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"Glinka's RUSLAN AND LYUDMILLA, based on a Pushkin fairy tale, is probably the second greatest Russian opera, after Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV. Unfortunately, it is very little known and rarely performed in the West. So it's great news that this excellent production is now available. Like the other Kirov/Gergiev operas on video and DVD, this one is a class production with fine ensemble work. The sound and technical quality is excellent. If you have any interest in Russian opera, this is a must-have."
Terrific Russian Opera in the Very Setting for Which it was
Kelly L. Norman | Plymouth, MI United States | 07/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A tale based on fantasy and sorcery, from a story of Pushkin's, this opera recalls the current trend in popularity of fantasy fiction, and of Shakesepeare's magic plays. Briefly, at a princesses' wedding, where two rejected suitors are present, she is abducted by supernatural forces. Many who were enemies before join hands to find and save her now, as the grief-stricken king promises her hand to whomever can save her. Not everyone is honest of course (what kind of opera would that be?), and the personalities that come through the music keep one on the edge of one's seat wondering if the lovely Lyudmila will end up with the one who truly loves her.
I found the singing to be pure and enjoyable. As conductor Valery Gergiev will mention in the first "extra", Anna Netrebko's voice was still fairly young at this time, but her character, Lyudmilla, called for a very young, impressionable woman. The contralto, Larissa Diadkova, and Galina Garchakova, both had strong mature voices. The acting was fine as well.
This is one of those charming DVDs that actually takes advantage of the digital storage space for which the medium was created, providing not only the advertised opera but a couple of useful extra features as well. One of them, "Introducing Ruslan", an interview with Gergiev on "Ruslan & Lyudmila"'s place in music history is a staid but informative piece that one might want to watch before the opera itself if unfamiliar with the Glinka piece. The other, "Catching Up With Music", is a by-the-official-bio history of the maestro's life up to and including his days managing the full operations of the Mariinsky (etc., etc., etc.). The former includes some rehearsal footage of "R & G" as well as explaining Gergiev's (from hindsight, wise) decision to take risks with "young, undeveloped artists such as Netrebko" at the Kirov whose voices may not be mature but who are "fresh and naive". Indeed, the fact that the former king-of-the-Soviet-hill Bolshoi is finally quietly catching up again to the Mariinsky is because they have a new staff copying Gergiev's business model of the 90's....don't scream so much when the old artists want to leave, and cultivate new ones from the bottom up (the difference being, of course, that the Bolshoi has a "staff", and the Mariinsky has a "Gergiev". But I digress....).
The latter "extra" is just plain fun, nothing outside of the official press releases you get from the Decca or Mariinsky web sites except some baby pictures and a number of scenes of Mr. Gergiev running, flying, recording and performing with different orchestras. (And pretending, not very well, to relax.)
The DVD is accompanied by a booklet giving further information about the composer and opera."
Came for Anna Netrebko, stayed for Valery Gergiev
Michael A. Kalm | Salt Lake City, Utah, UT USA | 03/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found out about this DVD, from an extra on the DVD, "Anna Netrebko, the Woman, the Voice." Netrebko was just 23 when she starred in this production, and she could not have been more beautiful. Her voice matched her beauty in every way, as did her piquant acting - just the way real life should be. Like most people, the only thing I knew about the opera was the overture, one of the all time great pot-boilers. I never tire of hearing it. The opera itself is very interesting with uniquely Russian (I can say that because apparently Glinka started it all,) combinations of voices, three basses singing with one soprano, a weirdly pitched dramatic tenor as the Bard, and a very strange trouser role of the Persian prince. The opera's about four hours long, on two disks. But the real special find on this DVD are the extras, an 18 minute documentary of the making of the opera and its history, and then an hour documentary about Valery Gergiev's life and connections to music. That one hour is worth the entire DVD. To see and hear that kind of talent, intensity, humanity, how it was impacted by the history and politics of Russia, for anyone who loves music, it is a MUST HAVE! One little side note, in the 18 minute documentary about the opera, Gergiev mentions that they recreated the sets and costumes from the 1891 production, (which was the 50th anniversary production of the work,) and that it was very light. He added, "many opera productions are really dark, so it doesn't much matter what the singers look like, but this one, being so light, we knew we had to find a Lyudmila who looked the part." They did."
