2.22.2011

Upon watching The Tale of Tsar Saltan

Bumble-bee ballerino, CGI swan-woman/hawk-man fight club, unfortunate lip-syncing, BBC Narniaesque squirrel, cat, monkey, and parrot, and a general look of derangement and over-acting! And it's only Tuesday night!
Alright. I had to get it out. The truth is that there is no other way to see any sort of production of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tale of Tsar Saltan and of the Famous and Mighty Hero Prince Gvidon and the Beautiful Swan-Princess, this side of the Urals! I've tried! In the end I was elated to find a DVD of a production by the Dresden State Opera. As far as I can tell it's a 1996 production. It's the German Version, and there's no subtitle option. Then an editor goes and adds Neufassung which essentially means cuts, cuts, cuts and a full length opera down to 98 minutos.
PictureThe upside? Yes. There is one. I'm studying this particular opera for Jane's Music in the Romantic Era class. It's led me to biographies of Pushkin, familiarity with the Aarne-Thompson folklore categories, the elusive and sanctimonious "yat" (Ѣ), and the eternal challenge of nationalism (narodnost). All that lacked was an actually encounter with the music. For the chance to experience this opera, I am grateful to the pipe dream that led to Dresden Opera's production. (Really, how many blue screens is enough!?!) Also, this production gives us the same frustration that plagued Nicolai in all of his fifteen operas: extensive cuts, mostly at the whim of the conductor, to save time.
Last of all, as strange as it sounds, this is just the sort of movie I can imagine myself watching with untoward engrossment as a child. It doesn't matter that it's auf Deutsch, I would have watched it anyway. It's of the same genre as Sesame Street with its bizarre creatures, ridiculous costumes, songs, cartoons. It's just what appeals to children. Mariinsky Theatre's production of this year (sigh, that's what I was looking for!) advertised mostly to children. It is a fairy tale. Perhaps even this DVD can bring me back.

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