Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Semyon Kotko
PERFORMER: Viktor Lutsiuk, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Gennady Bezzubenkov; Kirov Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 464 605-2
It comes as no surprise that, a decade after the collapse of communism, Prokofiev’s Soviet opera should still stand up as a vibrant piece of musical theatre. Unlike those patriotic pieces written by some of his vapid contemporaries, Prokofiev’s score transcends the particular circumstances in which it was written during the late Thirties, and pierces to the heart of a truly human drama, in the tradition of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, but with a distinctive, modern pacing and Prokofievian colouring.

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On this new two-CD set Valery Gergiev and his Kirov forces underline the almost cinematic way in which scenes shift and cut. Gergiev feels instinctively the way in which Prokofiev could find the apt gesture and instrumental timbre to depict a particular incident or reaction. The performance bristles with detail and character; it is strongly cast, down to the smallest cameo part, with, among the principals, the tenor Viktor Lutsiuk heroic and ardent in the title role, the radiant soprano Tatiana Pavlovskaya as his fiancée Sofia and a classic Russian bass in Gennady Bezzubenkov as the gruff opportunist Tkachenko.

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As the clouds begin to darken, after the light-heartedness of the first two acts, Prokofiev’s and Gergiev’s creative imaginations are dynamically at one. Gergiev draws soloists, orchestra and the fine chorus into an opera which, for all its five acts, is taut and gripping in its emotional thrust. Geoffrey Norris