Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Godunov, Boris

October 15, 2006

After all that Wagner, the Russians visiting the OC last week finally got around to something...well...Russian in the opera department with 4 performances of Boris Godunov. As with the Ring, this production was presented in a similar marathon style with 4 performances in 48 hours with two rotating casts. Another George Tsypin inspired set design was put to great effect despite the far from sell-out crowd.
The masses call out for more Russian opera
Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu/LA Times 2006

Which is really a shame considering how much better the Mussorgsky sounded in the very capable hands of Mr. Gergiev when compared to the Wagner. Russian's singing in Russian - who'd a thunk it? Even the narrative problems in the libretto of 1869 seemed to fade with a company that knows this material like the back of their hand. Vladimir Ognovenko, the Boris on Friday and Saturday night, was amazing and the supporting cast had narry a slouch in it. Of course, the production also benefited from an actual credited stage director this time around, as evidenced about the more consistent and logical acting choices of the cast.

This great performance got me thinking about one of my favorite topics - why are we Americans (and to a much lesser extent the major houses in Western Europe) so afraid of presenting work from Eastern Europe? Is is simply all the cold war history? Or is it a lack of access to singers and conductors familiar with the repetoire? Or is it true that Americans just aren't interested in these works so therefore they are financially too risky? Outside of Tchaikovsky and Godunov, what does it take to get a significant production of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya? I know of several Butterflys I'd be willing to trade.

All right - Enough with the rhetorical questions. Even though this was "only" Godunov it was marvelous. I guess it will have to do until I can travel to Russia myself. Of course there are always the wonderful recordings Gergiev did for Philips of the major operas of Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Borodin, Glinka, and some Tchaikovsky as well. Maybe this would be a good place to start at the big Tower Records blow-out sale. If not, maybe your should go here:

Borodin: Prince Igor
Glinka: Ruslan and Lyudmila
Moussorgsky: Boris Godounov
Moussorgsky: Khovanshchina
Prokofiev: Betrothal In A Monastery
Prokofiev: Love For Three Oranges
Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko
Prokofiev: War And Peace
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Legend Of The Invisible City Of Kitezh
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Maid Of Pskov
Rimsky-Korsakov: Sadko
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tsar's Bride
Tchaikovsky: Iolanta
Tchaikovsky: Mazeppa
Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame

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