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Links: Gergiev's "Thousand," Chopin winner

In Thursday's Washington Post: Mahler's 8th, Hollywood style: Gergiev and the Mariinsky return to DC, by Anne Midgette.

Chopin Competition laurels go to Yulianna Avdeeva, the first woman to win since Martha Argerich, by Monika Scislowska.

By Anne Midgette  | October 21, 2010; 12:38 AM ET
Categories:  Washington, international , news  
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It would be indeed better if Gergive took some time and really imerse himself into a work, even those which he knows well, such as Boris Godunov. Because his lethargic conducting, inexplicably praised, was one of the factors that made the new Met production a disappointment.

Was there a more underwhelming Coronation scene? Actually, there was: when Gergiev did it at the Kennedy Center years back in another disappointment. At least at the Met you have a great orchestra.

But then Gergiev's Boris recordings are also disappointing, not to mention fraudulent. They are presented as what Mussorgsky has written, yet this is not the case in either versions. This is one of the greatest frauds in gramophone history, right there with the Joyce Hatto fiasco.

Another problem was Rene Pape in the title role. I am a huge Pape fan and there is no other bass today that I rather be listening to. But I do believe the title role requires a deeper voice, and Pape did struggle with some of the lower notes - although in other aspects the singing was superb. It was still a noble portrait and he was superbly directed in his death and agony scenes.

Which brings us to the third problem, the mise-en-scene. One can only speculate how much was Peter Stein's concept and how much Stephen Wadsworth's. Still, the huge crows scenes - except the last one - were minimized, and only half of the stage was utilized. Lots of time this stage was closed by a huge wall. OK, we get it, we're commoners, we're not suppose to enter the Tsar's palace, but shouldn't the God's Cathedral (St. Basil's) be open to all of us?

But then the intimate scenes utilized the whole huge Met scene. This, and the sparse set, had the effect of losing all the intimacy. If there was a redeeming factor, is that Wadsworth is a superb director of actors. He should be given the opportunity to direct Boris Godunov from the begining, with his own team and sets.

OK, now the good. The supporting cast, especially Aleksandrs Antonenko as the false pretender. Good notes also for Gergiev regulars Mikhail Petrenko, Oleg Balashov, and Vladimir Ognovenko. But one really missed Olga Borodina as Marina.

Speaking of Borodina, her costume as Marina was displayed at the Met. Comparing this opulence with the simple one for the new production, I realized one thing that is missing from modern opera stagings: glamour. The irony is, of course, that glamorous publicity is more widespread than ever, and of course stars like Fleming, Gheorghiu and Netrebko are glamorous ladies. Yet the modern stagings (generally speaking; there are exceptions) are surprisingly un-glamorous and ultimately sterile.

And those who argue in favor of minimalistic stagings forget that opera, grand opera, was as much show as was musical drama; indeed, often more so. But then simple pleasures at the opera are forbidden, no?

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | October 21, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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