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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 - 1943)
The Miserly Knight, opera in 3 scenes (1904) [65.40]
Text: Rachmaninov, after A. Pushkin.
Albert ... Richard Berkeley-Steele, tenor
Servant ... Maxim Mikhailov, tenor
Moneylender ... Viacheslav Voynarovskiy, tenor
The Duke ... Albert Schagidullin, bass
The Baron ... Sergei Leiferkus, baritone
Greed ... Matilda Leyser [non-singing pantomime role]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Recorded in high definition video by the BBC at Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes, East Sussex, UK, 11 July 2004.
DVD 9 NTSC 16:9 anamorphic. Region 0 "all regions"
LPCM 48/16 2.0 stereo. dts 5.0 surround.
DVD Extras: Cast Gallery (still panels), Illustrated Synopsis [2.35], Interviews [22.20]. Preview of Gianni Schicchi DVD [4.54]
Sung in Russian. Subtitles in English, French, Deutsch, Castellano, Italiano.
OPUS ARTE DVD OA 0919 D [95.00]

Comparison audio recording.
Neeme Järvi, Aleksashkin, Larin, Chernov, Caley, Kotscherga, Gothenburg SO [58.34] DG 453 454-2

The "Interviews" feature is actually a cinema essay on the opera with contributions by the conductor, the star singer, and the director, including excerpts from the opera. Director Arden explains how and why she added the non-singing role of Greed personified, played by aerialist Leyser, who hovers above the action like a huge grasping spider, then crawls up and down the walls of the set. Conductor Jurowski explains why this work was not well received in Russia. Rachmaninov did not follow the path laid out by Dargomyzhsky in Stone Guest, essentially an accompanied recitative where the words of the poetry were all-important, but instead followed the Tchaikovsky ("German") idea of music first, then the words. This was also the reason Chaliapin at first declined to sing the role. As a result this opera listens very well, even if you donít follow the story. Only Rachmaninovís opera Aleko attained popularity in Russia because it is more in the Dargomyzhsky mould.

In the preview of Gianni Schicchi, conductor and director explain why they made them a double bill, a single evening of opera, in that the Rachmaninov ends with the death of a miser while Gianni Schicchi begins with the death of one ó on the same set! However, you only get one opera per DVD, which on the one hand means you have to buy them separately, and on the other hand means you may buy them separately if you want one opera and donít want the other.

This production was recorded in high definition video, and hence should be available on high definition DVD in a year or so. If you have not seen high definition television you are in for a jaw-dropping experience. It is clearer than motion picture film! For opera productions like this it means much more expensive sets and costumes, more realistic acting and makeup, because of the extremely fine detail which is now visible. If you plan to upgrade to high definition television, you may want to wait and purchase this DVD in the HD mode. However, for the rest of us, there is plenty of detail on this exquisitely clear disk, it is difficult to imagine wanting more.

The Järvi performance is every bit as good a performance as the Jurowski, somewhat quicker in tempo and a little brighter in tone; the voices have a more Italian quality to them. Or maybe itís just the heavy gloom of the dark sets on the video affecting oneís perception of the music.

Depending on how you look at it this is a fine vocal tone poem; either that or a morbid verismo opera. You choose. Leiferkus gives a great performance. Innovative staging.

Paul Shoemaker

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