Your clickable banner could be here: details
   
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.

Editor: Marc Bridle

 

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

 

Google

WWW MusicWeb


Search Music Web with FreeFind



Any Review or Article


 


Seen and Heard Opera Reviews

 

Tchaikovsky, Cherevichki, Garsington Opera, 26th June 2004 (H-T W)

 

This season, and I assume, by pure coincidence, not only the Grange Park Opera, but also Garsington Opera came up with a totally unknown work by Tchaikovsky. It happened to be the first professional production in the UK of "Cherevichki", the composer’s Comic-fantastic opera in four acts to a libretto by Yakov Polonsky after Nikolai Gogol’s "Christmas Eve", sung in Russian.

"Tchaikovsky had read Gogol’s short story when he was only nine, and this tale of the love of the young smith, Vakula, for the village beauty, Oksana, had captivated him. All is set in a Ukrainian village in which live not only humans but a devil and a witch; there are funny, sometimes creepy situations aplenty; there is an aerial flight to St.Petersburg, a meeting with the empress herself who sorts everything out – and, of course, a happy ending", so writes David Brown in his informative notes in the program book.

In 1872, a competition to set this particular libretto to music gave Tchaikovsky the impulse to compose "Vakula Kusnez" (Vakula the Smith), its original title. Of course, he won the competition and the opera had its premiere at the Marinsky Theatre in St.Petersburg on the 6th December 1876. It had not been the success he had hoped for despite being revived for three consecutive years. But as this opera was exceptionally close to Tchaikovsky’s heart, he revised it considerably in 1885 and renamed it "Cherevichki" (after the high-heeled leather boots worn by Ukrainian women, but in this case also the beautiful shoes worn by the empress). The premiere, conducted by the composer himself, took place at the Marinsky on the 31st January 1887  - again without making any real impact.  Tchaikovsky wrote: "For the moment the opera arouses interest rather than affection. I think that "Cherevichki", like "Onegin", will be performed without much audience clamour – but that, little by little, people will come to love it." It sadly never happened, even if until his death he regarded this opera as his best. Reasons are many. The audience in St.Petersburg may not have been too happy about being confronted with a stage entirely filled with commoners – even the short figurant scene of the empress has no grandeur. Also, Tchaikovsky composed a Russian comic opera on a grand scale which avoids any real drama. Further, the opera is not that well structured; the first two acts are extremely long and contain a lot of fully orchestrated dialogues, while in the second half everything comes to a quick and happy conclusion.

The story is simple, but quite complex in detail. The local devil is furious how Vakula had portrayed him; he became the laughingstock for all the other devils and sets out for revenge. Together with Vakula´s mother Solokha, who is not only a witch, but also very much in demand with some of the elders in the village, they create complete darkness, let the moon disappear and come up with a huge snowstorm. They hope, to interrupt every ones normal business but do not succeed. Still, Vakula visits his adored Oksana who tells him that she will only marry him if he brings her the beautiful cherevichki the empress wears. Others find their usual way to the local inn, while the devil tries to make love to Solokha only to be interrupted by various elders, who knock on her door with the same intention. The devil and all the others hide in sacks; finally, her son Vakula arrives in a depressed mood, but she sends him home. Thinking that one of the sacks contains all his tools he carries one of them with him. Suicide seems the only solution for him. Suddenly to his surprise, the devil jumps out of his sack. With the help of a cross in his jacket Vakula wins power over the devil and forces him, to bring him to St.Petersburg and to make sure that he receives the cherevichki of the empress. Everything works out well and they rush back to their village for a sumptuous wedding.

Compared to The Grange and to Glyndebourne, both of which can perform in a purpose built opera house, Garsington has certain disadvantages. The enterprise of Leonard Ingrams to produce opera on the terrace of his Jacobean mansion means in fact open-air theatre, mainly in daylight and in front of an artificial, but weatherproof auditorium. The pit is partially hidden underneath the first rows and with fifty-four players the orchestra is slightly smaller than at The Grange. It can work well, as previous productions have demonstrated. In this case, more or less everything went wrong, the worst being the balance between the pit and the stage. "Cherevichki" is a comic opera, which needs light and lyrical voices and a chorus kept under strict control. Instead, the audience was mainly confronted with larger voices and a chorus fighting for its existence; it succeeded only in killing off the entire orchestra. Most of the evening I could not hear anything of Tchaikovsky’s delicate orchestration or of his passionate music. Some of it may have had to do with the wind direction, which can blow the sound underneath the auditorium and make the voices sound even louder.

 

Elgar Howarth is an extremely experienced conductor, especially in Garsington, where he has conducted many successes. This time, the imbalances merely seemed frustrating. The production by Olivia Fuchs turned out to be mainly silly. She tried to evoke a kind of puppet theatre, which made a farce out of most parts. What should and could have been fun looked cramped and implausible. None of the folkloristic colours came across and many scenes turned into tasteless, even kitschy caricatures – the magic was missing. I realised the effort, but the outcome was quite often painful.  "Cherevichki" deserves better and should be taken on by the Royal Opera. The only fascinating experience for me had been to realise how much of this music lives on in the Tchaikovsky arrangement K.H.Stolze created for the full-length ballet "Eugene Onegin" by John Cranko.

Hans-Theodor Wohlfahrt



Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page  


 





   

 

 

 

MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here




EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Past and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.