Thursday, August 27, 2009

After Hours

Modest Mussorgsky. Boris Godunov Coronation Scene

The last few nights at the Ring have turned my mind toward the operatic. I really do dig Wagner quite a bit. The guy really knew what to do with an orchestra. But the funny thing is that it never quite hits home. It never quite creeps into my soul. I can't say the same thing about Boris Godunov. This piece gets me every time. It's like this three-hour-long Slavic dog whistle. There are turns of phrase in both words and music that make me feel that I'm living in the wrong country and that I should move east to cultivate my misery - because everybody knows that you can't be happy in a land of such vast and exquisite tragedy, so you might as well be unique in your own unhappiness. Yeah, that's the Slavic frame of mind I'm talking about: regret, sadness, anguish, cruel fate and much, much weeping.

This clip features not only the best 10 minutes in all of opera, but probably some of the best music ever written. Let's thank Rimsky-Korsakov for his excellent orchestrations. Thanks, Rimsky-Kosakov! The pageantry is excessive and the drama is over the top, but that's what makes it great. The performance, however, is not so hot, as you'll hear. The orchestra comes out of synch with itself and the chorus on several different occasions. The problems take care of themselves, only to crop up later. Things like this are bound to happen with an orchestra and chorus of that size. Also a little suspect is the direction. You get a lot of close-in shots of Boris, but very little of the total action, which is pretty awe-inspiring. Plus, the camera cuts away every time the six boyars come over the top of everyone to sing their bit. But even a flawed version is so much better than most of what opera has to offer.

The role of Boris is sung by the great Evgeniy Nesterenko. He and Ghiakurov are the two best Borises ever. So once again, not to dis Wagner, but this is what really turns me on opera-wise. I'm sure that if he was born a Slav, he would have written something like this.

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