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Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Vogt, Soffel, Burchuladze , Nylund, Nagano [blu-ray]

Mussorgsky / Nagano / Nylund / Soffel
Release Date: 08/28/2012 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2072424  
Composer:  Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Valery AlexeevPaata BurchuladzeKlaus Florian VogtJohn Daszak,   ... 
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State OrchestraBavarian State Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 2 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Modest Mussorgsky
(version completed by Dmitry Shostakovich, with finale by Igor Stravinsky)
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

Prince Ivan Khovansky – Paata Burchuladze
Prince Andrei Khovansky – Klaus Florian Vogt
Prince Vasily Golitsyn – John Daszak
Boyar Shaklovity – Valerie Alexejev
Dosifey – Anatoli Kotscherga
Marfa – Doris Soffel
Old Believer 1 – Helena Jungwirth
Old Believer 2 – Lana Kos
Old Believer 3 – Anaïk Morel
Scrivener – Ulrich Reß
Emma – Camilla Nylund

Bavarian State Opera Chorus (with additional chorus)
Bavarian State Orchestra
Kent Nagano, conductor

Read more Recorded live at the Nationaltheater, Munich, 10 and 14 July, 2007

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 174 mins
No. of Discs: 1


MUSSORGSKY Khovanshchina Kent Nagano, cond; Paata Burchuladze ( Prince Ivan Khovansky ); Klaus Florian Vogt ( Prince Andrei Khovansky ); Anatoli Kotscherga ( Dosifey ); Doris Soffel ( Marfa ); John Daszak ( Prince Golitsyn ); Valery Alexejev ( Shaklovity ); Ulrich Reß ( Scribe ); Camilla Nylund ( Emma ); Bavarian St O; Ch of Bavarian St Op EUROARTS 2072424 (Blu-ray 174:00) Live: Munich 2007

Khovanshcina is a big, sprawling Russian opera with lots of characters, many choruses, and a rather murky plot. Composer Modest Mussorgsky spent considerable time researching the turbulent and often quite violent history surrounding the ascension of Peter the Great to power in a commendable attempt to provide Russia with an important nationalistic opera. Then the troubled composer drank himself to death before he could finish it. As was the case with other Mussorgsky works, in stepped Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov to tidy up and make the material presentable. Rimsky’s version jettisons much music he deemed unworthy and replaces some of it with his own, as well as completing two unfinished acts and orchestrating most of the rest. That version successfully premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre St. Petersburg in 1911. Since that time, much like with Mozart’s Requiem, other composers have taken up the challenge to provide an improvement on the original completion of Rimsky-Korsakov. Here we are given the alternate completion of Dmitri Shostakovich with his finale replaced by that of the Ravel-Stravinsky collaboration.

Stage director Dmitri Tcherniakov has done a nice job here of containing the sprawl, even if providing some rather ugly, stark concrete walled sets, more evocative of the Soviet era than the times of Peter. Tcherniakov’s concept consists of five dioramas placed next to and on top of one another on the stage. The main action of the opera usually occurs in the largest center stage-level box, and most of the focus of the cameras is there as well, but at least the top two boxes are occupied throughout, providing some back story to the main plot development. Costumes, props, and the concrete walls reflect an indeterminate updated period (some of the guards sport automatic rifles as well) but it doesn’t really distract from the story. The plot emerges rather slowly, but we are given to understand, through all the factions and the political intrigue, that there are going to be winners and losers. Prince Ivan Khovansky and his arrogant son, Prince Andrei Khovansky, are power brokers because they command the Streltsy, the powerful imperial palace guard, and support the current regent, Peter’s half sister. Increasingly Peter and those around him are beginning to oppose the regency and those who support it. Caught in the middle are the Old Believers and their leader Dosifey, a religious faction that opposes the government sponsored church reforms. It quite quickly becomes apparent that most of the characters drawn for us by Mussorgsky are on the losing side, they will be swept away by the young Peter and the march of Russian history. The opera is the rather dour story of how that happens, ending with the self-immolation of the remnants of the Old Believers in Stravinsky’s overly extended last scene.

If Tcherniakov provides little enough visual interest so that we must concentrate on the story, the musical contribution is very strong. Beginning with conductor Kent Nagano and the Bavarian State Orchestra, the chorus, and the principal singers, this is a very well-played and well-sung production. A special commendation should go out to dramatic mezzo-soprano Doris Soffel in the role of Marfa. She is a fine singer and dramatically carries much of the opera on her back. Also notable is Ukrainian bass Anatoli Kotscherga as Dosifey, who possesses perhaps the finest voice in the opera and provides so much of the vocal allure here as well as a fine portrayal. Tenor Klaus Florian Vogt as Andrei Khovansky, baritone Valery Alexejev as Boyer Shaklovity, and tenor John Daszak as Prince Vasily Golitsyn also acquit themselves admirably. Bass Paata Burchuladze as the elder Prince Khovansky is a bit past his prime and has a noticeable beat in the voice on sustained notes but is rescued by his commanding stage presence and fine acting, though he is asked to be a bit crudely violent for my tastes. The real star musically is the fine Bavarian State Opera chorus which populates just about every scene.

This production is from 2007 and the DVD version has been available previously, now it is being released in the superior Blu-ray format. There are four other Khovanshcina sets available on video, none of which I have seen, but certainly the targets of some mixed reviews and at least the earlier issues cannot compete visually or sonically with this Blu-ray release. For an opera with such a complex plot the Euroarts booklet disappointingly provides no synopsis. Subtitles are in English, German, French, and Spanish. I can easily recommend the musical portion of this production as one of the best available and the somewhat utilitarian visuals do little to diminish the emotional impact of this powerful work.

FANFARE: Bill White    
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Works on This Recording

Khovanshchina by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Valery Alexeev (Baritone), Paata Burchuladze (Bass), Klaus Florian Vogt (Tenor),
John Daszak (Tenor), Doris Soffel (Mezzo Soprano), Camilla Nylund (Soprano)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872-1880; Russia 
Date of Recording: 07/2007 
Venue:  Nationaltheater, Munich 

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