The Teatro Regio wins Russian campaign
Regio wins Russian campaign
Triumph for Mussorgsky’s original “Torinese” production
There was applause after every scene and a storm of cheering saluted this impressive Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky which opened the Regio’s season. This was a new staging co-produced by Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia and Fondazione Petruzzelli, Bari. It was conducted with authority by Gianandrea Noseda, who is in his element in his Russian repertoire, and directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, whose fame comes from very successful theatre and cinema works.
Together, director and conductor presented their “own version” based on the opera’s first edition, published in 1869, without the Polish act and therefore relegated to a flock of male voices. The structural novelty consists in performing one after the other, and not separated by Boris’ death, the scene taking place “opposite Saint Basil’s” and that “in the Kromy Forest”, which were added by the composer for the new 1874 version.
These two very different if not antithetical scenes, two exciting masterpieces in themselves, are well worth an experiment. However, two apparitions of the Innocent are, perhaps, one too many: yet one is unforgettable, the other has less effect.
We therefore saw the first version, with its raw greatness, its plain sketched features, with its detour towards the Kromy Forest and return to base with the curtain dropped on Boris’ death.
In the meantime, whilst I’m writing, the show is coming to an end. What we’re watching and listening to seems to be very valuable for its intensity and consistency of ideas.
Konchalovsky, a real man of theatre, brings out immediately the first chorus action in the first scene and the play of light in the crowning scene. Roberto Gabbiani’s choir also started very well and ascended in a climax with extraordinary bravura in the forest scene. Graziano Gregori’s scenes well adapt to Konchalovsky’s stern direction, in that the elements that are realistic per se, like crown, icons, throne, and writing desk are almost left dangling in an empty space as if they underlined the decentralized and non continuous narrative.
Only Carla Teti’s costumes actually represent Boris’ historical time. The protagonist, bass Orlin Anastassov, reveals from the first appearance in the crowning scene the stature of a great performer: a mellow voice with sacral dignity; once crowned (how strange was the crown speech!) he’s overwhelmed with guilt, singing with a subdued and moving voice.
Then he changes into a very tender father to comfort his daughter Ksenija (played by an excellent Alessandra Marianelli) to give prominence to his own dizzy monologue, often withdrawing into himself, followed by fits of anger, surges of affection and rage.
There’s also an excellent performance by Evgenij Akimov’s moving Innocent surrounded by the treble voices of the Turin Conservatory conducted by Claudio Fenoglio.
Noseda, with passionate ability, steers us into in the live flow of this unique work keeping the orchestra very close to the singing which sounds more like a well-tuned recitation and a free declamation.
The tones and the very different tempos of the individual scenes are always balanced, alongside the sentries’ uncouthness and the animated fervour of the prayers, the grim timbres, harbingers of celebrations, the peace of Pimen’s cell and the infernal rhythm of the tavern scene.
Varlaam, played by Vladimir Matorin, dominates in the epic song of the siege of Kazan and in the comical implications of the conclusion. Pimen, suitably played by bass Sergei Aleksashkin, articulated his story with due solemnity; Ian Storey was really remarkable in the role of the False Dimitriy, edgy and sensitive to any nuances. This was also true of Prince Sujskij, played by Peter Bronder; short but crucial [was] the role of the Secretary of the Duma, played by the excellent Vasili Ladjuk.
Before the start of the opera, a Regio employee made an appeal for solidarity with colleagues of Genoa’s Carlo Felice “to prevent the closure of Genoa’s opera house”.
English translation by Gabriele Paleari