Worth having as a DVD.
Abel | Hong Kong | 05/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a rare `historical' performance of Mikhail Glinka's fairytale opera, and is invaluable in several respects. The sets and costumes followed almost exactly a 1910 production, and provide audience with a glimpse of what operas were like in their heydays. The sorcerer Chernomer is a real joy to watch in this production. The storyline is akin to Mozart's Die Zauberflote. Obviously casting is important in such fairytales. As Valery Gergiev himself puts it in the interview excerpt on the `bonus' track, he has casted the heroine Lyudmila with the young Anna Netrebko (then not yet 24) as one of the most risky move in this production. The less good news of this recording is the long opening ballad by the `big-voiced' tenor who sang the Bard Bayan. The voice is big but a bit flat, and monochromatic. Then the good news start to break as Netrebko's performance proves to be a win for Gergiev and the audience. Devastatingly beautiful, fresh of voice and with vivacious personality, this is a dream Lyudmila in many respects. I would not go to criticise her coloratura in the first aria in Act 1 - it is clearly adequate, if not great. Ms Netrebko's voice in this recording was gorgeous, girlish, pure and silvery with a ringing top, without any of the darkened mushiness in the recent recording of her Russian Album, again with Gergiev. Her second scene and aria demonstrates her prowess in ensembles, and really over-scored for a 23 year-old lyrical soprano. The other members of the cast are even, Vladimir Ognovenko's Ruslan being a dark-hued bass baritone that warmed up after the first two arias, even if he sounds a bit too old and his acting isn't that riveting. Konstantin Pluzhnikov as the Finn had a couple of scenes with Ruslan that are both convincingly and entertainingly sung and acted with an otherwise boring text. I have a strong feeling that Ognovenko's performance here was actually being `saved' by Pluzhnikov. Galina Gorchadova appropriately sings the more mature Gorislava, but the vocal star of this performance is Larissa Diadkova in the breeches role of Prince Ratmir. I have yet to hear a contralto with such rich tone and dramatic expression as Diadkova. And her portrayal of the poetic prince Ratmir is so visually convincing that I nearly mistook her for a counter-tenor in the initial scene. It would have been perfect had Gorchadova's Gorislava been slightly shorter. There were two ballet scenes in the opera, with wonderful choregraphy and superlative performances by the Kirov Ballet. Without the all-time first-rate Bolshoi version available on DVD, this Kirov version is certainly worth your money and time."
Learning to Enjoy Russian Opera
Elena Petrcich | Ottawa,Ontario,Canada | 02/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With Valery Gergiev conducting and Anna Netrebko in her youth (20) as part of the cast, I decided this was the best time for me to get a taste of Glinka's Russian Opera, and get used to listening to words sung in Russian. This was a great place to start - simple story, beautiful singing , props and staging.I knew none of the rest of the cast - but they can sing.A little long in places...yes - but what opera is not?? The Russian audience is appreciative, but oh so polite. Here's the bonus-A documentary (about 50 minutes long) -CATCHING UP WITH MUSIC - introducing Valery Gergiev an amazing conductor, and the ways of Opera in Russia. Anna Netrebko was only 20 years old at the time of the performance.Gergiev took the risk having her perform at so young an age - and it paid off... Worth buying - definitely if it's time to explore Russian Opera. The subtitles help in understanding the story...and in time I could 'hear' the words sung in Russian. (I am so used Operas sung in Italian,French and German). It also convinced me to buy Ann'a CD - Russian Album (with libretto) with Gergiev conducting. "