music by Alexander Borodin libretto by Alexander Borodin and Vladimir Stasov new version by Yuri Alexandrov.
London Coliseum St Martin’s Lane To 5 April 2014.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7845 9300.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 April.
Strongly sung Russian epic has trouble stepping-out.
Plenty of depredations – as well as innovative revelations- have been visited upon the operatic repertoire by modern directors, including at the Coliseum, hosting this visit from Moscow’s Kalobov Novaya Opera Theatre of Moscow as part of the somewhat nebulous UK Russia Year of Culture 2014.
This is grand opera aware of, and wearing, its grandeur. Though look carefully among the often murky lighting and around the parades of historical and ceremonial costumes, and the stage is often quite bare. But the numbers on stage are considerable, costumes and lighting bold and insistent – Irina Vtornikova’s washes of red and gold light suggesting richness, while her scenes of dark subdued illumination create the sternness of a society based on war and conquest, contrasted by the more romantic aspects of darkness, even amid such furies, in the Polovtsian camp where Igor is both honoured guest and effective prisoner of Khan Konchak.
That’s life; lose the battle and you forfeit the right to choose your host. Despite some strange structures around the Polovtsian camp, suggesting giant mushroom helmets, the mood contrasts the urban hardness of earlier scenes with the less angular melodic shapes that are part of the Polovtsian music.
Igor is strongly sung, on a four-square staging principle of standing centrally and facing the audience. It can be convincing, though more musically than dramatically. Which is why the solo arias and later intense meeting of Igor and his wife Yaroslavna are stronger than the attempts at characterisation by parades of peasants, churchmen or soldiers (individualised as they are – it makes you wonder how old-fashioned some of Stanislavsky’s innovative work might now seem). And why the quiet, static final chorus in this version of an incomplete opera, hymning Russia’s destiny, is so moving.
The two worlds are emphatically contrasted, the Overture played after the first scene when Igor has left for battle. It’s a fine piece reduced in impact at the fair lick conductor Jan Latham-Koenig adopts within the generally strong orchestral playing. As for movement, it’s notable the well-known Polovtsian Dances are performed as mime, trick or wrestling; anything, in fact, but dance.
Igor Svyatoslavich: Sergey Artamonov.
Yaroslavna: Elena Popovskaya.
Vladimir Igorevich: Aleksey Tatarintsev.
Prince of Galich: Evgeny Stavinsky.
Konchak: Vladimir Kudashev.
Konchakovna: Agunda Kulaeva.
Ovlur: Yaroslav Abaimov.
Skula: Anatoly Grigoriev.
Yeroshka: Maksim Ostroukhov.
Nurse: Svetlana Skripkina.
Polovtsian M aid: Galina Koroleva.
Director: Yuri Alexandrov.
Conductor: Jan Latham-Koenig.
Designer/Costume: Vyacheslav Okunev.
Lighting: Irina Vtornikova.
Movement: Georgy Kovtun, Irina Sharonova.