Opera Review

Betrothal in a Monastery, By Sergei Prokofiev; Stanislavsky Opera, At the Israeli Opera; Tel Aviv, May 7.

Betrothal in a Monastery 311 (photo credit: V. Lapin)
Betrothal in a Monastery 311
(photo credit: V. Lapin)
Anyone who regards Prokofiev as ultra-serious – and rightly so, in most of his works – is likely to be struck by his comic opera Betrothal in a Monastery, performed by the Stanislavsky Opera from Moscow at the Israeli Opera, as utterly un-Prokofievian.
Nevertheless, it contains many moments of ingenious inspiration: The lyrical love scenes, the dramatic events, the musical characterization of the different personalities, the poignant, often humorous orchestration, with a generous use of tuba, trombones and other colorful winds for witty effects, or the satirical depiction of the drunk, merry-making monks’ church chant.
This opera is a comedy of errors with interchanged identities, reminiscent of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Rossini’s Cinderella. After the wrong persons pair up with the wrong partners, all the men are finally united with their appropriate ladies, and that is the happy end – in a monastery, of all unlikely places.
The performance’s real heroes are Alexander Titel and Ludmila Naletova’s direction and Vladimir Arefiev’s sets. Perfect stylization, non-realistic and not period-related, suggestive and highly imaginative without forced sophistication, refined taste, brisk movement, and abundant witty, unpredictable ideas and visual effects amounted to a staging with never a dull moment. Moreover, all the singers were also accomplished actors and dancers, besides their appealing voices – an exceptional case in opera performance.
Vlacheslav Voynarovsky, as Don Jerome, displayed an assertive tenorebuffo, if such a nonexistent technical term may be coined for thispurpose. Mariya Pakhar’s radiant soprano created an enchanting Louisa.It made the intense lyric tenor Sergey Balashov’s love for her, in therole of Don Antonio, altogether understandable. Irina Vashchenko’slovely soprano, as Clara, was such as to make every man who crossed herpath fall in love with her. This completely justified theaggressive-sounding baritone of Dmitry Zuev as a jealous Don Ferdinand.Elena Manistina’s warm, seductive mezzo-soprano credibly lured thenaive Mendoza into her net, despite Dmitry Stepanovich’s forceful,typically Russian dark baritone.
Uncommon intensity, sharpaccentuations, firm consolidation, and excellently polished soliprovided the abundant instrumental effects and atmosphere by the IsraelSymphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Wolf Gorelik.