Rimsky-Korsakov: May Night

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Rimsky-Korsakov
LABELS: Chant du Monde
WORKS: May Night
PERFORMER: Vyacheslav Potchapski, Vitaly Taraschenko, Natalia Erasova, Marina Lapina, Alexandre Arkhipov Sveshnikov Academic Choir, Orchestra/Andrey Chistiakov
CATALOGUE NO: RUS 288103/04 DDD
Sadly, this superbly melodious score has become a rarity in the West, and DG’s Soviet recording (1971, under Fedoseyev) has likewise lapsed from the catalogue. An encounter – especially for those unable to see this month’s Wexford Festival production – is therefore welcome. As with the two-CD set of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve a few years ago, the vocal performance here is credited to ‘soloists of the Bolshoi Theatre’ rather than to the Bolshoi as such.

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We are in Gogol’s Ukraine, where doomed water-nymphs and low-comedy villagers co-exist, as do folk music and scholarly counterpoint in Rimsky’s score. If the lyrical roles of the lovers (Erasova, Taraschenko) are no more than decently sung, the comic rusticity comes in admirable style with Arkhipov as the (tenor) distiller setting a model. Though some listeners will find the orchestral part unduly subordinate to the voices, the recording conveys a good sense of spatial action. Under Chistiakov’s lively baton, here is pleasure for any devotee of Russian opera. Original (transliterated) text and English translation are provided. Arthur Jacobs