■ New productions in Yakutsk: (l.) ‘Prince Igor’ and (r.) ‘Nyurgun Bootur’
Dmitry Belov’s production is sparse and didactic, with large screens providing both textual and visual perspective from sources such as Karamzin’s history and Pushkin’s play, as well as evocative realizations of the Chudov monastery, the church at Uglich, the inn by the Lithuanian border, including flashbacks to the battle of Kazan, and the domestic setting within the Kremlin. The Russian texts could easily be adapted into other languages if the production were to be toured, as it deserves to be for its clear narrative and non-judgemental direction.
The local ensemble fielded strong Russian tenors—Yury Komov as Shuisky, Roman Zavadsky as Grigory and Vladimir Kuchin as the Simpleton; properly resonant Russian basses—Nikolay Loskutkin as Pimen and Alexey Laushkin as Varlaam; and a striking Shchelkalov from Alexey Zelenkov. On this occasion Boris was a star guest, René Pape, whose softer but firm-centred basso cantante and imposing but unhistrionic presence supplied an effective contrast. He integrated well into what remained an impressive company effort, an indication of both the ambition and the native resources of Novosibirsk.
Krasnoyarsk, some 800 kilometres east of Novosibirsk, was founded by 17th-century Cossacks on a hill overlooking the river Yenisei, and is surrounded by forests that looked glorious in their golden autumn colours. Stage renovation to the 40-year-old opera house, named since April (in honour of the city’s most famous operatic son) the hvorostovsky krasnoyarsk state opera and ballet theatre, meant a later than usual start to the season, though a new Fliegende Holländer is scheduled; but I was able to view a rare exhumation of César Cui’s Prisoner in the Caucasus, based on Pushkin. It has been reimagined as an opera-ballet by Sergey Bobrov with substantial editing, but reveals an original imaginative voice from the least-known composer of the ‘mighty handful’.
Yakutsk, a further 2,200 kilometres north-east, is the capital of Yakutia or Sakha, the largest republic of the Russian Federation, covering over three million square kilometres, but home to fewer than one million inhabitants. Situated in the mountainous north-east, for much of the year with temperatures well below freezing but blessedly sunny during my visit, it enjoys an indigenous culture which is ‘beyond’ Russia.
Nevertheless, the Prince Igor that opened the season of the yakutsk state academic opera and ballet theatre on September 28 was something of a revelation. The
Opera, December 2018