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Semyon Kotko At The Met 7/9/03


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 08:53 PM

Just random notes (I have no depth of viewing in opera) but I hope it's of use to the opera fans here.

Gergiev and the Kirov Opera brought this little-known Prokofiev work from 1940 - I've never seen the theater so empty. The ABT seasons sold far better than this even on their sparsest night. I really think it was only 1/3 full, which has got to be a financial disaster. Happily for the performers, the audience was very enthusiastic, and Gergiev seems to have a cult of his own.

I've never gotten blasted with 3.5 hours of in-your-face Socialist Realism like this before. Semyon Kotko returns home to his village in the Ukraine after the horrors of the Ukrainian Civil War just in time to face the beginnings of the German occupation. There are evil landowners, brutal cossacks, virtuous (and one or two) turncoat peasants and a heroic commissar. At the end the entire cast, dressed in gray workers' uniforms face the radiant future and sing "Bad days are behind us." One can only look back on those words in 1940 and recognize the horrible irony; they were just about to begin.

The opera will sound familiar to ballet goers from Romeo and Juliet. There's the same thick and low orchestral texturing, and even some of the themes sound a bit similar. There's a Russian wedding in the first act - this one celebrated by joyous Communist farmworkers - but the customs shown in it still echo the wedding from Les Noces written less than two decades before.

The set, a debris-laden outcrop of a hill with a central trap entry that became a pond, a home, a church was operatic in scale. Those who wanted Opera House production values got them.

#2 Drew

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 01:48 PM

Thanks for reporting on this Leigh. Your description makes it sound like something I would have loved -- or at the very least found extremely interesting and sort of fun. Since I know 'tone' can be a mystery on the internet, let me add that I am typing with an absolutely straight face. Also, without exactly being a cultist, I rather enjoy Gergiev.

It's too bad about the lack of audience -- I suppose a performance like this has to be packaged as some sort of 'must see' event to have a chance (I'm sure they tried). I would be curious about attendance at other Lincoln Center Festival performances.

Edited by Drew, 11 July 2003 - 01:50 PM.


#3 Dale

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 02:18 PM

I'm sorry the house was so empty. There's usually a built-in audience for the Kirov Opera or Ballet with the Russian-New Yorkers. And the tickets were on sale earlier than the Lincoln Center Fest. Maybe the prices were too high and there was little pre-performance publicity.

Thank you Leigh for the description of the performance.

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 08:28 PM

The sad news is - it isn't just the Kirov Opera. I was at DTH tonight. The fourth ring was perhaps 25% full. There were 7 people in rows AA and BB. These kind of houses are making the ABT/NYCB houses we were commenting on look like sellouts.

I really hope it's just that it's summer, but I think it's more than that.


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