Betrothal in a Monastery Import
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Prokofiev composed his last complete opera, Betrothal in a Monastery, as the Nazis were invading Russia and the country descended into a period of political repression and terror. However, the opera, a romantic comedy loosely based on Richard Sheridan's 1775 play, The Duenna, was according to Shostakovich `one of Prokofiev's most radiant and buoyant works'. Betrothal in a Monastery highlights the cultural divisions between the faded glamour of the impoverished aristocracy and the new wealth of the lower classes. Ostensibly the plot concerns the trials of two pairs of lovers, Louisa and Antonio, and Clara and Ferdinand, but ultimately it is the fishmonger, Mendoza, who in the great tradition of the anti-hero, wins our empathy. The predominantly Russian cast is led by Viacheslav Voynarovskiy, with Sergei Alexashkin as Mendoza. Alexandra Durseneva sings The Duenna, with the two sets of lovers sung by Vsevolod Grivnov (Don Antonio), Lyubov Petrova (Louisa), Andrey Breus (Ferdinand), and Nino Surguladze (Clara) making her notable Glyndebourne debut. Established UK artists Alan Opie (Don Carlos) and Jonathan Veira (Father Augustine) make up the cast. Recording of rarely performed work with consummate Russian conductor and cast. **Contains full libretto translated from the original Russian (Cyrillic) into English, French and German. **Extensive accompanying booklet including a commissioned article about the opera, and a synopsis in English, French and German. **Recorded live at Glyndebourne on 12, 15 & 22 August 2006. **2 discs in 250-page hard-bound book.
much melody. However, the performance is quite spirited, so anyone
looking for a good reading of this particular work will be happy. The price was
right, too. What really mattered to me was the libretto, because beside the
English, French, and German translations this label gives us the Russian
in the Cyrillic alphabet. This is very unusual nowadays. Labels have stopped
printing the Russian words in Russian, relying entirely on cumbersome and
unreadable transliterations. For that reason alone I give the five stars. (But
this really is a stylish performance as well.)
As to this recording, the singers are a bit recessed and can probably be bettered for beauty of sound -- I'm unfamiliar with the Gergiev recording-- but the cast is solid and the vocal acting excellent. The women generally do have fine voices, the men less so (particularly Vsevolod Grivnov, the young hero). The conducting of Vladimir Jurowski is extremely lively and engaging (and funny); I don't see how it could be bettered, by Gergiev or anyone else. (And his name is on both the front and back of the album, as well as inside; I don't understand what the other reviewer was fussing about.) The sound of the recording itself is fine, for compact disks. All in all, a wonderful investment for anyone who loves opera, comedy, and/or Prokofiev.