An Afternoon at the Opera
For all my followers who know me and those who have just found me, I am a city girl turned country gal, living in the Swedish countryside. It has been some time since I have had an opera evening to share with you. My business Li’l Sis Goat Milk Soap is keeping me quite busy. As much as I love my farm and life in the countryside, I still miss and enjoy when I can, city delights. One such delight is being able to watch live HD transmissions of opera direct from The Metropolitan Opera in New York. Yes, I can attend and enjoy world class opera just 20 minutes from Gullringstorp! Yesterday I had the pleasure of viewing an opera that sat unfinished for many years. Prince Igor, by composer Alexander Borodin. In true Metropolitan Opera fashion, this Russian epic required and received a stage that was filled with the most wonderful chorus and the costumes and sets that transported you to the towns in Russia that were depicted in the opera. It was a story of power, protest, loss and recovery. Sound familiar? I could not help but think of the present day struggles that are now going on around the globe , most especially the struggle in Kiev, Ukraine. It was very beautiful and moving with a musical score with vocals sung by some of the finest opera voices from Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. The orchestration and vocals along with the world class Metropolitan opera chorus, were magnificent and really touched my heart. Here are reviews from The Metropolitan Opera site:
Approximate running time 4 hrs. 15 min. Borodin’s defining Russian epic, famous for its Polovtsian Dances, comes to the Met for the first time in nearly 100 years. Dmitri Tcherniakov’s new production is a brilliant psychological journey through the mind of its conflicted hero, with the founding of the Russian nation as the backdrop.
Star bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov takes on the monumental title role, with Gianandrea Noseda conducting. Dmitri Tcherniakov’s “wonderful staging is dreamlike, wrenchingly human and viscerally theatrical. The impressive cast, with many Russian singers, is headed by the compelling bass Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role… His Igor has moments of Italianate lyrical refinement. He brings passion, even a touch of neediness, to his exchanges with his devoted wife, Yaroslavna, the Ukrainian soprano Oksana Dyka in her Met debut. She is a classic Russian soprano with a cool, penetrating intensity, fearless high notes, and a glint of steel in her sound.” (New York Times)
“The charismatic Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili brings her plush, big voice and a sultry physicality to the role of Konchakovna.” (New York Times) Gianandrea Noseda “led a vibrant and textured performance… [conveying] the Russian character of the music, while conducting it with clarity and precision. The Met chorus is at its glorious best.” (New York Times)
“Prince Igor’s triumphant return: the Met makes a masterpiece of an unlikely opera. [A performance that] would be the jewel of any opera company in any golden age.” (New York Observer)
“The Met has returned a long-absent marvel to its rightful place in the repertoire.” (New York Magazine)
“The hugely talented Tcherniakov [is] a director who also designs his own sets. These were terrific: neither abstract nor period medieval, they took us into more universal realms of fear, longing and despair.” (Bloomberg) “Ildar Abdrazakov masterfully probed Igor’s guilt and regret.” (Wall Street Journal)
There was much to understand and comprehend in this opera. As with any war or civil unrest, like a chess game, there are many moving pieces. to understand exactly what the opera was about, I have included, from the Metropolitan Opera website,the SYNOPSIS
Prologue The city-state of Putivl. Together with his son, Vladimir, Prince Igor gathers his army for a military campaign against the Polovtsians. A sudden solar eclipse frightens everybody. The people and Igor’s inner circle of boyars (nobles) take this as a bad omen and plead with Igor to postpone the campaign. Unnoticed by the army, two soldiers—Skula and Yeroshka—decide to desert: they do not want to risk their lives and are determined to stay behind in Putivl. Igor’s wife, Yaroslavna, pleads with Igor to remain at home, but he cannot be persuaded. The Prince bids farewell to her and leaves her in the care of her brother, Prince Vladimir Galitsky. The army of Igor and Vladimir sets out on their campaign.
Act I The Polovtsian steppes. The battle is lost. Igor’s army is destroyed, and he is taken prisoner by Khan Konchak, the chief of the Polovtsians. In his mind, the tormented Igor replays over and over everything that has happened. The beautiful Konchakovna, who is in love with Vladimir, appears to him. Then Yaroslavna appears. Then Ovlur appears, urging him to flee his captivity. Then Khan Konchak appears and offers his friendship as his guest of honor. Igor has a vision of the overwhelming joy of living life to its fullest.
Act II In Yaroslavna’s palace. Terrible nightmares and dark premonitions haunt Yaroslavna. There has not been any news from Igor for a long time. Young maidens come to Yaroslavna accusing Galitsky of going on a wild rampage in Putivl. They complain that Galitsky has abducted one of their friends and ask Yaroslavna to step in and demand that the girl be returned to them. Yaroslavna doesn’t have the power to deal with her brother. Galitsky behaves impertinently with his sister and threatens both her and Igor. In the court of Prince Galitsky, the men are having a drunken feast. Seeking still more power, Galitsky would like to exile Yaroslavna to a nunnery as part of his plan to replace Igor as the new Prince of Putivl. Skula and Yeroshka now support Galitsky’s claims. The young maidens come directly to Galitsky in a desperate attempt to save their friend, but the mob laughs at them, chasing them away. The drunken brawl reaches its climax; everyone prepares for revolt. Yaroslavna’s palace. The boyars bring Yaroslavna the tragic news of the army’s destruction and of Igor’s captivity, sending her into turmoil. In the meantime, Galitsky and his followers take advantage of the moment and revolt. Alarm bells announce imminent danger: the enemy advances on Putivl and in the ensuing panic Galitsky is killed.
Act III Putivl is destroyed and left in ruins. Yaroslavna has lost all hope for Igor’s return and weeps over her husband’s loss. Igor, who has in fact escaped from captivity, suddenly returns to destroyed Putivl. Torturous visions continue to haunt him. The tipsy Skula and Yeroshka discover Igor. In order to escape deserved punishment for treason, the cunning Skula suggests to Yeroshka that they be the first to summon the people to share the joyous news with them. Igor interrupts the crowd’s jubilation and addresses the people with words of repentance. He blames himself for all that has happened and calls upon everybody to unite and rebuild their destroyed lives.
Here is a video:
I may be a little goat herder in the Swedish countryside, but I step out of my world to enjoy wonderful culture whenever I can. As soon as I can get the score on my iPhone, my goats will have a real treat in the stable.
Thank you for a wonderful and moving experience spent with the Metropolitan Opera of New York.