Rimsky-Korsakov: The Snow Maiden

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COMPOSERS: Rimsky-Korsakov
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: The Snow Maiden
PERFORMER: Elena Zemenkova, Nicola Ghiuselev, Alexandrina Milcheva; Bulgarian Radio Chorus & SO/Stoyan Angelov
CATALOGUE NO: 10 749/51
The great Russian dramatist Alexander Ostrovsky is best known to opera-goers for The Storm, his play that inspired Janácek’s Katya Kabanova. But he also provided Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov with subjects – in Rimsky’s case The Snow Maiden which, though only the third of the composer’s 15 operas, was to remain his favourite.

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Spontaneously lyrical music in The Snow Maiden (1882) points to the folkloric, pantheistic works that Rimsky would write at the height of his powers. The springtime allegory on which it is based tells of the daughter of Grandfather Frost and Bonny Spring, a beautiful girl whose icy heart only love can warm; love causes her to melt, but her ‘love-death’ redeems the long-frozen land of the Berendeyans.

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Elena Zemenkova is an affecting Snow Maiden. Most of the major roles are strongly sung, and the entire cast brings the right Slavonic sound to the proceedings. Stoyan Angelov keeps the long score moving, though the big scenes lack brilliance. There are drawbacks – tracks are listed only in German and no libretto is given – but an opportunity to hear this opera should not be missed. John Allison