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Natalia

Kirov Opera 'Khovatschina' with ballet (2/20)

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Being a big-time balletomane, I rarely have time or money left-over to attend the sister-art of opera. But with the

Kirov-Mariinsky Theater (of St. Petersburg, Russia) in town, I could not resist attending one performance: last night's

opening of a one-week run at the Kennedy Center. For a Russophile, it was the PERFECT opera -

Mussorgsky's 'Khovantschina,' a four-act, five-hour-long opus about the late-17th-century conflict between the Old

Believers of Muscovy and young Westward-looking Tsar Peter the Great & his supporters. The sweep and majesty of

Mother Russia was displayed on the stage, with inspiring choruses, gorgeous realistic scenery & costumes (the Kremlin, Red Square,

monasteries in forests, etc.), a nice ballet by "Persian Beauties' inside a Russian dacha (!!!). Eveready-Energizer-Conductor Valery Gergiev spilled his heart & soul out in the orchestra pit. What

powerful music came from this, one of the top opera conductors & opera-orchestras on earth.

The ballet "Dance of the Persian Maidens" occurs in the Dacha Scene of Act III & is performed by seven voluptuous maidens in very sexy 'harem outfits.' The beautiful lead maiden was -- so I was told by a friend who is a member of Kirov Orchestra -- Julia Slivkina, who could pass as a 'twin' to Veronika Part. In fact it was refreshing to see that most of the opera-ballet dancers are indeed of the 'real women' mold!

The "Persian Maidens" dance was choreographed many years back by the late Feodor Lopukhov, according to programme notes. Natalia Spitsyna manages & rehearses the opera-ballet ensemble.

Kudos to the velvety-voiced contralto, Mariana Tarasova, as the heroine Marfa, a member of the Old Believers sect, whose

intense love for Prince Andrei Khovantsky (tenor Victor Lutsyuk), despite his betrayal of her, is only matched by her love

of God. In the end, Andrei returns to Marfa in the forest, just as Marfa & the other Old Believers are about to immolate

themselves inside a wooden church. Andrei choses to die with Marfa & the Old Believers. The final scene is the opera is

one that I shall never forget, if was so splendidly staged: the wooden church goes up in flames before our eyes, as the Kirov

Orchestra is thundering Mussorgsky's music. I don't think that there was a dry eye in the theater. An incredible, spiritual

experience.

[ February 21, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Forgot to mention - After all of the frustrations at trying to identify the Kirov's soloists in various roles last week, it was nice to note that they got the name of the HORSE in Act I of 'Khovatschina' right! Yes - that was indeed "Ben the Horse" on stage last night. Only one horse was contracted for the job so we are safe to say that it was Ben. smile.gif

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Thanks for that report, Jeannie -- and I love your note about Ben. At the gala, too, there was an added excerpt from Iolanthe and they not only announced this before curtain, but (at least in press programs) the names were written in. So the Disinformation Specialist only works ballet smile.gif

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Thank you for the remark about Ben the horse. It made me laugh out loud at work on a very dull day today!

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