Saturday, October 29, 2011

More on Bolshoi... and Руслан и Людмила

If you did not see the re-opening gala concert at The Bolshoi Theater, you can still do it on Arte Live Web (c.f. also video here). I usually dread those concerts but when I saw that Dmitri Tcherniakov directed the show, I obviously rushed to see it and, yes Dima The Great did a very good job by actually making sense of the evening. He gave credit to everyone involved in the process of creating the theatrical magic, to the workers who for the past 6 years were working hard to construct that great building, to all the folks working backstage, and to all the artists. At the same time he recounted the history of The Bolshoi Theater --one of the greatest temples of Russian culture that resisted all the radical changes in Russia since 1824 to this day.

There was too much ballet for my taste, but as we all know the Russians love ballet... so not much surprise there!

Tcherniakov talking to the press about his new production -- Ruslan and Lyudmila

Operatic bits were OK. Placido Domingo did not show up, and I guess Angela Gheorghiu would have done much better if she followed the example and skipped the event too. She did not prepare ONE aria she was supposed to sing there. And it was not some tricky unknown piece that needed a heck of a work to prepare, but it was the Lisa aria from The Queen of Spades. Angie literally appeared with the score in hands and she would look at it like every 5 seconds. She clearly didn't bother to work on the pronunciation either... and so, to me, her appearance was borderline disrespectful (considering the importance of the event, the worldwide coverage...)
Check out here -- her aria starts at 1:37:10. [Note in particular the annoyed looking Galina Vishnevskaya after Miss Gheorghiu finished singing. She didn't clap.]

The same aria would have been gloriously sung by Krassimira Stoyanova, Anja Harteros, Svetlana Ignatovich, or Olga Guryakova, Renée Fleming...

Obviously there was no Anna Netrebko, Olga Borodina, Ekaterina Gubanova, or Tatiana Monogarova, Olga Peretyatko... which might partly be due to the Moscow/Petersburg petty quarrels (I speculate!)

But, the most important information to share is that the first new production to be presented at the New Bolshoi,  Ruslan and Lyudmila (Руслан и Людмила) will also be broadcast on Arte-TV, in two parts:
  • Part One -- Sunday, November 13 at 14:00 (cet), 
  • Part Two -- Monday, November 14 at 22:50 (cet).  
Formidable Dima Tcherniakov will direct the show (he's a control freak who also designed the sets and costumes for this show), Vladimir Jurowski will conduct. In the title roles Albina Shagimuratova and Mikhail Petrenko.

Three preview photos from the final dress rehearsal of this show (more photos here and a video sneak-peek here):

I've spent some time this morning checking the Russian press web-sites, and to me their coverage of this event is disappointing: it is mostly (exclusively) focused on counting their celebrities who attended the concert. Most of them are unknown to us (ministers, businessmen...) I found only a few photos with the folks you most probably know:

Right-to-left: Elena Obraztsova, Dmitry Medvedev, Sergei Filin (Bolsh.ballet Dir), and Svetlana Medvedeva  

Naina Yeltsina, Maya Plisetskaya, and Rodion Shchedrin

Mikhail Gorbachev with his granddaughter


  1. I speak under correction as this is just speculation but I got the feeling that Angela stepped in for Domingo at the last minute.

  2. I don't think so. Her name was in the Arte announcement a month before the gala (together with Domingo and Dessay.) Domingo then canceled due to heavy schedule. She showed up, but clearly underprepared.

  3. Russian is completely different from Romanian. It's not unreasonable at all for Gheorghiu to read the score for an aria outside her typical repertoire and outside her set of spoken languages (English, French, Italian, and Romanian). I found her interpretation beautiful and accurate.

  4. Good for you but that is not an excuse. She is normally a brilliant singer, she accepted to sing at this Gala, came very clearly unprepared, and I thought this was a lack of respect. Gheorghiu or anyone else -- disrespectful behavior is what it is.

    She sang low at several places, she clearly did not understand the lyrics, and her pronunciation was well... not good when compared to Natalie Dessay (who does not speak Russian, and who sang without the score at the same Gala)

    Check out Renée Fleming, for example. Renée does not speak Russian either, but she prepares and sings very well the Russian arias in concerts.

  5. Mind that Gheorghiu has a phonation problem when speaking which greatly helped her be a unique singer. Indeed her Russian pronunciation is poor hence phrasing isn't great. Let apart her inappropriate smiling, she sang with her characteristic sensitiveness. As to the final chest notes, she hasn't got Vishnevskaya's highly pitched voice to end in lower pianissimo notes. This is her voice. Not all voices match Russian repertoire

  6. To go on the stage with so unprepared aria is the insult to all Opera community firstly! But Gheorghiu brought the insult both to Bolshoi and to the russian culture generally. She must be nevermore on the russian stages.

  7. I am not talking about Angela Gheorghiu as a brilliant sing that she is.

    I am talking about this particular performance of the well known Lisa aria that she clearly was not ready to sing in front of the millions worldwide viewers. For that reason I said she would have probably done better by canceling her appearance at the Gala (that would not surprise anyone, while her under-prepared performance was more than a surprise -- not very positive one, by the way.) Worse, it made her appear disrespectful.

    Life goes on...

  8. Angela`s career stands for more than 20 years worldwide,and it is the major artist nowadays that sells such an amount of recordings(acording to BBC-Clasical Brit Awards,in wich she was the recipient for the 2-nd time)and also the most wanted for advance booking in the major opera houses.I don`t know if she attended at the event last minute or no,but Angela doesn`t enter on a stage unprepeared!!! AT ALL!!!She surely has a different voice,apart from the well-known RUSSIAN repertoire,but it is a mater of taste(and emotion delivery),Callas also didn`t sung to many russian arias,and it is still the legend(even now) that Vishnevskaya isn`t.In my opinion,she sung the aria with an amount of feelings,and the chest notes were out of the planet!!!Only a mezzo like Obrastzova could bring such notes on a stage performance.Sincerely,Vishnevskaya rendition of Lisa`s aria is beautiful,but heartless,this is my steatement and shame to the people who are throwing with ofensive words in world-class sopranos like Angela Gheorghiu!