Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
"I have no hesitation in calling this the most visually beautiful opera video ever."
Picture Format: 16:9 Anamorph; Sound Format: LPCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.0, DTS 5.0; Running Time: 108 Mins; Recording Date: December 2002
Sung in Russian with optional subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian.
This Châtelet revival of Le Coq d'Or brings to the stage once again the great Kabuki actor Ennosuke III's strikingly original staging of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera, first mounted in co-production with the San Francisco Opera in 1984.
Dodon - Albert Schagidullin
Prince Afron - Andrei Breus
Amelfa - Elena Manistina
Queen of Shemakha - Olga Trifonova
Prince Guidon - Ilya Levinsky
General Polkan - Ilya Bannik
Astrologer - Barry Banks
Golden Cockerel - Yuri Maria Saenz
Stage Director: Isao Takashima; Libretto by: Vladimir Bel'sky
R E V I E W S:
This, Rimsky's last opera, is a caustic satire of military and royal stupidity and incompetence. The Russo-Japanese War had ended badly for the Russians in 1906 and the parallels were clear. When Rimsky completed this opera in 1907 it was immediately banned; it was not performed until 1909, two years after the composer's death.
The plot, simply: Moronic King Dodon is given a golden cockerel by an astrologer who claims it will crow if the kingdom is in danger. In exchange the king offers the astrologer whatever he wants; the astrologer tells him he will make his decision at a later date. The cockerel crows, the king precipitously goes to war, both of his sons are killed, and where he presumes the enemy is hiding he discovers instead the beautiful Queen of Shemakha. She seduces him, they marry, and he brings her home. The astrologer demands the Queen as his reward and Dodon kills him in anger. The cockerel pecks Dodon to death and the Queen disappears. The astrologer assures us that what we have witnessed is a fantasy.
This DVD is the only performance you will ever need. Rimsky's sparkling orchestration is actually matched by the look of the production; recorded at Paris' Chatelet in 2002, it is a feast for both eye and ear. A brilliant blaze of colored costumes designed by Tomio Mohri against Setsu Asakura's simple but wonderfully lit (by Jean Kalman) staircase set is in Kabuki style, an interesting echo of the war that sparked Rimsky's interest in composing Le Coq d'Or. A phantasmagoria of colors and weird accoutrements--long white beards, masses of feathers--gives it all a look that is beyond exotic: it is fantasy at its best. Ennosuke Ichikawa and Isao Takashima directed, using stock Kabuki gestures intermingled with sheer silliness. It's a knockout.
Despite the Parisian theater, most of the singers are Russian. Bass Albert Schagidullin is a correctly outrageous Dodon. The voice is impressive, his presence even more-so. He rarely leaves the stage and manages to be grotesque and vaguely sympathetic at the same time. Olga Trifanova's Queen releases cascades of on-pitch coloratura with a somewhat edgy, Slavic tone, but she's very much in character and she seduces while singing in the stratosphere. British tenor Barry Banks sings the treacherously high role of the Astrologer (it goes to an E-flat above high C) with seeming ease, arrogant gestures, and a sly wit. The others in the cast, as well as the chorus and orchestra, are all superb under Kent Nagano's sparkling, shiny direction. This is a must.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
"The music will be familiar to all, as the orchestral suite drawn from the opera has long been a popular staple. The opening trumpet call, the cockerel’s cry, and the queen’s Hymn to the Sun are well known, and they permeate the score in leitmotif fashion. What about those three impossible roles? Although nostalgia drags many opera buffs toward the past, we live in a golden age of singing: All three principals are flat-out magnificent, by far the best I have heard for each role. Minor roles are never less than satisfactory, and the fine chorus carries the third act, with its Boris Godunov takeoffs. The Orchestra de Paris provides sumptuous playing, and Kent Nagano continues to demonstrate that he is a great conductor.
Audio recordings of operas are usually more successful than videos. Each of us has our own production in mind, usually based on a conglomeration of performances we have seen. A video denies us that liberty, forcing us to watch some other guy’s idea of how the opera should look. This one turns the tables; few could imagine such a glorious production. It is staged by Ennosuke Ichikawa, famed Kabuki actor, producer, creator, and director. Nearly the entire production crew is Japanese: director Isao Takashima, stage designer Setsu Asakura, and costume designer Tomio Mohri. The lighting is by Jean Kalman...the costumes, sets, and highly stylized action are lovely, amid a kaleidoscope of brilliantly lit reds, golds, and blacks; Ms. Trifonova is every inch the proud beauty she portrays. Even the choreography is breathtaking; wait till you see the dancers racing down the stairs in act III. Don’t turn it off when the epilogue ends, for the highly choreographed bows are part of the show. The DVD also includes tantalizing excerpts from eight other opera videos.
I have no hesitation in calling this the most visually beautiful opera video ever." - James H. North. FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Golden Cockerel by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Olga Trifonova (Soprano),
Andrei Breus (Baritone),
Albert Schagidullin (Baritone),
Elena Manistina (Alto)
Orchestre de Paris,
St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Chorus
Written: 1906-1907; Russia
Date of Recording: December 2002
Venue: Le Châtelet, Paris
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