One of the great talents of Modest Musorgsky (1839-1881) was his unique
ability to transpose words, psychological states and even physical
movements into music. And even if he left his opera "Khovanshchina" (The
Khovansky Affair) incomplete and unorchestrated, the sheer theatricality of
its musical text reveals the presence of a work that begs for a stage
production. The first completion and orchestration was made by Musorgsky's
contemporary Rimsky-Korsakov, but the more slender, powerful, raw
orchestration made by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1960 is the one preferred
today, and the version chosen by Kent Nagano for the Munich production
recorded here.
The plot is a darkly shimmering panorama of ruthless power plays, intrigues
and bloodshed in late 17th-century Russia. A nation torn by inner strife,
with various factions struggling for power at court: the followers of
Prince Ivan Khovansky, the leader of the Streltsys (musketeers), and those
of Prince Golitsin, faithful to the tsar. Add to this the influence of
various religious groups, and the action comes frighteningly close to
mirroring the present-day situation in more than one country. With his
stripped-down sets and historicizing costumes, director Dmitri Tcherniakov,
one of the new voices of contemporary Russian theater, throws a bridge to
the political present. The historical pessimism of the opera, says
Tcherniakov, "is legitimated by Russian history and Russian life.
Basically, nothing has changed."
Kent Nagano superbly masters the challenges presented by this score, shapes
the dynamics with subtle intensity, and casts the score in a mellow glow.
As Marfa, the spurned lover of Ivan Khovansky's son Andrei, Doris Soffel
unfolds such a rich palette of sonorities, from the pathos of the lower
ranges to shaded discant heights, that "one is tempted to speak of a
Russian mezzo." (Eleonore B√ľning, F.A.Z.) Anatoly Kotscherga portrays the
religious leader Dosifei with fervor and bluster, Klaus Florian Vogt
dazzles heroically as Andrey, John Daszak is a technically flawless
Golitsin, and bass-baritone Paata Burchuladze gives a charismatic, forceful
account of Prince Ivan Khovansky. The final chorus, which Musorgsky did not
compose, is played in the orchestrally transparent version of Igor
Stravinsky - the third great Russian composer who contributed to making
"Khovanshchina" a gripping stage work for all times.

Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Title: Khovanshchina
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Staged By: Dmitri Tcherniakov
Soloist: Paata Burchuladze, Klaus Florian Vogt, John Daszak, Valeri Alexejev, Anatoli Kotscherga, Doris Soffel, Camilla Nylund
Set: Dmitri Tcherniakov
Orchestra: Bayerisches Staatsorchester
Chorus: Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper
Video Director: Karina Fibich
Genre: Opera
Length: 173 minutes
Cat.No.: A05016473
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