Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Prokofiev - War and Peace

Kirov Opera/Gergiev
Nicolai Othotnikov, Alexander Gergalov, Yelena Prochina, and Gegam Gregorian

Arthaus 100 370 [2 DVDs, 248 mins]

The Kirov production, filmed live in St Petersburg 1991, is a good record of an opera which took many years in the making and will always remain problematical. Some viewers may be surprised that the sets are economical and tend towards the minimalist, not quite what one expects from Russia. It is episodic, in 13 scenes, and for me more persuasive in Peace than at War.

Many of the scenes seem to go through the motions of setting the given text to music, but are 'manufactured' rather than composed from the heart with a pressing impetus. I had similar feelings in a more elaborate production at ENO which was highly regarded.

The singing is strong and Gergiev, who has done all Prokofiev's operas and (recently) a complete cycle of the symphonies with the LSO, is authorative; the choral sections are imposing. I didn't find myself fully engaged until Scene 3 in which Prchina is affecting as Natasha and there are muted confrontations between the two families, with their conflicting thoughts conveyed by interior monologues in a spare and formal setting.

The paradox is that whilst the opera assumes that its Russian audience will be closely familiar with Tolstoy's vast masterpiece, for British readers is likely to suggest that little is to be gained by having it truncated and transferred to the theatre.

I am not really the right critic for this opera, a key work in Prokofiev's later career, and one which has its devotees.

Reviews seen suggest
that the Bertini/Zambello version (Paris Opera 2000) with Gunn, Kit, Mamsirova, Gouriakova & Brubaker is a superior DVD, despite cuts, but with the advantage of some 80 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. Although filmed in Paris it is apparently not available for UK regional settings, a pitfall for cpmparative reviewing and for advising prospective purchasers unless they have all-region DVD players.


© Peter Grahame Woolf