I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Netrebko’s Iolanta

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Iolanta
Anna Netrebko – Iolanta
Sergey Skorokhodov – Count Vaudémont
Alexey Markov – Robert, Duke of Burgundy
Vitalij Kowaljow – King René
Lucas Meacham – Ibn-Hakia
Monika Bohinec – Martha
Slovenian Chamber Choir
Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra/Emmanuel Villaume
Recorded Live November 2012
Deutsche Grammophon 4793969 2CDs 68:25+24:41 DDD

Anna Netrebko sings Tchaikovsky's Iolanta

Anna Netrebko sings Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta

On 18 December 1892 the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg premiered a Tchaikovsky double-bill consisting of the one-act opera Iolanta and the ballet The Nutcracker. While the ballet became one of the composer’s most popular works worldwide, Iolanta (or more exactly Yolanda) never gained firm ground outside of Russia. And yet, when you hear an inspired performance of this unconventional opera, like this new live recording with Anna Netrebko in the title role, you realize there is still plenty of light to be gained from obscurity. The Russians, and Netrebko in particular, who is the driving force behind this Iolanta, have known all along that Tchaikovsky’s final opera is a unique gem that craves to be better known. There are some memorable old recordings, including Mstislav Rostropovich with Galina Vishnevskaya and Valery Gergiev with the Kirov and Galina Gorchakova, yet this new one goes right to the top.

This is foremost a magnificent tour de force from Anna Netrebko, shedding off her star status and going for the essence. She deserves all praise for her utterly complete identification with the title role – something which is neither obvious nor easy. Yet the character clearly triggers a special emotional response from Netrebko and every nuance is rendered with disarming sincerity and love. “The music is a source of joy”, as she points out, and we can gladly add so is her singing. This is happy Tchaikovsky for once – although less than a year after the premiere the composer would be dead. But it’s also profound and poetic Tchaikovsky and the simple story of a blind medieval princess regaining her sight through love is musically sublimated by a continuous (and really uplifting) quest from darkness to light.

The remainder of the international cast, as well as the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra under the French conductor Emmanuel Villaume, may be totally unknown, but nothing is missing. Sergey Skorokhodov as the knight Vaudémont who falls in love with Iolanta and Alexey Markov as Robert the duke of Burgundy, are excellent singers from the Mariinsky troupe, and there is a remarkable performance by the American baritone Lucas Meacham as Ibn-Hakia, the Moorish physician summoned to cure the princess. Emmanuel Villaume revives this gorgeous score with finesse and detail.

Warmly recommended.

As a closing note, the Paris Opera schedules a staging of the Iolanta/Nutcracker double bill in March 2016, in a new production supervised by Dmitry Tcherniakov. Sonya Yoncheva is cast as Iolanta.

Copyright © 2015, Marc Haegeman

First published on Classical Net: http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/d/dgg793969a.php


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Little known opera’s by Rimsky-Korsakoff

The Tsar’s Bride
Galina Vishnevskaya
Vladimir Atlantov
Irina Arkhipova
Evgeny Nesterenko
Choir & Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre/Fuat Mansurov
Melodiya MELCD1001876 2CDs ADD

Mlada
Sinfonietta on Russian Themes in A minor *

Alexey Korolev
Tatiana Turaginova
Vladimir Makhov
Alexey Bolshakov
Great Choir of the All-Union Radio
Male Group of the Choir of the Bolshoi Theatre
Great Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov
* State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Evgeny Svetlanov
Melodiya MELCD1001829 3CDs ADD

The Tsar's Bride

The Tsar’s Bride

Further exploration of the Russian Melodiya vaults gave us this reissue of two historical recordings of fascinating but little-known opera’s from Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakoff. The Tsar’s Bride dating from 1899 may be Rimsky-Korsakoff’s most popular opera in Russia, abroad it remains still very much a gem to discover. Even rarer is Mlada, a mythological opera-ballet extravaganza with a Wagnerian, Ring-influenced orchestration, premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892, wherein, curiously, the title role is taken by a dancer rather than a singer.
Read the full review on Classical Net