Borodin: Prince Igor

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Borodin
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Prince Igor
PERFORMER: Mikhail Kit, Galina Gorchakova, Olga Borodina, Gegam Grigorian, Vladimir Ognovienko, Bulat Minjelkiev, Nikolai Gassiev, Georgy SeleznievKirov Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 442 537-2 DDD
A celebration of social cohesion or a warning against the dangers of conquest and oppression? As if a reflection of the current uncertainty in the former Soviet republics, this new Prince Igor hedges its bets rather nicely, providing choral participation robust enough to hearten even the most unreconstructed Marxist and finely sung and searchingly characterised assumptions of the royal protagonists to set the hearts of present-day pretenders to the Russian throne throbbing with anticipation. It also brings a degree of western refinement to the more earthy aspects of Russian performance practice such as one might expect from the more European-looking Kirov Opera whence this recording hails.

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But it’s more than just a fine performance. In its attempt to get back to Borodin’s original intentions, it marks a significant step forward towards stripping away a progressive ‘westernisation’ of the opera itself. Ironically, ‘westernisation’ in this context means Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov, who orchestrated much of the music, reversed the order of Acts I and II and did a general cleaning-up job to make it more ‘acceptable’ to a wide audience. We’ll never know what Borodin’s final thoughts about Igor would have been had he lived to see it onto the stage and through the press, but this new version is perhaps as close to an authentic text as we can currently hope for. It certainly makes musical and dramatic sense and in this splendid performance should win the opera many new friends. Antony Bye