August Everding's 1985 production returns after a 12 year absence. When the production opened the New York Magazine commented that "August Everding's incisive direction clearly delineates the opera's three basic themes, divisive forces that were tearing Russia apart in the 1680s, just before Peter the Great took over the throne and established his New Order." They stated that "Everding's keen perception of how the characters clash, and Mussorgsky's disturbing insights into political conflicts dictated by human stupidity-it all strikes home hard, and as a result the opera has never seemed so relevant." Unfortunately I have not seen this production so it is hard for me to comment on what the production looks like.
The imposing mezzo soprano Olga Borodina brings her acclaimed portrayl of Marfa to the Met. Borodina who is known for being difficult has one of the most imposing stage presences in opera today. While not the most talented of actresses she has the capability of bringing the audience to her and making the rest of the cast on stage be forgotten. In the past years Borodina's voice has grown in size. A few years ago she would be able to sing Rossini with success but today her voice is dark and heavy, almost like a contralto. The most impressive part of her voice are her low notes which are vibrant and dark as well as her mezza voce which she is able to express and phrase with perfection. Her technique is impeccable and she makes everything sound easy even if she is on an off day. Borodina is one of the most radiant and exciting mezzo's singing today. Below is a clip of what audiences will be hearing of her interpretation of Marfa which she sang a few years ago at the Marinsky theater.
Ildar Abdrazakov shares the stage with his wife, Olga Borodina for the fourth time at the Met. Previously they sang Damnation of Faust and Carmen as well as in the Joseph Volpe Gala. This year Abdrazakov takes on the role of Dosifei, a role that like Ms. Borodina, he has sang at the Marinsky theater. Abdrazakov who has a dark hued voice bass has been praised for his suave lyricism and for his nice dark rolling tone. Abdrazakov is a multifaceted actor who is capable of portraying evil, suffering and even comedy. With Mussorsky's music it is the first time we see Abdrazakov take on one of his native works and it should be a pleasure to hear him sing Russian for the first time at the Met.
Vladimir Galouzine returns to the Russian repertoire after a highly praised Queen of Spades. Galouzine has been praised for his "intense, stylistically astute singing that draws audiences in." Galouzine, Russia's leading tenor has a dramatic spinto voice. The voice has heft and like Borodina and Abdrazakov's voices, is dark hued. His acting is incredible as he adds deft to each of his characters.
Rounding out the cast in the Gregorian baritone George Gagnidze who sings his first russian role at the Met. As I mention in my Tosca preview Gagnidze who made is Met debut in 2008 in the role of Rigoletto has a voice that sounds old and wobbly. The sound is mostly forced and he generally overacted. We will see how he fares with Mussorgsky's commanding music.
Mussorgsky's music is difficult and complex. At times not atonal and at time melodic. His operas are lengthy and they involve many characters that are hard to follow. While the cast is wonderful it will hard to bring newcomers to this opera. This opera is for the experienced opera fans and those who love Russian music.