Music

Starry nights and Russian opera

Music maestro: Mikhail Shekhtman

Music maestro: Mikhail Shekhtman  

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After originating in Italy and slowly spreading to the Austro-German region, opera arrived in Russia in the early 1730s, becoming popular in the 19th century Romantic era. Though renowned Russian composers like Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Rimmsky-Korsakov and Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote some operas, one hasn’t heard much of their rendition in India.

It was thus a fantastic idea to have the ‘Stars Of The Bolshoi’ concert at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre last Thursday. Entry was free. Though some of the popular Italian pieces were sung, and there was a good representation from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of Austria, a sizeable section of the programme consisted of Russian operatic arias.

Landmarks in music

The singers were accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra of India, led by Moscow-based guest conductor Mikhail Shekhtman. The first half was dedicated solely to Russian compositions, and the highlights were Tchaikovsky’s ‘Lensky Aria’ from his opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ and Rimmsky-Korsakov’s ‘Song Of The Indian Guest’ from ‘Sadko’. Like conductor Shekhtman, the singers – tenor Alexei Tatarintsev, soprano Antonina Vesenina, mezzo soprano Alina Yarovaya and bass Grigory Soloviov – have all performed at the Bolshoi Theatre, one of Moscow’s musical highlights.

Originally designed by architect Joseph Bove, the Bolshoi Theatre has been hosting operas and ballet performances since the early 18th century. It has had many historic premieres, including operas like Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Voyevoda’ and ‘Mazeppa’, Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘Boris Godunov’, Rimmsky-Korsakov’s ‘The Maid Of Pskov’ and Rachmaninoff’s ‘Aleko’, besides Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet Swan Lake.

Showcasing tradition

According to Shekhtman, the main aim of the concert was to showcase traditional Russian arias, and yet present some standard repertoire from other European regions. Thus, the orchestra also presented arias by Italians Giuseppe Verdi and Gaetono Donizetti, besides portions from Mozart’s opera buffa The Marriage Of Figaro and the singspiel The Magic Flute. Rachmaninoff's ‘Aleko's Aria’ from his opera, Aleko, and the orchestral finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 were played towards the end.

Shekhtman expressed happiness at more Russian arias performed in different regions. He added that besides the popular Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, there is an increasing demand for arias by Mussorgsky, Rimmsky-Korsakov, Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Alyabyev.

There’s more to come. As part of the NCPA Add Art Festival to celebrate 50 years of the institution, there will be a ballet performance by the Abay Kazakh State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet this evening. The programme will include excerpts from Frederic Chopin’s ‘Chopiniana’, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, and Aram Khachaturian’s Spartacus.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 2:25:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/starry-nights-and-russian-opera/article30117988.ece

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