Rimsky-Korsakov’s Cockerel is built around a tension between conflicting elements. In act I the main tension is between the Tsar’s imperial authority and his stupidity. Another layer of tension is between the sublime music and the grotesque proceedings on stage. In act II there is tension between Tsaritsa of Shemakha’s exotic seductiveness and her manipulativeness and cruelty. Another layer of tension is again between her gorgeous, melodic, romantic, sensual and warm music and her cold, calculating and heartless inhumanity. In act III all these contradictions come to a head.
Director and costume designer Laurent Pelly respects the libretto and does a wonderful job directing the singers. Act I is directed as an out and out farce. Pelly pulls out all the stop on his creativity in the comic department, with impressive, very detailed guidance of the singers. The dark side is hinted at by the coal constantly covering the stage, messing clothes and faces. Things go south from here.
Cockerel’s act II is usually a very easy sell: just relax and let the gorgeous music intoxicate you; enjoy the subtle sadistic humor. I am trying hard to understand why this production’s act II bored and annoyed me to the point I wanted to give up. The very beginning and very end of the act show good touches by Pelly. However, it seems Pelly lets the dark side take over here and the esthetics are harsh and ungainly. Other than the pervasive coal, that begins to grate, the stage is dominated by an ugly metal structure, like the rusting metal skeleton of a long, giant worm. As opposed to Pelly’s hyperactive guiding hand in act I, he seems to either step back here and let the music work its magic, or he just ran out of ideas. Act II is bizarre, ugly and doesn’t make sense other than that maybe Pelly discovered that the beauty in the act hides ugliness and he shoves it in your face.
In act III Pelly steps back in with wonderful comic ideas and intelligent, sensitive working with the singers, but the delicate balance of conflicting elements is destroyed by Pelly’s inability to keep the dark side subtle.
The cast is not a visiting Russian company and is mostly undistinguished and unidiomatic. Pavlo Hunka’s Tsar Dodon is very weak: the voice is small, unattractive and lacking the crucial low notes even with the assistance of body mics. His Russian articulation is terrible: though he can maintain the distinction between soft and hard consonants and you can hear a theoretical understanding of the way Russian works, his consonants are feeble in a very English manner. This is easily the worst Tsar Dodon recorded. Dodon is one of the only two major roles in this work, and with this role, the cast has a huge hole in its center. Venera Gimadieva’s Shemakha has the notes (including the stratospheric ones) and agility, but her performance is so undermined by the ugliness of act II that it’s difficult to assess her charms. Alexander Kravets’ Astrologer possesses a powerful falsetto with resonance and vibrato - he is quite impressive (the last time I studied the score was years ago, but IIRC R-K states in introductory comments his expectations, among them that a possible suitable Astrologer is one with a strong falsetto). Agnes Zwierko as Amelfa has a heavy Polish accent and the wrong voice for the role, that is marked “contralto” and requires at least a healthy lower extension. Alexander Vassiliev’s Polkan and the princes Alexey Dolgov and Konstantin Shushakov are fine and idiomatic. The chorus, particularly the male chorus lacks the power and impact of a Russian chorus. Conductor Alain Altinoglu’s sincere efforts elicit respect. The rich score has many sudden shifts in rhythm, color, and texture, and requires a lot of attention and care from the conductor, all in evidence here (unlike Gergiev on auto-pilot in his 2014 Mariinsky Cockerel on blu-ray). He brings out many beautiful details in the score. The sound is fine, but this score has a much larger dynamic range and a weightier sound signature than is in evidence here (in other words, the sound is shitty, compressed and gave me listening fatigue). The video is first rate.
- Format: NTSC
- Language: Russian
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese
- Region: Region B/2 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 23 Mar 2018
- Run Time: 118 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B079B6TYV7
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
45,943 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #32268 in Movies (Movies & TV)