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Prokofiev Betrothal in a Monastery


Nikolai Gassiev, Alexander Gergalov, Anna Netrebko, Larissa Diadkova, Evgeny Akimov, Marianna Tarassova, Sergei Alexashkin
Kirov Opera Chorus & Kirov Opera Orchestra/Valery Gergiev


Philips DVD 074 3076 [1998 157 mins]


This genial buffo comedy has, to my loss, passed me by. It finds Prokofiev in a relaxed mood and at the height of his inventive powers. The music, composed around the same time as Cinderella, flows with ear catching melody and deft orchestration, perfectly balanced with the voices in this admirable Kirov filming.

Being based upon The Duenna, Sheridan's popular comedy about three couples who finally plight their troths after a double elopement and a variety of disguises and mistaken identities, it is hard to understand why it is so neglected in UK?

The film is great fun, with well behaved nuns and riotous monks thrown in for good measure. It demands extravagant staging which we have on this DVD, which seems to be of the same 1998 performance (or at least filmed from the same production) as the well received Philips release on 3 CDs.*

Anna Netrebko is a delectable Louisa, and Marianna Tarassova brings romantic warmth into her yearning for Ferdinand (Alexander Gergalov). Larissa Diadkova (the Duenna who gets the man with the fortune) has a rich, fruity tone and hams it up when responding to her ridiculously bearded and vain suitor Isaac Mendoza (Sergei Alexashkin, pictured), leaving the coast clear for the young lovers to get together....

The drunken monks in Act 4 are hilarious, with a gaunt, slender bass who steals their scene. The extravagant costumes are joyous to behold in this no-expenses-spared production. I'd have liked some audience reaction, but many don't.

Full texts, of course, in nearly every language and easy-to-read subtitles; how can anyone still be satisfied with opera CDs?

*Prokofiev Betrothal in a Monastery This recording makes this Opera seem like a masterpiece (C R, Amazon December 2001)

© Peter Grahame Woolf