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Robert Benson, April 2012

It is a fine performance of this magical opera, and it looks and sounds better on this Blu Ray issue. Recommended! © 2012 Read complete review

Daniel Morrison
Fanfare, January 2012

worthy staging and performance, especially in the current absence of any preferable video alternatives. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, November 2011

Exotic, colorful music and production, a superior musical performance: this video has it all.

One is amazed by the ease and agility and beauty with which Banks sings the stratospheric music of the Astrologer. The baritones and basses, especially Schagidullin, roar impressively; and tenor Levinsky holds his solid own against the competition. And there is plenty of substance to Maniastina’s Amelfa. There is more high-flying tessitura for the Queen of Shemakha, and Trifonova wiggles gracefully through it. Saenz’s Cockerel is golden of voice and costume. The chorus, which gets to sit a lot, is on the raw side, but the orchestra plays with brilliance.

Tired of watching Euro-Crap productions? Tired of watching black, grey, and white productions? This colorful treat is for you!

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

George Dorris
Ballet Review, October 2011

Musically all is well, with a largely Russian cast led by Albert Schagidullin as Dodon, Barry Banks as the Astrologer, and lovely Olga Trifonova as the Queen of Shemakhan, singing the famous Hymn to the Sun, and Nagano directing his French orchestra and Russian chorus. In all, a most effective treatment of a remarkable work… © 2011 Ballet Review

Robert Levine, August 2011

This, Rimsky’s last opera, is a caustic satire of military and royal stupidity and incompetence. The Russo-Japanese War had ended badly for the Russians in 1906 and the parallels were clear. When Rimsky completed this opera in 1907 it was immediately banned; it was not performed until 1909, two years after the composer’s death.

The plot, simply: Moronic King Dodon is given a golden cockerel by an astrologer who claims it will crow if the kingdom is in danger. In exchange the king offers the astrologer whatever he wants; the astrologer tells him he will make his decision at a later date. The cockerel crows, the king precipitously goes to war, both of his sons are killed, and where he presumes the enemy is hiding he discovers instead the beautiful Queen of Shemakha. She seduces him, they marry, and he brings her home. The astrologer demands the Queen as his reward and Dodon kills him in anger. The cockerel pecks Dodon to death and the Queen disappears. The astrologer assures us that what we have witnessed is a fantasy.

This DVD is the only performance you will ever need. Rimsky’s sparkling orchestration is actually matched by the look of the production; recorded at Paris’ Chatelet in 2002, it is a feast for both eye and ear. A brilliant blaze of colored costumes designed by Tomio Mohri against Setsu Asakura’s simple but wonderfully lit (by Jean Kalman) staircase set is in Kabuki style, an interesting echo of the war that sparked Rimsky’s interest in composing Le Coq d’Or. A phantasmagoria of colors and weird accoutrements—long white beards, masses of feathers—gives it all a look that is beyond exotic: it is fantasy at its best. Ennosuke Ichikawa and Isao Takashima directed, using stock Kabuki gestures intermingled with sheer silliness. It’s a knockout.

Despite the Parisian theater, most of the singers are Russian. Bass Albert Schagidullin is a correctly outrageous Dodon. The voice is impressive, his presence even more-so. He rarely leaves the stage and manages to be grotesque and vaguely sympathetic at the same time. Olga Trifanova’s Queen releases cascades of on-pitch coloratura with a somewhat edgy, Slavic tone, but she’s very much in character and she seduces while singing in the stratosphere. British tenor Barry Banks sings the treacherously high role of the Astrologer (it goes to an E-flat above high C) with seeming ease, arrogant gestures, and a sly wit. The others in the cast, as well as the chorus and orchestra, are all superb under Kent Nagano’s sparkling, shiny direction. This is a must.

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