Geneva Anderson digs into art

ARThound visits the Metropolitan Opera: Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina—a grand, intense and brooding Russian epic with a stellar line-up of Russian and Georgian singers, through March 17, 2012

The final scene from Mussorgsky’s “Khovanshchina,” at the Metropolitan Opera through March 17, 2012. Photo: Ken Howard, Metropolitan Opera.

I can’t think of a more enthralling opera to see live at the Metropolitan Opera this winter than Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, which marked my first return to the Met since I was in graduate school at Columbia some 25 years ago and experienced Otto Schenk’s classic Ring cycle as my not-so gentle introduction to opera.   This is the first time that Khovanshchina—epic in scale and length (4.5 hours)—has been performed at the Met for 13 years.  Having seen last season’s spectacular Boris Godunov, through the Met’s “Live in HD” simulcast, I was primed for more Russian opera and keen to hear Mussorgsky live.  The Met delivered in spectacular fashion and proved to me that nothing tops the live opera experience for both learning and sheer sensual pleasure.  It’s one thing to watch a fiery immolation scene on HD and another to literally smell it as it takes its tragic toll on stage before your eyes.  And, despite the opera’s ripe old age of 135+ years, I can’t think of a more timely opera in terms of capturing what’s unfolding in Russia right now–Russians are living in a moral and ideological vacuum and are awakening to the idea that if they want democracy and real social justice, they need to engage in active struggle.

Mussorgsky was obsessed with Russian history.  His dramatic Khovanshchina delves deeply into the political and religious struggles that embroiled Moscow upon the turbulent eve of Peter the Great’s coronation in 1682, a definitive period when Russia felt the pull of modernism and the great tug of tradition—the struggle for Russia’s very destiny.  The stellar Slavic cast includes the magnetic Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina as Marfa, a passionate member of the religious movement called the Old Believers, the Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov as Dosifei, the spiritual leader of the Old Believers and Russian tenor Vladimir Galouzine as Vasily Golitsin, a liberal-minded aristocrat, and Ukranian bass Anatoli Kotscherga in his Met debut as central character Ivan Khovansky, the leader of the conspiracy against Peter the Great.  Conducted by Kirill Petrenko who put his own spin on Shostakovich’s end to Mussorgsky’s unfinished original score, the music was breathtaking and fresh—at times tender and at times evoking the cataclysmic clashing of bells.  Backed up by a glorious chorus and a finale of immolation, this is a production befitting the tormented Russian soul.   To read the full article, click here.

Khovanshchina Productions Details:  Khovanshchina opened on February 27, 2012 and was performed on March 1, 6, 10, and 13, 2012. The final performance of Khovanshchina is Saturday, March 17, 2012, at 12 p.m. E.S.T. which will also be broadcast through SiriusXM Live Broadcast (Sirius channel 78 and XM Radio channel 79) and Toll Brothers-Met Opera Radio Network Broadcast.  Margaret Juntwait, now in her 8th season of hosting, will interview singers backstage at the first intermission.  You can try the subscription for free for 30 days by signing up here.

Metropolitan Opera Details:   The Metropolitan Opera is located at Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, between West 62nd and 65th Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.  Refer to the Metropolitan Opera website (here) for information regarding programming. The Met’s 2011-2012 Season has 13 remaining productions.  The Met’s 2012-13 Season includes seven new productions, two Met premieres and 16 revivals as well as a complete Ring cycles and a special holiday program.  Individual tickets as well as season packages are available online here.  There are also special ticket pricing offers, student, and rush tickets.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment