Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Alexander Borodin - Prince Igor The Classic Motion Picture with The Kirov Opera|
Actor: Borodin; Kinyaev; Provatorov
Director: Roman Tikhomirov
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
PRINCE IGOR - DVD Movie
Entertaining Soviet-era Spectacular... Avoid this Kultur DVD
dooby | 11/02/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Prince Igor was Borodin's final work. It remained unfinished upon his death and was completed by his friends Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. This version comes with a very rousing finale. It is heavily edited, cut down from 4-hours to barely 110 minutes but the main bits are here.
The plot is very simple. Prince Igor and his son Prince Vladimir are captured while battling against the marauding Polovtsian tribesmen. Khan Konchak befriends his royal prisoners and proposes a military alliance to conquer the world. Igor refuses and escapes while Vladimir falls in love with and marries Konchakovna the Khan's daughter. The opera ends with Igor returning to his home in Putyvl where he is reunited with his wife Yaroslavna to general rejoicing. In the film there is a stirring coda as the assembled Russian armies march out of Putyvl for one final battle against the enemy with the chorus singing "Hail radiant Prince... Lead us to Victory."
The 2-star rating refers only to this particular Kultur DVD. The film itself deserves at least 4 stars. It is very enjoyable. It is not an operatic production per se. It features stage actors in the main roles miming to the voices of the actual operatic singers. But it is all very well done. It was filmed during Soviet times so it was a case of "No Expenses Spared". All scenes were shot on location with authentic costumes and sets. Lavish would be a good description. From the opening sequence of Polovtsian horsemen thundering across the steppes, you know this is special. The producers even took the trouble of casting ethnic Asians as the Polovtsians instead of simply relying on face-paint. The Polovtsians were a Turkic tribe from Central Asia. Here they are made to look more like the dreaded Mongol invaders of a later era - actually many of the tribesmen look more Chinese than Turkic.
The Kirov Orchestra may not be at its best but the chorus and soloists are excellent as are the dancers of the Kirov Ballet. I never imagined the Kirov had so many Asian dancers. The famous Polovtsian Dances has a splendid sequence with Polovtsian archers and spearmen on horseback showing off their skills in front of the Khan and the Princes. The Gliding Dance of the Slave Maidens with the chorus singing "Fly away on the Wings of the Wind" (Stranger in Paradise) takes place at dusk, under flickering torchlight, all suitably exotic as befits the music. A lot of the music has of necessity been edited out. But the Khan's aria "Are you well, Prince" is here. So too is Igor's aria "No sleep, no rest for my tormented soul". Vladimir's and Konchakovna's love-duet similarly remains intact - beautifully filmed on a moonlit riverbank. On balance it is an altogether admirable production, not definitive by any means, but highly enjoyable and to be treasured.
I tend to stay away from Kultur as much as possible because of their history of terrible transfers but I just had to get this film. Bad move. This DVD is an utter abomination. It is a copy of a 1985 VHS tape which looks like it was itself a 3rd generation copy of the 1969 film print. No restoration has been done. The print is filthy. Dirt specks, flecks, white scuff marks everywhere. There is a yellow tint to everything. This film was shot on ultrawide 2.35:1 Sovscope (Soviet Cinemascope) to showcase the panoramic splendour of the Russian steppe and the spectacle of massed Polovtsian and Russian troops. What we get here is a cropped version - the two sides cut off to fit a standard TV. It is in a letterboxed 1.66:1. As usual with Kultur, no anamorphic enhancement - why bother when the quality is so poor anyway. Sound levels fluctuate at the most irritating moments, multiple times within a single aria. It sounds like a warped audio cassette tape. The video looks as bad as a pirated copy. Actually, even pirates wouldn't sell something of this quality. Half the time I was admiring what was left of the movie, the other half I was cursing Kultur under my breath. We are already well into the era of high definition video, and Kultur still serves up this crap which wouldn't pass muster in the VHS-era of 20 years ago. This beautiful film needs to be properly restored and re-released. Hopefully, Criterion, or any of a dozen other niche companies who care for restoration and take pride in their work will buy over the rights to this film. I'd gladly pay double the price for a properly restored version. This Kultur abomination can then go straight into the garbage where it belongs."
Prince Igor As Drama
M. F TERRIS | Miami, FL USA | 12/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have to agree with dooby's basic points: (1) Tikhomirov created a brilliant film version of Borodin's opera, Prince Igor, but (2) the Kultur release is characteristically poor, both in resolution and in visual artifacts. Finally, (3) the purchaser must realize that the Tikhomirov film is half the length of the opera. Marvelous music is lost. However, unlike dooby, I recommend purchasing the disk despite its limitations.
After noting that Borodin left Prince Igor incomplete upon his death, many reviewers describe the opera his friends assembled as full of wonderful music but sadly lacking in dramatic unity and impact. Holland of The New York Times (2001) wrote that despite its "marvelous eruption of Central Asian exoticism, ... this intriguing piece of Russian history resembles a splendid torso to which a number of prosthetic devices have been attached." However, Tikhomirov has ably revealed the dramatic muscularity and backbone of Prince Igor in ways only a gifted cinematographer could do.
The prince, his soldiers, and his wife are depicted in the opera as self-disciplined and dedicated to the glory of their faith, the independence of the city, and the welfare of its people. In contrast, Prince Galitsky (Igor's brother-in-law)and his followers are committed only to the pleasures of good food, plenty of drink, and wenching. Tikhomirov brings this contrast into focus by cutting from Galitsky's drinking songs to Igor's men marching into battle.
The central action around which the opera revolves is that battle. In it, the Rus of Putivl are overwhelmed by the Polovitsi, and Prince Igor is taken prisoner. The battle is not shown in stage productions, but Tikhomirov presents it masterfully scored to Borodin's orchestral music. After the fight, Khan Konchak (leader of the Polovitsi) offers Prince Igor all of the sensual pleasures that Galitsky revels in, but Igor refuses them.
I should also note that: (1) the Kultur version of the film is shown in letterbox. The frame is not as wide as our widescreen televisions, but it is much wider than full screen, and (2) while Kultur's video reproduction is of poor quality, the auditory quality is much better than most Russian opera films released on DVD.
susan lUFT | new york, ny | 08/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i have this on vhs tape and this product is 100% more clear. I recomend buying this item if you enjoy russian opera. The sound is clear and the visual is terrific."
Great Entertainment and a Beautiful Opera
V. Stasov | 12/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved this film of Prince Igor! The singing was superb, authentically Russian, and enthusiastic. It was especially exciting to see the original choreography of Michel Fokine. This Soviet opera film is highly entertaining, the dancing is excellent, and the actors seem to be having a great time. So enjoy, and don't take it all too seriously. After all, it's Prince Igor, not Die Gotterdammerung or some other monumental work. Borodin's life long project turned into an enjoyable film."