Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Metropolitan Opera Premieres Brand New Production Of Tchaikovsky's Ukrainian -Themed Opera Mazeppa

Last night, Monday, the Metropolitan Opera, in New York City, gave the first performance of its visually stunning new production -- designed by Moscow-trained, New York City-based visionary sculptor and stage artist George Tsypin -- of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's grand opera Mazeppa (Tchaikovsky co-wrote the libretto with Victor Burenin), which is based both upon a pivitol episode in Russian/Ukrainian history and a dramatic poem by the leading Russian 19th century poet Alexander Pushkin.

The story is about a 17th century Ukrainian nationalist, Mazepa [in the Ukrainian spelling] who breaks with the Russian Czar, Peter the Great, siding instead with the invading Swedes, and who also falls in love with a friend’s daughter - a younger woman. This alliance brings the Ukrainian hero's downfall when Peter the Great is triumphant in the famous battle of Poltava [located in Central Ukraine]. The opera premiered virtually simultaneously, in 1884, in the two cultural capitals of [Saint] Petersburg and Moscow, Russia; and has remained continuously until today in the repertoires of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian Opera Houses.

This new Metropolitan Opera production -- a trailblazing co-production with one of Europe's leading opera houses, the Mariinksy Theater Opera/Kirov Opera/Russian National Opera Petersburg -- is conducted by Valery Gergiev and features a stellar cast of, largely, Slavic opera singers from the former Republics of the Soviet Union, headed by Guryakova, Diadkova, Evseeva, Savova, Balashov, Putilin, and Burchuladze.

There are seven more performances of this new production at the Metropolitan Opera House through March 30; before the production is taken to Petersburg, Russia. Additionally, there will be an international radio broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday, March 18, matinee production of the opera.

Last Saturday, Humanities and Foundation executive Robert Marx, speaking at the Metropolitan Opera House, announced that Josef Stalin would be making a surprise "appearance" in the new staging designed by George Tsypin. However, Mr Tsypin did not want to say anything further about this before a generalist, international radio audience. Josef Stalin is particularly despised in Ukraine, where the second Soviet leader engineered famines which killed between six and seven million Ukrainians in the 1930s. [This surprise appearance was hinted at in the MET Opera brochure, but not on the Web-site.]

A more traditional Tchaikovsky Mazeppa was played by the Mariinsky Opera (Kirov Opera) at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1998 and at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C., in 2004. According to the Mariinsky Opera 2003 Program Book, that traditional production had been in the Mariinsky Theater warehouses for several decades and was warmly received when revived in the 1990s. That beautiful and traditional Mariinsky Opera Theater/Kirov Opera/Russian National Opera Petersburg Mazeppa production is available for viewing on DVD (and for auditioning on CD).

For the full story and an audio sample to Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa (Mazepa), please see:


On the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, see for example:



George Tsypin's new book "GEORGE TSYPIN OPERA FACTORY: Building in the Black Void" was published by Princeton Architectural Press in October of 2005.


Mr Tsypin's Mariinsky/Russian National Opera Peterburg production of Wagner's Ring will be performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in July 2007.

A George Tsypin set design for Oliver Messiaen's operatic masterpiece, Saint Francis of Assisi. Will Peter Gelb bring George Tsypin's or Daniel Libeskind's production of the Messiaen operatic masterpiece to the New Metropolitan Opera House?

Image credit: (c) George Tsypin www.polyhymnion.org/tsypin/gallery1.html With thanks.


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