OPERA - OTHER COMPOSERS - KIROV IN MELBOURNE 2001
opera indulges its female lead with a mad scene, but The
Fiery Angel (mid-1920s) by Sergei Prokofiev, is a mad opera, with
which the Kirov Opera, under its conductor Valery Gergiev, opened the
Melbourne Festival. Two nights later, they ventured another exercise in
obsession, Salome (1905), by Richard Strauss.
In the leading role in The Fiery Angel, the young soprano Malda Khudolei, as the hysteric Renata, took the risks of a Callas, with that divaís ability to render ugly sounds beautifully, and yet to retain a fragility, all with a stage presence which heightened the dangers that she faced as performer and character.
role of her would-be lover, the knight Ruprecht, Fedor Mozhaev brought a
baritone with neither the projection nor the palette to draw notice away
from acting which mistakes arm-folding for passion.
Kuznetzov looked the part of the Inquisitor but his bass, while deep and
steady, lacked the bottom for the authority to rise above the tumult of
nuns on heat, thereby sapping terror from the operaís ultimate frenzy.
the dozen other roles, the singing ranged from the barely audible to the
stunning. Lyubov Sokolova as the Mother Superior displayed resources for
many a male bass to envy.
Mephistopheles, the tenor Konstantin Pluzhnikov is one of the few to
survive from the companyís award-winning 1991 premiere of this
production. The detailing of his performance suggests how much might
have been lost from changes to cast and the resignation of the director,
Australian-born David Freeman. Pluzhnikov conveyed more drama with one
finger or a single bar than any of the Kirovís other males could
achieve with their entire parts.
reaction to impresario Gergiev was in inverse proportion to much of the
audience who cheered his first appearance for his reputation and for the
heroics of performing only hours after landing from a flight around war
zones. I consider the demands that Gergiev puts onto his company as
repellent as those that Stalinís planners screwed out of Soviet
workers. Within a few minutes of the orchestraís playing under
Gergievís fluttering baton, I was fellow travelling. I was hearing the
Kirov, and it sang. The colours from its more than sixty players were
the resonance and glint we associate with the Russian voice. It was
difficult to believe that I was three rows from this huge ensemble as it
performed often raucous noises, and was able to pick out every nuance in
the score Ė from the lyrical to the pounding.
performers in Salome
had to struggle against a design and a direction which would have been
an embarrassment to a suburban Kismet
in the 1960s. In denial of the workís symbolism, the set pursued
naturalism and found fakery. The costuming worked on the principle of
first up, best dressed. Again the orchestra played magnificently but
Straussís score is too Viennese to distract the eye or the ear from
title role of Salome, Valeria Stenkina missed the significance of her
first encounter with Jokanaan by directing her seduction away from him
and onto the audience. This fudging of the pivotal experience in her
short life was compounded by the handling of the dance of the seven
veils which saw her run around the stage seven times, shedding spangles
at each lap until she drops her daks in time to be bucketed with water
for no revealed purpose. It was a tribute to her talents that the
monstrous finale where she makes love to Jokanaanís severed head was
transfixing, though she looked and sounded more like a mature Medea than
a teenage Isolde.
Gassiev went in for Herod as fop, and not the king of Judea. His tenor
delighted in the foolishness but eschewed the required majesty.
Jokanaan, the bass baritone Evgeny Kikitin had no trouble projecting his
curses from the bottom of the well, or for giving vocal conviction to
his own looniness once dragged up on stage.
works were given with mostly different casts on the following day. The
unevenness within each and the imbalance between the two productions
gave Melbourne better value for money than London got from the Kirovís
disastrous Verdi season in August.
|See also: RICHARD STRAUSS. Use the 'back' button on your browser to return to this page.|