"The late Mehli Mehta once called SADKO the most beautiful opera ever sritten. He was posssible correct as the opera is a hymn to the sea, love, adventure and romance. It is saturated with the most gorgeous music. The immortal Song of India is just the crowning jewel in this rich tapestry.
Just as outstanding is the look of this work. You are magically transported from the ancient city of Novgorod to an enchanted lake to the underseas kingdon of the sea king and back agan to Novgorod. It must be the most gorgeous opera to look at now available on DVD. Forget television, the latest news and the cares of today for three hours and enjoy this fantasy.
Hint: If you enjoy this work check out the DVD of Alexander Ptushko's non-operatic SADKO and see what the Russian master of fantasy did with this story. Much of Rimsky-Korsakov's music was utilized and it is just about as stunning."
Welcome to the Miraculous World of Russian Opera
V. Stasov | 04/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let go of Puccini, Wagner and the rest. Russian opera is its own universe of sound. The voices, the instrumentation, the melodies all are unique to this vast musical culture which is finally starting to make an impact in the West.
We can thank Mr. Gergiev in many ways for opening this doorway for us. He is a tireless advocate and missionary of Russian opera. Is he a great conductor? That's another matter. But what he does unquestionably accomplish is the task of familiarizing us with the numerous operatic treasures that Russia has produced. Some of his efforts achieve greatness, like his Tsar's Bride, Pique Dame and Iolanta.
Here he gives us Rimsky's Sadko, arguably one of the most beautiful works in the Russian repertoire. This production is gorgeous, as is the music. The singers and the conducting, though, are disappointing if you are familiar with the authentic Russian tradition of music-making. The Russian language has a unique palatalization of vowels, which gives it that beautiful quality so immediately perceptible when we hear Russian spoken.
That underlying vocal quality inherent in Russian may be partly responsible for the Slavic sound that makes historic Russian singers so instantly recognizable, as well as their individuality of sound. When we hear a famous Russian singer from the past, we know we are hearing a personality - typically a huge voice with a real face, as it's said. Today, unfortunately, the little, pretty generic voices that abound everywhere are deprived of the power, nobility and polish that we hear in great Russian singers of the past.
And here we have one of the big problems with Gergiev's Sadko. There's no Sadko! The tenor singing this heroic part is pathetically inept. There are some notable voices in this production. Valentina Tsidipova has a beautiful, shimmering but not quite big enough sound for the Sea Princess. She's also an exotically lovely woman, so it's surprising, given her lush vocal sound, that she's not seen anywhere else in the musical marketplace. Some of the other singers have that certain Slavic something that makes you sit up and take notice. But without a Sadko, you don't quite get the proper introduction to the greatness of Rimsky's work.
The other problem is Gergiev's - at times - boringly feeble conducting. He is sorely lacking in the propulsive, rhythmic power that drove the great Russian opera conductors like Golovanov, Melik-Pashayev, Khaikin, Kondrashin, Svetlanov and Ermler. These conductors existed in a nonstop lineage of dramatic and musical splendor that dissolved when the last of them, Mark Ermler, passed on a few years ago. They had a driven, theatrical, and I must add - virile - method of conducting that breathed life and vigor into the orchestra. This powerful method of conducting has disappeared from the scene. At times Gergiev's conducting seems so drained of any rhythmic pulse whatsoever, that the poor singers have to anxiously try to maintain some kind of beat themselves in the void of Gergiev's slack and nerveless musical environment.
Whether it's the injection of internationalism or westernization flooding the former Soviet Union, resulting in the dilution of the unique Russian sound and a consequential cultural attenuation, or a lack of adequate talent which is at the root of this problem remains to be seen. But if you can get past the - at times - completely inert conducting and the inadequate singing of some of the principles, including the chorus, this DVD will initiate you into an unforgettable sound world of sensuous and magical music. This Sadko has enough moments of greatness in it to draw the uninitiated into further exploration of the rich and wondrous arsenal of Russian operas.
The greatest recording of Sadko was made in 1949 by the conductor Nikolai Golovanov with the ringing powerhouse of Georgi Nelepp's magnificent and erotic tenor voice. His heart-melting duet with the Sea Princess in Scene II is only one of the many moments of spectacular music-making on this exalted recording. Nelepp's unforgettable performance, at times heroic, at times seductive, is available on several labels Rimski-Korsakov: Sadko but only Gergiev's CD recording, which may be identical to this DVD's soundtrack, will give you a libretto.
One of the many joys of this opera occurs in Scene IV, when we are given three show-stopping tunes, historically performed by the Bolshoi's greatest singers. In the Golovanov Sadko we have Ivan Kozlovsky singing the famous Song of India. The other two gems come from the extraordinary Armenian baritone Pavel Lisitsian, and that godlike favorite of Stalin's, bass Mark Reizen. In the uneaven Mr. Gergiev's Sadko, only the Viking gives us something reminiscent of the Bolshoi's former vocal splendor.
There is another unreleased video of Sadko live from the Bolshoi with Vladimir Atlantov and his wife Tamara Milashkina as the Sea Princess. It's a pretty tacky production, and very noisy, from a lot of stomping around and the shrill voices of these two. However, it has the sumptuous mezzo of Irina Arkhipova, a very great exemplar of the Russian singing tradition. It may be released one day if people continue to express interest in Russian operatic achievements.
Watch this video then get Golovanov's dynamic, theatrical performance and listen to it while you watch the video with the sound off. Then you'll have an idea of the immense sensual and spiritual beauty of Rimsky's operatic masterpiece.
Highly recommended, in spite of its limitations, for introducing the world to this gorgeous work."
An excellent performance of a lesser known opera
A. BOSS | Mountainside, NJ United States | 10/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sadko is not an opera one is likely to see staged in the US. Although it does not leave one humming the arias from it (except for Song of India)like Traviata & Carmen, for example, it does have a lot of lovely music. This is an excellent performance, with outstanding sets and costumes and excellent singers and conductor. For the opera lover who wants to go beyond the usual, I recommend this DVD."
So delectable it's like eating of the forbidden fruit!
Dr. F. Mark Carter | 01/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This fairy tale has many features in common with many creation myths. Water plays a big part in this tale, as it does in the Ring. The music is of the highest order. The cast of singers is huge. This Russian cast can really sing. Russian basses are in a class of their own. The sound of the opera chorus is breathtaking. The playing of this huge orchestra gives the whole production a solid foundation, creating a big and dramatic sound scape. Then we come to the sets and staging. The sets are simply magnificent and opulent, to say the least. All this captured superbly by the cameras. This whole production adds up to a delicious saturation of the senses. To recreate this production in the home requires a superior system, especially in the audio department. To enjoy this production a system with a smooth wide range frequency response is mandatory. The system also needs power to spare. There a huge sounds presented to the system here. I can't see much enjoyment to be obtained with small or TV speakers. The balance of the recording is too close for comfort. A more distant ambient balance would have been an improvement. If you have the system, there is a lot to delight here."
A joy to watch
Muriel Schwenck | Half Moon Bay, Calif | 12/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One reviewer called this a bore and failure due to lack of drama and story. It's not meant to have character development and a steady plot. It is episodes from a well known fairy tale, illustrations if you will. Many viewers would already know this very famous Russian fairy tale (especially when it was originally written) so it is not necessary to tell the story again; anyway fairy tales are not required to have 'character developement'. So if you need character and plot development, go for Boris Godunov etc. If you want lovely music, beautiful staging and a great ensemble this is highly recommended."