Christmas Eve

Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1894 opera Christmas Eve is based on the Gogol short story The Night Before Christmas which also formed the basis for Tchaikovsky’s The Tsarina’s Slippers.  We are in a small village in Ukraine just before Christmas.  Basically the smith Vakula is in love with Oksana, the beautiful daughter of the rich farmer Chub.  To complicate matters Vakula’s mother, Solokha, is a witch who is (in the words of the subtitles) “having it off” with every prominent male in the village including Chub plus the Devil. Vakula shows up unexpectedly at his mum’s where she has been hiding successive lovers in sacks as the next (unscheduled) one arrives.  Vakula “tidies up” the sacks but then runs into a big party of villagers where the contents of the sacks are revealed (except for the Devil).  Oksana teases Vakula and says she will only marry him if he brings her the Tsarina’s slippers as a Christmas gift.  Vakula vows never to be seen in the village again and sets off with the Devil in his sack.


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The Golden Cockerel

Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel is a pretty weird opera.  It’s a satire on Nicholas II’s performance as tsar written just after the disastrous 1905 war with Japan and due to entirely unsurprising trouble with the censors it wasn’t performed in the composer’s life time.  As you may imagine, a production of it by Barrie Kosky doesn’t make it any less weird.  Kosky’s production was recorded at Opéra de Lyon in May 2021 and there are still some COVID artefacts.  The chorus, for instance, is masked.  But mostly it feels like a “normal” production.


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The Met’s Prince Igor

Earlier this year the Metropolitan opera staged Borodin’s Prince Igor for the first time in nearly a hundred years with an HD broadcast and a DVD/Blu-ray release to boot.  It’s an odd work.  It’s quite long; a prologue and three acts running over three hours and it’s very episodic.  The prologue takes place in Ptivl; the principality of which I gor is prince.  He’s about to lead his army against the invading Polovtsians.  There are dark omens.  The next thing we see, as Act 1 opens, is that Igor is defeated and a captive of Khan Konchak who’s daughter is now in love with Igor’s son.  It’s all just happened.  Cue lots of exotic Polovtsiania.  In Act 2 we are back in Ptivl where Galitsky is making trouble for his sister, Igor’s wife, who has been left as Regent.  Mostly the trouble seems to be drunken partying and when the Polovtsian army arrives at the gates the brother, Galitsky, drops dead.  In Act 3 the city has been sacked and everybody is kind of mooning around in the rubble until a pretty depressed Igor shows up and implores the other Russian princes to get off their arses and do something (unspecified).  All the important stuff happens off stage and there really isn’t any resolution.  There is some great music though.

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