14 June 2009

Disc 14 Operas - The Nightingale & Mavra

The Nightingale is an opera in 3 acts based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen with a libretto in Russian by Stravinsky and S M Mitusov. This recording was made in 1960 with the Chorus and Orchestra of the Opera Society of Washington DC.

Wikipedia has a summary of the story.

Track 1 is the first act, in which the nightingale makes its appearance.

The music. At first, the music sounded Debussy-esque - a kind of languidness, that's similar to Pelleas & Melisande. But before long, you can hear echoes of the Rite of Spring, perhaps as the Russian language imposes itself upon the music. In Act 2 there's some clear chinoiserie (unsurprisingly), but it soon becomes obvious Stravinsky.

I'm listening to the piece for the first time as I type this, and I really like it. I'm now on the "Song of the Nightingale", sung here by Reri Grist. It's remarkable how unmimetic it is. The voice has a very thin tone, actually quite unalluring. Beautiful rather than pretty. (And I've now looked up Reri Grist on wikipedia and am surprised she's not better known - one of the first Black American classical singers.)

Mavra is an opera buffa in one act based on Pushkin - libretto by Boris Kochin. This recording was made in 1964 with the CBC Symphony Orchestra. The wikipedia entry gives the basic information, including the fact that this dates from 1922, an early work in IS's neo-classical period.

It is contained within one track (14) of the CD. The music is very much like the neo-classicism of Dumbarton Oaks, for example, but the songs are very Russian-folk. The story appears to be a very folkish tale. The WP article says that IS valued this work highly, but it's hard to see why, unless, perhaps, one is Russian.