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Volume 14 - Issue 2 - October 2008

On OperaThe Personal and

On OperaThe Personal and the Political:Prokofiev's War and Peace on DVDby Phil Ehrensaftm£infqnia1oronloNURHAN ARMANMUSIC DIRECTORTo r o nto '

There are no fewer than fifty-nine scored vocal parts in this toweringwork of art, not to mention all those choristers and dancers!Until the Soviet Union collapsed, War and Peace was not terriblywell known outside of Russia. This was the seventh of Prokofiev'seight operas , ranging from Maddalena (1911-13) through The Storyof a Real Man (1947-48) . Of them, only The Love for Three Oranges(1919) had significant currency among late twentieth century audiencesand opera houses. In the latter case, a successful premiere inChicago opened up the door for European performances, and thusaudience acceptance of this fine work.That changed from the 1990s onwards when major opera housestackled Prokofiev's massive masterpiece. The standouts performanceswere: a highly successful Metropolitan Opera/Kirov joint venture;a more-than-major new production at the Opera de Paris markingboth the new millennium and the international status of the company'snew quarters de the Place de la Bastille; and, most recently, ajoint production between the English National Opera, the CanadianOpera Company, and the Minnesota Opera.A consensus is emerging among both audiences and critics thatWar and Peace is not only one of the great Russian operas, but oneof the great operas in the repertoire, period.Readers who wish to prepare for and/or recall the revival of theENO-COC production this month have a choice between two liveperformances on double-DVD sets: the Kirov, under the baton ofValery Gergiev, in the full 1957 version on a Kultur reissue of whatwas originally a 1991 Phillips VHS ; or the brilliantly staged butmodestly cut Opera de Paris (OdP) millennium tour de force, forTDK!Naxos, which also includes 80 generous and valuable minuteson all that does into staging an opera on this scale.A study in contrasts between complementary creations is an aptphrase for the respective DVDs. Let's take it in chronological order.Kultur opera titles tend towards the KISS approach: we get an importantperformance, often a licensed reissue, with few if any notes orsupplemental "making of" video tracks. Both the video and the audiotracks tend towards competent transfers as opposed to systematicremastering. That yields a rich catalog of opera titles which sell formodest prices.In the case of War and Peace, plus tax gets us the foremostconductor of this work, Gergiev. We have the ability to decide forourselves whether the massive war choruses and patriotic processionsthat are often cut from contemporary performances were forcedpropagandistic inclusions, orsome of the best music in theopera. I tend to the latter view,Attention: Opera Singersfor reasons that I explain below.The singing and acting, as onewould expect of the Kirov, rangesfrom very good indeed tooutstanding. On the other hand,the excellent staging and costumingtakes place against anindustrial minimalist backdropthat is wearying.The OdP takes us into differentterritory: the resources toassemble a creme de la cremeDo you have a dream rolethat you want orneed to perform?It is easier than you think!More info: www.OperabyRequest.caaper~ by requestD1reclar Wilham Shookhoff2008 -2009((};;eJ(,(J; IS CoursesTours & SeminarswithIain ScottINTRODUCTORY COURSESAll courses are held on Tuesdays 2.30-4.30 or 7.00- 9.00at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, 141 St. George St.Opera 101 - ItalianBasic fundamentals you must knowOpera 102 - Other Forms of OperaKey things to listen for in French, Germanand Russian operas3 APPRECIATION COURSESOct. 28 to Nov. 11, 20083 Weeks I 0Nov. 18 - Dec. 2, 20083 Weeks I 0Basses, Buffos, and Baritones Sept. 16 - Oct. 7, 2008Insights into gods, priests, fathers and friends 4 weeks I 0Bel Canto Techniques Jan. 13 - Feb. 3, 2009Astonishing gymnastic control 4 weeks I 0Maria Callas - an operatic legend Feb. 24 - March 17, 2009Her tragedy, innovations, rivals and her men 4 weeks I 0OPERA TOURS IN 2008 - 2009with New Wave Travel. Itineraries are on website below.Strauss Week in Berlin (5 operas) 7 nights, Feb. 9 - 16, 2009Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne au! Naxos, Die Aegyptische Helena, Salome & ElektraBerlin, Leipzig, Dresden (5 operas) 9 nights, April 16 - 25La Traviata, Macbeth - La Ron dine - Die Zauberfliite, La Cenerentola• Post-Option: Prague, Apr. 25-28, Eugene Onegin, Le Nozze di FigaroRoyal Opera and Ballet, Covent Garden 7 nights, May 6 -14Lohengrin, II Trovatore, L'E/isir d'Amore - Les Sy/phides, Firebird* Post-Option: Paris, May 13-16, Eugene Onegin, The Makropoulos CaseLa Scala, Milan! Verona! Venice! 8 nights, June 24 - July 2New Zeffirelli Aida - Turandot & Carmen - Giitterdiimmerung* Pre-Option: Turin, 2 nights, June 22 • 24, Adriana Lecouvrieur2 WEEKEND SEMINARSThe Soaring Sopranos of Richard Strauss Sept. 26- 28With Kathleen Promane, Allison Arends and Kate Carver Fri. - Sun.At the Inn at ManitouLohengrin -Angelic Knight in Shining Armour Jan. 24 - 25, 2009At the Rosedale Golf Club 10 - 4 pm daily w. lunches I 0SUMMER WEEKEND COURSEThe Trojan War in OperaAt Classical PursuitsMon. - Fri., July 13 -17, 20093 - 5 pm daily I 0WWW, THEWHOLENOTE.COM 21

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