Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor was directed by Yury Lyubimov and performed at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 2013 (Frolova-Walker 24). The opera can be discussed as controversial in relation to both musical and theatrical aspects. The first impression is that the opera is modernized significantly. Thus, it is possible to notice that this production introduces the unexpected changes in terms of scenes and arias (“Alexander Borodin”). The opera seems to be shortened, and this aspect is rather surprising. Still, the musical performance is perfect. Much attention should be paid to the choreography used in the opera because dances are appropriate to accentuate the highly emotional moments in the work.
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However, the theatrical scenery can be viewed as rather provocative and having a lot of modern details. Nevertheless, the play of colors is striking, it attracts the viewer’s attention, and it is used to accentuate different moods related to the plot (“Alexander Borodin”). The focus on the contrast of red and blue colors, as well as white and dark colors, is an interesting idea to be used in the scenery. However, the overall impression is rather difficult to describe because the opera seems to be more modernized than it is expected to be. Cuts in arias and other musical pieces provoke the following question: Is it reasonable or ethical to cut the opera in order to address the director’s idea and vision of the piece? Furthermore, it seems that decorations and costumes of performers are aimed at attracting more attention than musical pieces, and the other question to ask is the following one: Is the modern interpretation of Prince Igor effective to accentuate the best features of Borodin’s opera?
While discussing the works composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, it is important to pay attention to Sadko (1894-1896), the opera that is viewed by Taruskin as important to explain the difficult relationships between the composer and the authorities in Russia. Tsar Nicholas II was that person who asked for excluding Sadko from the repertory of the Mariyinsky Theater (Taruskin 182). This situation can provoke the following question: What aspects of Sadko caused Tsar Nicholas II to make a decision regarding the exclusion of this particular piece from the theater’s repertory? According to Taruskin, Tsar asked to find “something a bit merrier” (182). However, more attention should be paid to aesthetical, musical, social, and political aspects related to the opera in order to find the reasons.
Still, it is important to note that the opera was not forgotten because it was staged at the Moscow Private Opera Company under the patronage of Savva Mamontov. This person supported the work by Rimsky-Korsakov, and this interesting detail can attract the attention of the reader who reviews Taruskin’s book. From this point, it is important to explore the following moment: What role did Savva Mamontov play in developing the Russian music while providing the protection for Rimsky-Korsakov and other composers and musicians? Thus, it is necessary to note that patrons of the arts were rather influential persons, and the success of composers depended on patrons’ interest in their works significantly (Fishzon 382; Jaffe 38). Sadko can be viewed as an example of the opera that was promoted among the public because of the efforts of such patrons (Haldey 54). Therefore, critics of the Russian music of the nineteenth century also pay attention to this fact.
“Alexander Borodin – Prince Igor by Yury Lyubimov – music editor Pavel Karmanov.” YouTube, uploaded by Pavel Karmanov. 2013, Web.
Fishzon, Anna. “When Music Makes History.” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 14.2 (2013): 381-394. Print.
Frolova-Walker, Marina. “Fresh Prince.” Opera News 78.8 (2014): 24-27. Print.
Haldey, Olga. Mamontov’s Private Opera: The Search for Modernism in Russian Theatre. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. Print.
Jaffe, Daniel. Historical Dictionary of Russian Music. London: Scarecrow Press, 2012. Print.
Taruskin, Richard. On Russian Music. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008. Print.