- Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (Skazaniye o nevidimom grade Kitezhe), opera in 4 acts
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezhby Alexander Vedernikov
None of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas have held the stage in the West, but happily for fans of Russian opera, there are numerous recordings. Any lover of the distinctive genre is likely to be intrigued by (and may even become enamored of) "The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronya" (1905). It has everything: royal pageantry, comic peasant shenanigans, Orthodox piety blended with pre-Christian pantheistic folklore, a saintly heroine, a suffering hero, supernatural spectacle, fervent nationalism, and invading Tartar hordes. It doesn't matter much that the jumble of a plot assembled from a variety of folk tales and literature strains all credulity because the opera includes some of Rimsky-Korsakov's most luxuriantly colorful and expressive music. A recording may be the most satisfying way to experience it. The 1999 Philips recording featuring Valery Gergiev and the orchestra, chorus, and soloists of the Mariinsky Theater remains the gold standard by which other recordings are certainly to be judged. This live Naxos recording from Teatro Lirico di Cagliari (which is also available as a DVD) is an earnest, respectable account of the opera with some fine singing, but it is not going to dislodge the Gergiev from its preeminent position. The sound is full of stage noises and fails to convey much dramatic ambience, and while the soloists are usually well positioned, the chorus and orchestra can be somewhat murky. The chorus occasionally lacks precision and focus. The orchestra, under the leadership of Alexander Vedernikov, plays energetically and accurately but doesn't consistently convey either the crisp snap or thrilling expansive sweep needed to bring the music fully to life. The quality of the soloists varies considerably both among the leads and secondary characters. In the key role of Fevronya, dramatic soprano Tatiana Monogarova is solidly grounded and her voice is large and warm, if lacking in flexibility. Character tenor Mikhail Gubsky is persuasively shifty/pathetic as Grishka. As Prince Vsevolod, tenor Vitaly Panfilov has a constricted sound and fails to be convincing as the heroic lead, but his voice opens up as the performance progresses. The surging Romanticism of Rimsky-Korsakov's dizzyingly inventive score makes Kitezh an opera that cries out to be heard more often, but the best introduction remains the Gergiev version.
- Release Date:
- Naxos Opera Classics
Performance CreditsAlexander Vedernikov Primary Artist
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