Prokofiev: Betrothal in a Monastery

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Glyndebourne
ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev
WORKS: Betrothal in a Monastery
PERFORMER: Viacheslav Voynarovskiy, Andrey Breus, Lyubov Petrova, Alexandra Durseneva, Vsevolod Grivnov, Nino Surguladze, Sergei Alexashkin, Alan Opie, Jonathan Veira; Glyndebourne Chorus; London PO/Vladimir Jurowski


When advance copies of the Glyndebourne Betrothal arrived in a DVD case, my hopes were raised: had someone actually filmed Daniel Slater’s visually opulent production? Alas, no: the documentation of a vintage Glyndebourne evening is on CD only, which means you miss half the fun of Prokofiev’s razor-sharp comic music-theatre. Those not present will wonder why the audience laughs so much at certain points, but will undoubtedly share the feeling of delirious happiness as the grand finale gathers Rossinian pace. And pace is all in Prokofiev’s jam-packed homage to Sheridan’s The Duenna, especially in the difficult first scene. Vladimir Jurowski’s stitching-together of the profligate melodic and gestural patchwork is absolutely miraculous (I remember him declaring at a study day that he wanted the LPO players to know their parts by heart, and it definitely sounds as if they do). Occasionally the romantic moonshine of the young lovers could afford to breathe a little more, as it so headily does in Gergiev’s Mariinsky version (Philips); but Gergiev has nothing to offer quite like Jurowski’s theatrical sweep. Glyndebourne and Mariinsky casts are evenly matched: Jurowski’s ladies were better seen as well as heard, though Lyubov Petrova’s Louisa pitches better than Gergiev’s Anna Netrebko. Sergei Alexashkin makes a rock-solid reprise of the fish-merchant Mendoza, and Viacheslav Voynarovskiy’s mercenary father, Don Jerome, is vocally straight and lustrous; what a pity not to see his splendidly acted performance (or his tour de force on the musical glasses). Some may want more presence from the voices in what sounds like a fairly faithful reproduction of the Glyndebourne acoustic; and handfuls of short cuts make this less than complete. Still, as a record of an operatic ensemble taken to rare limits of perfection, and handsomely presented, it’s a unique experience. David Nice