Sadko at Vlaanderen Opera in Ghent
Sadko is an extraordinary opera, written by Rimsky Korsakov in 1891 and premiered in Moscow in 1898. It is an opera rarely performed today, probably due to its production complexities and the difficulty of finding a tenor to sing the enormously complicated and high lying role of Sadko.
The opera story is about the Gusle (stringed musical instrument) player, Sadko, who leaves his wife Lyubava and his home of Novgorod to make his fortune. Before he leaves he tells the towns folk that Novgorod would be more prosperous if a river joined its lake to the ocean. He heads for Venice to make his fortune and after his success returns home. In between he weds the Sea Princess, who gives her life to provide a river for Novgorod. Upon his return, he is reunited with his wife.
The music is highly evocative and in typical Rimsky Korsakov style his orchestration and chorus work are huge and outstanding however complicated the fairy tale storyline.
Aviel Cahn, the Intendant at Opera Vlaanderen, has promoted this opera with its glorious music for some time. He has teamed up with the Director, Daniel Kramer (also Artistic Director of the English National Opera), to really good effect. Daniel Kramer manages to interpret this complicated work for us so that we are always journeying with Sadko through the various trials and tribulations of his life. It is darkly managed until, in the final scene, the Sea Princess dies and the river flows into Sadko’s home town. The stage comes apart to reveal an attractive green light of the river and joyous towns folk. Most of the previous scenes take place on the trodden earth on stage (which somewhat dulls the sound) and with plenty of video movement as a backdrop, some of it relevant, perhaps some not so.
The joyous ending that Kramer gives us is matched by the joyous music and choral singing that is Rimsky Korsakov’s trademark. An outstanding piece of theatre.
The Flanders Opera Orchestra was outstandingly conducted by Dmitri Jurowski, who is undoubtedly a consummate interpreter of Russian music. His control of the huge orchestration and large chorus was outstanding and often produced an almost overwhelming typically Russian sound.
The Sadko was sung by the 45 year old Georgian tenor, Zurab Zurabishvili. He has sung in engagements all over Europe and has a striking strident Russian tenor quality to his voice and despite his necessary ardent tone at times, he husbands his voice to enable him to retain sufficient vocal power for the last scene. There was some particularly good singing from the other performers, specifically his wife, Lyubava, sung by the mezzo soprano, Victoria Yarovaya, as well as the Nezhata, sung by the American contralto, Raehann Bryce-Davis. The Sea King was sung by the substantial bass voice of the Ukrainian, Anatoli Kotscherga, with the American soprano, Betsy Horne, beautifully singing the role of the sea princess.
It did not escape notice that in one of the video scenes you encountered the presence of the former USA and Tottenham Hotspur FC goalkeeper, Kasey Keller. All Spurs supporters should see the production for that, if nothing else!
Congratulations to Aviel Cahn and Daniel Kramer for allowing the audience to enjoy a rarely performed operatic masterpiece, which has shades of music from Wagner’s Rheingold to Verdi’s Otello, with some Ravel in between, but the glory of the night belonged to Rimsky Korsakov and his orchestration and choral singing of.
What a treat.
With kind regards,
Tuesday, 20 June 2017