Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: The Love for Three Oranges
PERFORMER: Mikhail Kit, Evgeny Akimov, Larissa Diadkova, Alexander Morozov, Konstantin Pluzhnikov, Vassily Gerello, Larissa Shevchenko; Kirov Chorus & Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 462 913-2

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It’s a mystery that this magical, futurist opera has been so little recorded. It may be best known for its visual imagery and stage trickery, most famously the giant princess-disgorging oranges. But it has equally a score that if not exactly rich in melody (the famous March notwithstanding) is compelling in its absurdity, originality and wit. The only other available version, Kent Nagano’s 1989 account with the Opéra de Lyon, though well played and decently sung, suffers from unsubtly exaggerated characterisation. It’s also disadvantaged by being in French – the language in which the opera was first performed but not written – and nothing like so suited to its rhythms and inflections as guttural, consonant-rich Russian. Recorded live at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, this is the Kirov at its considerable best. The Love for Three Oranges is very much an ensemble piece thanks to the sheer size of the cast – 16 soloists, and a sprawling crowd of Eccentrics, Tragicals, Comicals, Lyricals etc, who interrupt and control the action like a Greek chorus – and the absence of dominant leads. And here there is a very real sense of a company at work. Even so there are star turns: the peerlessly dramatic Larissa Diadkova as the evil, manipulative Clarissa; Anna Netrebko as Ninetta; the towering bass Mikhail Kit as the King; and the plangent tenor Evgeny Akimov as the miserable Prince. Needless to say, the orchestra under Gergiev plays superbly, the score’s intrinsic percussiveness precisely to the fore, but never at the expense of its lyricism. Claire Wrathall