Monday, February 20, 2006

No Italian Futurist Killing Machine Turandot At The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts

Yesterday, Sunday, the Kirov Opera/Mariinsky Opera - Saint Petersburg/Russian National Opera - Petersburg, under the visionary leadership of Valery Gergiev, opened its fourth of ten consecutive annual guest winter visits to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C. While previous visits have featured the great operas Khovanshchina, Eugene Onegin, MacBeth, Sadko (extract), Mazepa [the Kirov/Russian National Opera Petersburg, unlike the Metropolitan Opera/Metropolitan National Opera in New York City, respects the Ukrainian spelling of this historical figure's name], and last year's stunning new production of the original version of Boris Godunov -- this winter Maestro Gergiev's company is bringing to Washington fairly new, though fairly conservative, productions of Parsifal [1997] and Turandot [2002].

[The Metropolitan Opera House has hosted the best of this great company's stunning new productions -- the best in the world? -- including The Fiery Angel, War and Peace, Semyon Kotko [like Mazepa, a Ukrainian-themed opera by the Ukraine-born composer Sergei Prokoviev, who, interestingly pursued freedom of operatic creation in Russia, the United States, and the Soviet Union], and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maid Fervronia. [I saw all of these except for The Fiery Angel.]

Interestingly, the Kirov/Russian National Opera - Petersburg, unveiled two new productions of Puccini's twentieth century masterpiece Turandot, in 2002 -- one with American funding (the one seen here in Washington, D.C. three times this week) and a more modern, experimental production, by David Pountney, which was co-produced with the Opera House of Baden-Baden, Germany, with German funding; and which included a recomposition of the ending by the great late twentieth century composer Luciano Berio.

The Kirov/Baden-Baden production is available on DVD, and can best be described as a production which envisions old Peking (Beijing), China, as a grand Italian futurist killing machine [the opera was completed in 1924 and premiered in 1926, at a time when futurism, constructivism, and the the DADA [YesYes] art movement was raging across the urban capitals of post World War I Europe. See the National Gallery of Art's new DADA exhibition, which opened yesterday, for further context.]

I recommend the Kirov/Baden-Baden DVD production (filmed in Salzburg, Austria) for those who like their opera in the 21st century hot and spicy (or who can't afford the Kirov/Russian National Opera - Petersburg, at the Kennedy Center. Please check your library for this DVD.) I'm going to wager than when the Kirov/Russian National Opera - Petersburg brings Turandot to the New Metropolitan Opera House, they will bring the 2002 hot and spicy version.


Also now available on DVD is the new Baden-Baden Opera House of Germany co-production of Parsifal, with stunning costumes and visual design; and conducted by leading American conductor Kent Nagano and featuring the highly distinguished American singer Thomas Hampson as Amfortas. This production will seen in San Francisco, Chicago, and London; as well as Baden-Baden. (The 1997 Parsifal which will be seen in Washington twice starting tomorrow, was originally mounted for Placido Domingo with British funding.)

The 2002 Kirov/Russian National Opera-Petersburg co-production with the Opera House of Baden-Baden, Germany, as seen at the Salzburg, Austria Festival.

This is the more radical of the two 2002 Kirov/RNOP productions of Puccini's Turandot -- the one truer to the context of the opera's creation in 1924. It will not be seen in Washington, D.C.

Photo credit: With thanks.


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