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Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, May 2012

The only real competitor to this set is therefore Gergiev, from his Philips series…but a comparison of that recording with this Cagliari one reveals some surprisingly poor sound…Nor is the balance of advantage in the performances as one-sidedly in favour of the Kirov set as one might perhaps expect. The orchestral playing from the Cagliari orchestra is very good in the atmospheric opening nature music, and is not at all disadvantaged by comparison with the Kirov forces. The players under Vedernikov sound well drilled, and at a marginally slower tempo make more of the showpiece interlude The Battle near Kerzhenets than the rather over-excited Kirov players under Gergiev.

Mongarova produces just the right sort of tone. In the opening scenes her cries of Aou! display a beautifully shaded diminuendo as Rimsky requests…

The Second Act opens with a fair-tide scene…Vedernikov here, with his more recessed sound, gets more light and shade into the music. Vedernikov also appreciates the string imitations of the sound of the gusli in the links between the verses, where Gergiev’s players sound rather ordinary. The Cagliari chorus cope well with Rimsky-Korsakov’s ingenious and tricky choral writing, especially in the scene when the invading Tartars interrupt the reception of Fevronia into the city. Gilmanov and Naumenko as the two Tartar chiefs are more menacing and villainously impressive than the two rather woofy basses at the Kirov. At the end of the Act, as Fevronia prays for a miracle to save Kitezh, Gorchakova at the Kirov sounds somewhat backwardly placed on the stage. Monogarova here is far more impressively transported, and conveys the real feeling that her confidence in divine intervention might prove to be justified.

The opening of the Third Act clearly demonstrates Rimsky-Korsakov’s debt to Mussorgsky, with the choral writing in particular recalling the death scene from that opera…Kazakov is more dominating and noble as the Prince of Kitezh than Gergiev’s rather gritty Nikolai Ohotnikov. Although the Page of Gulordava is very feminine and is not at all distanced when she is supposedly up on a watchtower looking out on the devastation of the land, she sings most beautifully in her heartfelt lament.

By the beginning of the final Act, with the Tartar invaders miraculously foiled, the dramatic action of the plot of Kitezh is effectively completed, as in Wagner’s Parsifal. All that remains is a lengthy series of resolutions between the principal characters including Panfilov as the prince, now conveniently returned as a ghost. After an impressive mad scene for Gubsky and a sort of transfigured Good Friday spell beautifully sung by Monogarova, we are introduced to Alkonost the bird of death and Sirin the bird of joy, both firmly sung here if without any hint of mystery, and re-introduced to Panfilov…The chorus sing with proper fervour in the final scene…In this final scene there is a passage which could be dangerously anticlimactic, as Fevronia dictates a lengthy letter of forgiveness to Kuterma…Monogarova is ideally simple and the result is most touching.

… this is a work which should be in the collection of everyone who is interested in nineteenth century opera, romantic music, or Russian music of the period. It is quite simply—to employ a much over-used phrase—a neglected masterpiece. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Richard Traubner
Opera News, May 2012

DVD: RIMSKY-KORSAKOV, N.A.: Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (The) (Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, 2008) (NTSC) 2.110277–78
CD: RIMSKY-KORSAKOV, N.A.: Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya (The) (Kazakov, Panfilov, Cagliari Theatre, Vedernikov) 8.660288–90

The principals are for the most part Russian and sing quite well, though other parts are taken by Italians. The ghostly suitor is robustly sung by Vitaly Panfilov. Tatiana Monogarova, a singer celebrated for her Tatiana in Eugene Onegin at the Bolshoi, is the lovely Fevronia. Mikhail Gubsky is quite touching as Grishka, and the two Tartar chiefs—Bedyay (sung by Valery Gilmanov) and Burunday (Alexander Naumenko)—are also striking. The chorus of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari sings nicely in Russian. The entire opera is conducted with considerable panache by Alexander Vedernikov. © 2012 Opera News Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2012

The difficulty of producing The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh has seen the opera drop from the repertoire, though vocally it is among Rimsky-Korsakov’s finest scores. Completed in 1906, it was written in a lyric style that had long become dated, though the highly charged and dramatic story offered Rimsky the possibility of a colourful orchestration. The story of the marauding Tartars attacking Kitezh surrounds the love of Fevronya and Prince Vsevolod, the pair eventually gaining lasting happiness when they are taken from their earthly abode. Lasting around three hours it is exacting on the large cast, the present recording coming from performances in the internationally little-known opera house in the Sardinian city of Cagliari. It had imported a cast drawn from the countries that once formed parts of the Soviet Union, and headed by the much experienced soprano from Moscow, Tatiana Monogarova. She has the staying power for her much extended role as Fevronya, and heard to good effect in quiet reflective moments, pacing her voice and eventually opening up as she comes to the end of a long evening. There we find much of the story taken forward by the excellent Mikhail Gubsky, in the part of the drunkard and troublemaker, Grishka Kuterma, and the big resonant voice of Gevorg Hakobyan as Fyodor Poyarok. The performance is conducted by the highly acclaimed former Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre, Alexander Vedernikov, who extracts a performance from the Cagliari opera orchestra that goes far beyond the call of duty, the orchestral picture of The Battle near Kerzhenets, drawing a very exciting and virile account. He also has a highly enthusiastic chorus in its many guises. © 2012 David’s Review Corner






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