Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: The Golden Cockerel
Aida Garifullina (The Queen of Shemakha), Vladimir Feliauer (Tsar Dodon), Andrei Popov (the astrologer), Kira Longinova (the golden cockerel), Andrei Serov (General Polkan), Andrei Ilyushnikov (Tsarevich Guidon), Vladislav Sulimsky (Tsarevich Afron), Elena Vitman (Amelfa), Yelizaveta Shamatrina (a parrot), artists of the Mariinsky chorus, ballet and extras, Andrei Petrenko (principal chorus master), Mariinsky Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (conductor), Anna Matison (stage director, costume designer and video director), Alexander Sivayev (lighting designer), Maxim Petrov (choreographer)
Recording: Mariinsky-II, St. Petersburg, Russia (December 27, 2014) – 119’
BelAir Classiques #MAR0596 (Double play: contains Blu-ray and DVD) – 16:9 – all regions – (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Subtitles in Russian, English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish – Booklet in Russian, English, French and German
This swanky fairy-tale production, while whiffing at millennial strikes (i.e. the cockerel’s smart phone and taking of “selfies”) inside an adult Alice in Wonderland whimsy, merits deep pause. Rimsky-Korsakov’s mood-evoking and deeply channeled leitmotif music takes back seat to the primary demotivating concern: camera and video edits. Anna Matison is given insurmountable power: from stage direction to video editing. Granting too much leeway to one person occasionally sidelines the larger picture. With so many people and so many mini-dilemmas brewing simultaneously, this creates a challenge for conveyance. Ms. Matison's split-second editing adds confusion and uneasiness for the viewer.
The voice to call attention to is Aida Garifullina. Having discovered personally the unique pliability of voice in her newly released CD, Ms. Garifullina paves way for a remarkably powerful entrée into this Pushkin-derived opera: the acting is as intoxicating as her singing, and we become mesmerized inside her Act II “Seduction Aria.” Vladimir Feliauer’s bold commands as Tsar Dodon soften upon setting eyes on The Queen for the first time. Andrei Serov, the Tsar’s practical and logical check-and-balance, sings with stern frustration while the Tsar’s two blundering sons, Tsarevich Guidon (Andrei Ilyushnikov) and Tsarevich Afron (Vladislav Sulimsky), battle out their disagreements by bucking heads in oversized Kremlin minarets. The Astrologer has the key to the moral of the story. Here Andrei Popov is featured in a declamatory voice that barks more than enlightens. Next to Aida Garifullina, Kira Loginova’s voice, as The Golden Cockerel, is simply pristine; her continual buttery chirps of impending danger ring forth with precise annunciation.
This 2014 production is sugary to the hilt. Computer graphic imaging (CGI) magically weaves its way into each of the acts, and it helps strengthen the immensity of the production and colorful costuming by Ms. Matison. There is no finer gentleman conducting The Golden Cockerel than Valery Gergiev…his Mariinsky Orchestra funnels the viewer into a Lewis Carroll hallucination.
This DVD is grand and a bit overwhelming. With already too much to absorb, a lot less nanosecond film cuts would add greater cohesion.