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The arts diary: Prince Igor, Met Opera, Cineworld; Cheltenham Opera Society

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: March 02, 2014

By Colin Davison

Sergey Semishkur in a field of poppies

Sergey Semishkur in a field of poppies

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Rating: *****

A war for Mother Russia; Kiev against invaders from the East. Sound familiar? Even a line, "Only you can stop Vladimir!"

The villain in this case was not that Vladimir, but Igor's brother-in-law Prince Vladimir Galitsky, and the action was fought on stage in this utterly brilliant reworking of Borodin's sprawling and unfinished masterpiece.

Any coincidences were, of course, accidental, but even so, I couldn't help feeling thankful to director Dmitri Chernyakov for his redemptive reinterpretation of this musically glorious but dramatically chaotic opera.

He links together the fragmentary plot by having much of it take place inside the tortured mind of Prince Igor, the magnificent Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov, whom we'll see again as the Met's Bluebeard.

I loved Chernyakov's field of 12,500 blood-red poppies, setting both for the passionate embraces of Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvilil and Sergey Semishkur as the lovers, then for the famous Polovtsian dances.

Make love, not war, it seemed to say. And for good measure, the director resolved the problematic when the bellicose Igor pronounces continuing war against the Polovtsi, by having him turn instead to rebuild his shattered city.

The power of the people, perhaps, and what a thrill to hear those mighty choruses roll over me in the fifth row thanks to that magnificent Cineworld sound system.

Next up: Massenet's Werther with Jonas Kaufmann on Saturday 15 March, Cineworld, Cheltenham. Also at Gloucester Quays, Roses, Vue Stroud, Regal Evesham.

Also ran: Loved the Ayckbourn season at the Everyman (see reviews). Struck me that he is funniest when not trying to be too funny. He doesn't write many plays set in Yorkshire, but as one of these characters might have said (but didn't): "There's nowt as funny as folk."

Coming up: Halle play Beethoven, Mozart, Vaughan Williams and Sibelius 7 at Cheltenham Town Hall, Friday 7 March.

Off now to the commendable Cheltenham Opera Society's talk on ETO's "very risky"(director James Conway) programme at the Everyman in April. I'm busy mugging up on Britten's Paul Bunyan and Tippett’s King Priam. The last time I saw a Tippett opera there was a walk-out - by members of the orchestra! But more of that another time.

For more info about the society, see their website.

Your views and info: Contact me at colin.davison@hotmail.co.uk

Colin Davison

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