Khovanshchina – Munich


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One of the great talents of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) was his unique ability to transpose words, psychological states and even physical movements into music. Although he left his opera “Khovanshchina” (The Khovansky Affair) incomplete and unorchestrated, the sheer theatricality of its musical text reveals the presence of a work that begs for a stage production. The first completion and orchestration was made by Mussorgsky’s contemporary Rimsky-Korsakov, but the more slender, powerful, raw orchestration made by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1960 is the one preferred today, and the version chosen by Kent Nagano for the Munich production recorded here.

The plot is a darkly shimmering panorama of ruthless power plays, intrigues and bloodshed in late 17th-century Russia. A nation torn by inner strife, with various factions struggling for power at court: the followers of Prince Ivan Khovansky, the leader of the Streltsys (musketeers), and those of Prince Golitsin, faithful to the tsar. Add to this the influence of various religious groups, and the action comes frighteningly close to mirroring the present-day situation in more than one country. With his stripped-down sets and historicizing costumes, director Dmitri Tcherniakov, one of the new voices of contemporary Russian theater, throws a bridge to the political present. The historical pessimism of the opera, says Tcherniakov, “is legitimated by Russian history and Russian life. Basically, nothing has changed.”

Kent Nagano superbly masters the challenges presented by this score, shapes the dynamics with subtle intensity, and casts the score in a mellow glow. As Marfa, the spurned lover of Ivan Khovansky’s son Andrey, Doris Soffel unfolds such a rich palette of sonorities, from the pathos of the lower ranges to shaded discant heights, that “one is tempted to speak of a Russian mezzo.” (Eleonore Büning, F.A.Z.)  Anatoly Kotscherga portrays the religious leader Dosifey with fervor and bluster, Klaus Florian Vogt dazzles heroically as Andrey, John Daszak is a technically flawless Golitsin, and bass-baritone Paata Burchuladze gives a charismatic, forceful account of Prince Ivan Khovansky. The final chorus, which Mussorgsky did not compose, is played in the orchestrally transparent version of Igor Stravinsky – the third great Russian composer who contributed to making “Khovantchina” a gripping stage work for all times.

Pannonia Entertainment distributes this stunning opera to cinemas across Hungary and Germany.

Conductor: Kent Nagano
Director: Dmitri Tcherniakov
Chorus: Bavarian State Opera Chorus
Orchestra: Bavarian State Opera Orchestra

Ivan Khovansky: Paata Burchuladze
Andrey Khovansky: Klaus Florian Vogt
Vasily Golitsin: John Daszak
Boyar Shaklovity: Valery Alexejev
Dosifey: Anatoli Kotscherga
Marfa: Doris Soffel
Old Believers: Helena Jungwirth, Lana Kos, Anaïk Morel

Opera in five acts
Sung in Russian

From National Theater Munich
Recorded 2009

Running Time: 174 min
Act 1 – 40 min | Act 2 – 27 min | Act 3 – 40 min | Act 4 – 33 min | Act 5 – 24 min
Suggested Intermission between Act 3 & Act 4

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