- Betrothal in a Monastery ("The Duenna"), opera, Op. 86
- The Love for Three Oranges, opera, Op. 33
- The Gambler, opera, Op. 24
- The Fiery Angel, opera, Op. 37
- Semyon Kotko, opera, Op. 81
- War and Peace, opera, Op. 91
The musical world is forever in Valery Gergiev's debt for bringing to light a wealth of Russian operas that had been largely invisible to audiences in the West. With the formidable forces he has groomed at the Kirov Opera and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, he has given the operas spectacular productions that have demanded a critical re-thinking of the Russian repertoire. Not least among his accomplishments is his rehabilitation (or more accurately, his establishment for the first time) of Prokofiev's reputation as a major opera composer. "Love for Three Oranges" and "War and Peace" have hovered around the fringes of the repertoire, but the wit of "Betrothal in a Monastery" and the devastating power of "The Fiery Angel" (perhaps the composer's masterpiece) have shed new light on the extent of Prokofiev's dramatic gifts. Gergiev has proved himself a master of Prokofiev's many styles and there's not a weak performance among these six operas, constituting all but one of the composer's mature completed works in the genre. (His last opera, "The Story of a Real Man," is so weighted down by the bland requirements and constraints of "Soviet realism" that it rarely rises above banality, and it is almost universally regarded as one of his weakest works. Gergiev, one of the composer's most ardent advocates, hasn't recorded it.) Gergiev's versions of the operas can be recommended without reservation. Besides his commanding leadership, they offer stellar orchestral playing and first-rate soloists, many of which are of star quality, who deliver idiomatic and dramatically charged interpretations. For "The Gambler," "The Fiery Angel," "Semyon Kotko," and "Betrothal in a Monastery," it's fairly safe to assert that these are the definitive recordings. "Love for Three Oranges" and "War and Peace" have been recorded frequently enough that listeners have a wealth of fine versions to choose from, but they can't go wrong with Gergiev's. Three of the operas were recorded in a studio setting and three were recorded live, so the sound varies in its depth and definition, but it is far more than adequate throughout. Decca's bargain price for the 14-disc set (about what two of the individual operas would cost), and the fact that some of the performances are not available individually, make this a collection that should interest any fan of Prokofiev or 20th century opera.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sergey Prokofiev: 6 Operas based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
OK, first the pros. The music is pretty fantastic -- at least, if you're a lover of Prokofiev, as I am. No complaints there! The recordings and interpretations by Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Opera & Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre is top-notch. Gergiev is one of my favorite interpreters of Prokofiev. And the value -- 14 CDs featuring six operas, with several of the recordings otherwise out of print -- is pretty extraordinary when you think about it. Now the cons. You know how the package looks like a crate? Well, that's basically what it is. Only it's coated cardboard, and not particularly sturdy at that. Mine came with unavoidable-looking bends and wrinkles. Inside the box? 14 white paper sleeves to hold the discs, which are unceremoniously stacked together in a pile. Kind of disappointing. (Couldn't they have at least color coded them by opera?) There's a thin plastic "window" in the front of each sleeve so you can see which disc is which. There's also a booklet inside that includes a quick two paragraphs of liner notes on each opera, written by Andrew Huth, alongside the usual recording credits and track listings. Notice anything missing? NO LIBRETTI! (Or librettos, if you prefer.) This is kind of a big deal for me. Not that I regret buying the set -- at the price I got it, it was absolutely worth it. But you know what would have been nice? A link in the package to a webpage on Decca's site where you could download PDFs (perhaps with a special download code contained in the package, if they were worried about security). Instead, I'm scrambling now to find alternative sources for the libretti in English, so that I can follow along as I listen. I guess that's the peril of buying a "specially priced" set. In sum: outstanding music and performances, and good value for the money (IMO) ... but you also get what you pay for! Knowing what I know now, I'd have still bought this set -- but the barely-there packaging and lack of libretti would have definitely given me pause.