Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, performed at the Israel Opera by the Kolobov Novaya
Opera of Moscow, was a Grand Spectacle.
This is a work of conflicting
messages. On the one hand, it is supposed to glorify the heroism of the Russian
prince, although he is defeated and returns from captivity as an escapee. On the
other hand, it celebrates the largeheartedness of the barbarous Polovtsian
ruler. This opera, in fact, is a belated offspring of the then-current European
fashion of the Noble Savage, represented earlier also, among others, by Mozart’s
The Abduction from the Seraglio and, later, by Bizet’s Carmen.
by Yuri Alexandrov, everything in this performance happens on a large scale, and
is designed to stun. Crowd scenes were densely populated, fairly well
choreographed, and occasionally amusing. There were many theatrically
outstretched arms, in the old-fashioned West-European style. The smoke (or was
it steam?), a gimmick current among misguided European directors a decade ago,
served no other purpose than obstructing the view and making the audience cough.
The opera’s eagerly expected piece de resistance, the well-known Polovtsian
Dances that are the high point of a rather marginal plot, were quite
resourcefully designed and sweepingly performed.
Among the singers,
Vladimir Kudashev, as Khan Konchak, was the outstanding personality. Dark and
powerful, his voice epitomized the ideal sonorous Russian bass. In the role of
Galich, Alexander Kisselev’s bass struck a more light-hearted and flexible note,
providing comic relief when there was not yet anything to be relieved
In the title role, Andjey Beletsky’s high-timbred and somewhat pale
baritone sounded more lyrical than heroic. As Yaroslavna, his wife, Elena
Popovskaya’s bright, clear and metallic soprano, lacking feminine softness and
emotional nuance, sounded authoritative, making one understand why Igor wanted
to go to war at all cost and against all odds.
His son, Vladimir,
represented by Alexander Bogdanov, displayed an appealing lyric tenor that made
him a convincing lover. His beloved, though, mezzo-soprano Tatyana Tabachuk’s
Konchakovna, was less seductive by her vocal qualities than by suggestively
spreading out on the floor in her love scene with Vladimir, making it seem as
though not much difference exists between 12th-century Central Asia and the
21st-century West in this respect, except for her too-unsteady voice.
Kolobov Opera Choir, well-rehearsed and with perfect intonation, sounded
reminiscent of Russian- Orthodox church choirs.
Conducted by Jan Latham-
Koenig, the Kolobov Opera Orchestra poignantly emphasized the dramatic events,
the opera’s many changing emotional climates, and competently contributed the
sweeping dance rhythms.