Last night’s performance at the New Israeli Opera was one of the first in the series of performances that brings here the Stanislavski Opera from Moscow. It was a fine performance in my opinion, although quite a different one than the usual kind of operas the Israeli audience is accustomed with.

source http://www.israel-opera.co.il/

This is one of the operas written by Prokofiev after his return to the Soviet Union in 1935, and the only one that does not have a Russian and patriotic theme. Actually the subject resembles more the operas that Propkofiev composed earlier abroad. The libretto written by the composer and his wife Mira Mendelson is based on an 18th century play by Sheridan that inspired several operas, kind of a comedy of errors and situations, with comedia dell’arte morals and frenzy, very much in the spirit of Goldoni and Beaumarchais. The music on the other hand belongs much more to the more mature and settled period of the late Prokofiev creation – it lacks the surprises and experiments of the earlier works, but has maturity and dramatic continuity, is full and interesting all over. If the  subject is rather minor, the music is one of the best in the late operas of Prokofiev.

source http://www.israel-opera.co.il/

The performance brought to Tel Aviv (directed by Alexander Ttiel and Ludmila Naletova) takes the action almost completely out of the historical context. If there is one such context, it is rather the one of the era and place where the composer lived and created. The freedom was certainly limited for Prokofiev at that time when he found himself under the scrutiny of censorship, but the use of comedia dell’arte clowns  for all the background characters gave him the opportunity to make in movement and mime what he could not express in words. I am not sure how much of the irony about the demagogic propaganda and pseudo-heroes of the communist regime made it to the Israeli public, but at least the scene movement was expressive, and the costumes expressive and colourful. The set designed by Valentin Arefiev with bars of huge ventilators moving around the scenic space gave a feeling of openness and the occasion for a few gags, but failed to connect to the music. The singers were good almost without exception, I had the feeling that if I knew Russian I could understand any word (so stop blaming the acoustics when the singers are un-intelligible!),  they acted like a team in an opera that includes a lot of interaction, duets and multiple dialogs rather than spectacular areas, and the orchestra directed Wolf Gorelik sounded much better than usually.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ts5aLeRXrcA

(video source carissia1910)

I have found a couple of clips from two different performances of the opera – one is the overture directed by Valery Gergiev, and the second catches the fabulous Anna Netrebko in one of the duets in the first act of the opera.

(video source Eduardo2335165)