In performance: The Mariinsky at the Kennedy Center
In today's Washington Post (first in a series): An "Onegin" with flashes of brilliance, by Anne Midgette.
Mariinsky, sans Gergiev, offers a lean, mean "Boris Godunov"
by Joe Banno
Mussorgsky’s lean, mean, 1869 version of his opera “Boris Godunov” – minus the crowd-pleasing, romantically-plotted middle act he would add in his 1872 revision – flew by at an intermission-less two-and-a-half-hours in the Mariinsky Opera’s concert performance on Sunday afternoon at the Kennedy Center Opera House. In conductor Pavel Smelkov’s exciting, yet sensitively shaped reading, the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus – as elegant and richly hued as ever – brought out all of the score’s stark beauty and pungency. [Note: this was the performance Valery Gergiev had to miss so he could take part in the closing ceremonies of the Olympics.]
(read more after the jump)
There’s not much for female singers to do in the 1869 “Boris,” but the opera offers low voices a field days, and the company provided its accustomed showcase of ample-toned, vividly histrionic basses. Evgeny Nikitin’s silken finish and legato singing as Boris made a refreshing change from the melodramatic bellowers often cast in the part. His performance contrasted well, too, with Mikhail Petrenko’s mahogany timbre and weighty phrasing as Pimen, and the grainier-toned, engagingly outsized Varlaam of Alexei Tanovitsky. And, as if to show off the depth of the Mariinsky bass roster, Fedor Kuznetsov – himself an accomplished Boris, Pimen and Varlaam – was cast in the brief roles of Nikitich and the Constable. Tenors Sergey Skorokhodov, Evgeny Akimov and Dmitri Voropaev each brought a distinctive voice and dramatic engagement to a troika of supporting roles.
Now, if the program had had the correct plot synopsis, and a back-up had been provided for the surtitles – which stopped working during the middle third of the opera – the audience might had been able to actually follow the story.
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