Sergei Prokofiev's opera version of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping novel (which originally appeared in serialised form in a newspaper)lends exactly the right balance of lyricism, drama and tragedy to the subject. Here are no separate arias a la Italian Opera, linked with endless recitatives. The music is a continuous line of instrument and voice changing with every scene and its context. The production gives the music and libretto its full due. It's lavish in its simplicity and vice versa. From the opening scene with Natasha and her cousin in the bedroom and the count eavesdropping outside, to opulent ball room dances and grim personal confrontations, it runs like a river in flood to the inevitability of war. Sung in the original Russian, with a number of Russian singers in the lead roles, it unfolds like the novel in chapters that are page turners. Obviously the entire novel cannot be reproduced, but score, libretto and production do it full justice. The singing is of the highest standard with Nathan Gunn and Olga Gouriakova as the star-crossed lovers excelling vocally and in acting. Vasilli Gerello as Napoleon shines, but then so do Robert Brubaker, Anatoli Koucherga and the rest of the cast. Not to forget the chorus and dancers. Hats off as well to conductor and chorus master Staging the opera is problematic as there are quite a number of soloists involved and to make the war scenes realistic virtually hundreds of chorus members are required. The set designs assist Stage Director Francesca Zambello in creating a panorama of death and destruction. So do the costumes and lighting. This is highly recommended for lovers of serious music and those who prefer Deutsche Oper (with the exception of that Night Music composer) and Russian Opera to the frills and shrills of the Italian oeuvre.
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