Met Opera Broadcast: Prince Igor

Prince Igor was the opera I was perhaps looking forward to the most this season, if only because as a figure skating fan, I was interested in hearing the Polovtsian Dances in context.  On the other hand, like most people who know only that piece of music, at least by its original name(other pieces of music from the opera have also been appropriated into other things though), I didn’t know much about the opera itself.  Which might have been just as well, since the Met production broadcast yesterday was actually a whole new approach to what at the time of composer Alexander Borodin’s death was a collection of pieces of an opera-in-progress he never properly put together, discarding must of the music his colleagues had composed to create the original full opera, and staged to suit modern ideals, delivering a strong anti-war message on a day when Russia’s current leader declares his intention to invade the Ukraine-a coincidence of timing, or perhaps just an indication that noone ever learns from the mistakes of the past.  Either way, it increases the opera’s power.

The biggest problem with purifying the opera in this way, perhaps, is that it leaves all the gaps which Borodin didn’t get around to filling.  As a narrative arc, what was put together works well enough.  It is left ambiguous what happened to Igor after his defeat, since in between the march off to battle and his return to his ruined city, all we see involving him is told in hallucination and flashback, with the famed Polovtsian Dances where the Khan’s slaves sing tribute to him turned almost into a nightmare sequence, and you have at least briefly wonder if his son really defected for love, or was simply killed in battle and hallucinated by his father.  Whether this a good thing or not, I suppose, depends on whether one likes having their mind screwed with.  But one undisputedly bad result of this is Prince Igor isn’t the biggest presence in his own opera-lead Ildar Abdrazakov is great when he’s signing, but you have to wait some time for that.  Meanwhile, the main character almost becomes his wife Yaroslavna, sung by Ukrainian  met debutante Oksana Dyka.  Not entirely inappropriate to have her lamenting the consequences of the war, though, on this particular day.  It helps too that she’s really good.  The production does it’s best to fill some of the gaps with projected image of the battle, and Abdrazakov in the end rejecting the grand welcome back chorus from his people in favor of leading off a clean-up of the stage.

Also the production previewed next season broadcast schedule, when much of the cast from yesterday will be featured, including Abdrazakov headlining Marriage of Figaro, and Cavalleria Rusticana Pagliacci with Marcelo Alvarez singing the lead in both.  Those ought to good.  Sadly, Dyka’s next doing Aida, which they will not try to broadcast again.

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Next Season at the Met

Taking a look at the list of ten Met Opera performances being showed at the movies next season, I’m afraid I’m rather disappointed.   Anna Netrebko will likely be hopelessly miscast as Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, not only are to retransmitting multiple productions they’ve done already, but the shows getting shown again aren’t even their best, and to be honest I have limited interest in seeing a couple of the other operas; Cosi fan tutte  in particular I think I’ll care to skip.  Though it is amusing to have Robert Alagna doing one of the reruns again.  Perhaps their advertisement for seeing these productions is that they’ve got Alagna in them this time(except George Gagnidze did not make the best Scarpia, and now for some inexplicable reason they’ve failed to replace him).  One wonders why they didn’t get him for them the first time around, but never mind.  Similar is La Cenerentola with its all-star cast, except they have a newbie as Dandini, which is silly of them, since that’s the guy who’s supposed to steal the show, and without a reliable guy there DiDonato is not enough to lure one in, perhaps.

After the Verdi anniversary fest that was this year in opera(the Met wasn’t the only one participating), it seems next year they want to do Russian-themed operas, with three of them being so themed.  And being a skating fan, of course I’ll be interested in seeing Prince Igor, and Ildar Abdrazakov is more of a singer to look forward to than Netrebko, thankfully.  Though the real cast to look forward to is for this Massenet opera; since I’m skipping the Wagner tomorrow, it’ll be far too long since I’ve seen Jonas Kaufman, and I’ve seen Elina Garanca make bad opera good and good opera better, so whichever Werther happens to be that should be all right.  And for holdover Verdi, Falstaff should be interesting as well.