- Ruslan and Lyudmila, "magic" opera in 5 acts, G. xiv
Mikhail Glinka's opera "Ruslan and Lyudmila" is a landmark work in the history of Russian opera, yet the number of complete recordings made of this work can be counted on one hand. This is in spite of "Ruslan and Lyudmila"'s popular overture and a variety of oft-recorded excerpts derived from the opera. Part of the problem is textual, as the original Glinka manuscript was accidentally destroyed through means that are historically still rather murky. This new Pentatone recording is the first to benefit from a new critical edition of "Ruslan and Lyudmila" prepared by Russian musicologists Nadezhda Taterina and Evgeny Lavashev, a condition explained in detail in a confusingly translated portion of the massive 183-page booklet that comes with this set. Apart from the confusing booknote, everything else about this set is something to write home to "Mom" about, especially if she lives in Russia. The recording, made at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, is absolutely stunning -- you really feel as though you are at the opera house watching "Ruslan and Lyudmila" being performed. The cast is very good; it is worth singling out soprano Ekaterina Morozova, who is entrusted to the difficult and pivotal role of Lyudmila. Morozova gets off to a rough start, but quickly finds her way and is outstanding for the balance of the set. The Bolshoi Theater Orchestra under Alexander Vedernikov sounds splendid rendering the orchestral component of the score, significant as there are a lot of purely instrumental passages in "Ruslan and Lyudmila," at least 45 minutes' worth of the total opera. If the listener has ever wanted to hear what Glinka's "Ruslan and Lyudmila" is all about, then this Pentatone set is automatically your first choice for the work.