PROKOFIEV: Semyon Kotko
This latest video of Turandot has much to offer. It has its own authenticity as the opera takes place in China, and this Chinese production is all Chinese (with the exception of conductor Daniel Oren. Sets and costumes are brilliant and effective, and the supporting cast is huge with superb dancers. The ending has been changed by Chinese composer Hao Weiya a surprise for those who are used to the Alfano enduing, but this new one is grand and effective in its otn own way. The Chinese singers generally are excellent, not the best, but good enough. This is an intriguing presentation of Puccini's masterpiece. Conductor Oren keeps things moving at a fine pace, and he accents percussion, effective for this opera. This is Turandots of particular interest for the provenance. Collectors of this Puccini masterpiece surely will wish to investigate this.
Here is yet another video Aïda, and it disappoints. American soprano Kirsten Lewis, bortn in Little Rock, Arkansas, in some circles seems to be the Aïda of the day. She sang the role at La Scala with Zubin Mehta conducting, and also appeared in his Decca audio recording of the opera with Andrea Bocell. She does not impress in thius Teatro Reggio Torino performance from last year. Lewis manages the notes, but cautiously and there is no Verdi confidence herre. Marco Berti is a wooden tenor, and his Celeste Aïda is competent, little more. Anita Rachvelisili's Amneris has has more of a tremolo than I care to hear. The production itself attempts at grandeur and falls short, with ballet sequences that seem underreharsed. There are many superb Aïda videos available; this is not one of them.
Prokofiev's opera Semyon Kotko, composed 1938-1939, was premiered in Moscow in 1940 but soon withdrawn for political reasons. Many years later, it was revived and now is a staple;ple of the Kirov Opera, and a particular favorite of Valery Gergiev who has now recorded it for the second time. It is based on a story by Valentin Katayev, who collaborated with Prokofiev on the libretto. The main character is Semyon Kotko, a Soviet warrior, just released from the army. The opera takes place in the Ukraine after World War I. Semyon wishes to marry Sof'ya, daughter of the wealthy Tkachenko who unsuccessfully conspires with the Germans to restore tsarist rule. Political intrigue and power struggles are always apparent, and ultimately Semyon and Sof'ya are saved in a victorious finale. The music is typical Prokofiev, bold, dissont and often with a touch of gentle beauty. The recording was made in May 2014. The set is simple, but works, with a somewhat contemporary look. The cast is huge, as is the chorus, and under the dynamic direction of Gergiev all bring life to this seldom-heard masterpiece. Video director Anna Matison has elected to have super close-ups of many of the singers, which I find annoying; otherwise, video is state-of-the-art. A synopsis is provided , and the subtitles, in French, English and German, give important information. This is a major video release!
R.E.B. (November 2016)