Godunov nor Ivan the Terrible had an exactly unblemished record in human rights, but both operas incorporate revelatory passages of soul-searching, which hint at a more humane side to their characters and at the same time establish in the operas’ developing plots a crucial moment of reflection.
In The Maid of Pskov, Ivan, although his first appearance in Act II triggers understandable apprehension, is dissuaded from ravaging rebellious Pskov when he realises that Princess Olga (the maid of the title and ward of the ruling Prince Yuri Tokmakov) is his own daughter from an earlier dalliance with one Vera Sheloga. At this juncture, The Noblewoman Vera Sheloga comes into play. Ever the self-critic, Rimsky-Korsakov made no fewer than three versions of The Maid of Pskov. The second one is preceded by a prologue, explaining how Olga came to be born. In the definitive, third edition (recorded here) Rimsky lets the information slip in gossip and overheard conversation: this is a much more subtle manoeuvre, posing, from the point of view of comprehension, no more problems than we have, say, in Il trovatore. The explanatory prologue was shorn off and made into the separate one-acter The Noblewoman Vera Sheloga. Rimsky-Korsakov, like Mussorgsky in Boris Godunov, aimed to reflect in the music of The Maid of Pskov the natural contours and inflections of speech, its varieties of pace and, in a notable example in Act I, the cross-cutting and confusion of argument. Performance: 5 (out of 5)
Maid of Pskov "Ivan the Terrible"by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Performer:
Genadij Bezzubenkov (Bass),
Nikolai Gassiev (Tenor),
Evgeny Fedotov (Bass),
Yuri Laptev (Tenor),
Evgenia Perlasova (Mezzo Soprano),
Vladimir Galusin (Tenor),
Ludmilla Filatova (Mezzo Soprano),
Galina Gorchakova (Soprano),
Georgi Zastavnij (Baritone),
Vladimir Ognovenko (Bass),
Olga Korzhenskaya (Mezzo Soprano)
Kirov Theater Orchestra,
Kirov Theater Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: 1868/1892; Russia Venue: Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg Language: Russian
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Good Recording of a Gloomy, Brooding OperaAugust 31, 2013By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"For those accustomed to the operatic traditions of Western Europe, Rimsky-Korsakov's stark and powerful opera 'The Maid of Pskov' (alternatively referred to as 'Ivan the Terrible') will sound distinctively 'different'. There are undoubtedly various social, historical,and cultural explanations for this divide, which a Russian musicologist could present, and which would make for an interesting separate study. The plot centers around Tsar Ivan the Terrible's various issues with a suspected rebellion in the Russian provincial city of Pskov and the discovery of his long-lost daughter's (the 'Maid') involvement, and Rimsky-Korsakov develops this story in a manner which strikes the listener as tragic, dark, foreboding,and even brutal. These subjective characteristics come through quite clearly merely by paying attention to the singers' vocal intonations, colorations, and inflections, as well as what seems to be a morose and even morbid orchestral score. The performance itself is just fine- the Russian cast, the Kirov Chorus, and conductor Valery Gergiev's Kirov orchestra are all top notch, and the sound quality of Philips' digital recording is impeccable. Nevertheless, my opening comment sets my overall perspective on this recording. An opera fan steeped in Italian, French, or German opera may well have a challenge adjusting to a work like The Maid of Pskov. The Russian language libretto means that anyone not fluent in the language will surely have to follow the English translation to make much sense out of Rimsky-Korsakov's stern and severe ambience. All in all this is fine recording and well worth investigating, but it is likely to be tough sledding for those not already used to Russian opera."Report Abuse