BORODIN Prince Igor
Compared to the task of sorting a performing version of Borodin’s unfinished 1869 87 opera, choosing an edition of a Bruckner symphony is a stroll. The present ‘new’ edition – by conductor Noseda and stage director Tcherniakov – pulls a few old rabbits from the hat. The composer’s putative Act 3 – a return to the Polovtsian camp – is effectively ditched (although no one told the synopsis writer that the vital confrontation trio Konchakovna/Vladimir/Igor has been kept and transferred to this Act 3), the main Polovtsi act (Act 2, the one that everyone knows a bit because of the famous choral dances) is now Act 1 and the whole ends with some apparently echt-Borodin ‘flood’ music, an event the synopsis omits, and the staging seems uncertain whether we’re talking Noah-style earth cleansing or post traumatic rebuilding.
The result is attractive and gripping because the production knows what it wants to see (personal psychodrama rather than Kismet-style pseudo-orientalism) and hear (Borodin rather than Rimsky or Glazunov filler, so no overture for starters). The opera has become the Odyssey-like tale of Igor’s mental and physical return from a war at least as dubious as that of Troy, and his wife Yaroslavna’s Penelope-like resistance to her politically ambitious and lustful brother’s attempts to subvert the kingdom. Both Ildar Abdrazakov, onstage for the whole of the first half, and Oksana Dyka inhabit these roles with vocal agility and, in their acting, a refreshing lack of the old-fashioned hamminess that used to pass for charisma in 19th-century Russian opera. A modicum of the last is retained by Mikhail Petrenko’s Galitsky – real or pantomime villain? The production seems unsure. It takes a clearer line with the Polovtsian royals – tefan Kocán’s smiling Mao of a Khan Konchak and Anita Rachvelishvili as his sexy daughter.
Moving the costuming forwards in time to be at least contemporary with the opera’s creation helps to declick the story of clichéd visual solutions, as do video close-ups of Igor and his soldiers suffering in bloodied defeat and editing by sudden snap blackouts. Noseda conducts with that light (but never undramatic) fluency that seems to come naturally to Italian
maestros in the Russian classics. The company play and sing well and the filming does them justice. Strongly recommended.