PERFORMER: Vladimir Galusin, Valentina Tsidipova, Marianna Tarassova, Bulat Minjelkiev, Alexander Gergalov, Gegam Grigorian, Larissa DiadkovaKirov Chorus & Orchestra, St Petersburg/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 442 138-2 DDD
How does the Kirov keep producing singers of such astonishing quality? Though none who appears here has yet established the international reputation achieved by the likes of Hvorostovsky, Leiferkus, Borodina, Prokina or Gorchakova, it can only be a matter of time.
This performance of Rimsky’s fantastical opera-bïlina (a heroic ballad) – the story of a minstrel and his love for the daughter of the King of the Sea, set mostly underwater – is outstandingly well played and sung. Gergiev conjures a magical and magnificent sound from the Kirov orchestra, and the singers are, without exception, first rate. The tenor Vladimir Galusin is heroic in the title role, striking and powerful, and Valentina Tsidipova’s honey-voiced soprano, with its gloriously fluid line, makes a ravishing Volkhova. That artistes of the calibre of Larissa Diadkova (Nezhata), Bulat Minjelkiev, Gegam Grigorian (Lensky in last year’s Royal Opera House Onegin) and Alexander Gergalov (the merchants) have such small parts is evidence of the standard of casting.
Rimsky’s sublimely lush music may verge on schmaltz – its influence on Hollywood film scores is striking; it’s no surprise that the Indian merchant’s aria is better known in the West as the Tommy Dorsey tune ‘Song of India’ – but its capacity to convey water and the movement of the ocean is both atmospheric and dazzling.
Live recordings (this was made at the Maryinsky last year) can be blighted by noise – here there are obtrusive thuds on stage, scattered snatches of applause, and the orchestra can be heard tuning up before several scenes, but these are merely minor irritants. Claire Wrathall