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Alexander Borodin's Opera Prince Igor- A Colorful Russian Historical Epic

  Lately,I've been listening to a superb recording of the opera Prince Igor by the Russian composer Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), who was actually an amateur composer better known during his lifetime as a distinguished scientist and professor of Chemistry , and who wrote melodious and colorful music in his spare time, with some help by other Russian composers such as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  It's a three CD Philips recording with Valery Gergiev and the forces of the Maryinsky opera in St.Petersburg ,and I recommend it highly.

  Prince Igor deals with an episode of 12th century Russian history which was recounted in a  epic poem called the story of Igor's Host. Prince Igor is the opera's hero, Ruler of the Russian city of Putivl, and who leads his valiant army against marauding Turkic tribesmen known to the Russians as the Polovetzians. You may have heard the famous Poloivetzian Dances, which is an excerpt from the opera sometimes performed in concert,with or without chorus.

  And you may also find some of the melodies familiar,as they were taken from the opera in the 20th century for use in the musical Kismet.  When Borodin died suddenly in 1887 at the age of only 53, he left the opera in an incoherent mass of sketches, and his friend Rinsky-Korsakov,famous for his own operas on Russian subjects and the oriental suite Scheherezade for orchestra, was able to complete it and orchestrate it with the help of his pupil Alexander Glazunov,who later became a well-known composer in his own wright, and it was premiered with considerable success in St.Petersburg in 1890.

  Prince Igor  has been popular in Russia ever since, but has had only a limited number of productions in Europe and America, often in translation .  It consists of a prelude and four acts, and when it opens, the people of Putivl are threatened by the invading Polovetzians,led by the fierce but gallant Khan Konchak.  Igor and his army are are temporarily defeated by the invaders, and Igor and his son are taken captive. 

  But the Khan is so impressed by Igor's courage that he treats him more as an  honored guest than a prisoner, and offers to relase him and his son if he promises to give up the battle against the Polovetzian horde.  To complicate matters, Igor's son and the Khan's daughter fall in love and plan to elope! 

  The famous Polovetzian dances occur when the Khan has his people entertain Igor and his army leaders with tribal songs and dances.  But Igor and his son are able to escape with the help of a Polvetzian who has secretly converted to Russian orthodoxy, and they return to Putivl to the joyous reception of the populace and Igor's wife Yaroslavna, who is his son's stepmother.In the meantime, Yaroslavna's libertine brother prince Galaitzky had been in charg eof things temporarily, and living a merry life of debauchery.  The opera ends triumphantly, but the outcome of the struggle with the marauding Turkish hordes remains uncertain at the end . 

  The action of the opera is somewhat statioc and episodic, but the music is irresistably colorful,melodious and sweeping.  As well as the Gergiev recording, there a several DVDs of the opera available at arkivmusic.com , the best internet website for classical CDs and DVDs.  And the Metropolitan opera is planning to do a production of Prince Igor in 2113 to be conducted by Valery Gergiev, which is wonderful news indeed.

Posted: Aug 31 2010, 06:26 PM by the horn | with no comments
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