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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhausting! Exhilarating!, 30 Aug 2003
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This review is from: Prokofiev: The Fiery Angel (Audio CD)
I didn't think this would be 'my kind' of opera - I usually prefer something more lyrical. This is just one of the most fantastic, disturbing, challenging, exhilarating, exhausting things I've ever listened to. Gorchakova is absolutely breath-taking, in fact it could almost be distracting, to sit and wonder how on earth she manages it all. The final scene in the convent is just beyond words, I felt like I was sitting jaw-dropped for a long time afterwards. It will be a long time before I listen to this opera again, not because I didn't like it but because it is such a profound experience. Phew!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This opera is simply one of the best I have heard in ages, 29 Aug 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Prokofiev: The Fiery Angel (Audio CD)
I brought this opera not having heard any of it before. The only piece of operatic music I had heard by Prokofiev before was the March from the Love for Three oranges. It was such a suprise to me, I fell in love with it.The music is very atmospheric, each character has a particular theme that is used to represent them. The music is not very melodic, but it is not like Schoenberg, there is a distinct tonal centre. The singers perform this very well, it is so nice to hear a Russian opera sung only by Russians. Any one who likes the opera should try and listen to Duke Bluebeards Castle by Bartok which is quite similar, although not quite as good.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SANCTOBULORUM PERIPHRASTICON..., 15 Oct 2011
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DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Prokofiev: The Fiery Angel (Audio CD)
This is a very good audio cd of the Fiery Angel. I have no reservations worth mentioning about any of the singing by the large cast, nor about the playing or Gergiev's direction. The liner is first-class as well, and while the sound is not as rich as I might have liked, I am not bothered enough by that to reduce the 5-star rating. What really bothers me is that this is an opera that demands staging. However good it is in sound alone, I am simply reviewing and rating the wrong thing.

Given this basic difficulty, which is outwith the scope of this review, a lot of the enjoyment any of us can get from the set is going to depend on what kind of sense we make of the story. It is really more about mediaeval Christianity, featuring angelic apparitions, diabolical possession, cabalistic books, the occult, a convent and an exorcism that gets seriously out of hand than it is about the ostensible story of the raving Renata and the rule-bound Ruprecht. Even in mediaeval times there were authors willing to send up the rigmarole of holy incantations, and I hope my memory over 40+ years is still accurate in recollecting such a quote from Marlow's Faustus to use as my caption. Marlow's mockery was humorous, but here we have another story, also featuring Faustus rather unexpectedly, which is anything but humorous. I myself understand Valery Bryusov's tale that so fascinated Prokofiev to be a sustained and savage parody of the whole ghastly rigmarole that was mediaeval Christianity. Prokofiev lets fly with everything he has got at the incantations in the exorcism, but the whole culture had sex on the brain (not the right place for sex), and it was obsessed with control of people's minds. On my understanding, namely that the narrative is a frontal attack on this mindset and not just another gothick yarn, Renata's constant 180-degree turns in her rantings make perfect sense. I have seen the storyline criticised for being disconnected tableaux, but that is not how I read it. Renata's series of obsessions is cumulative, leading to the convent via an effective guest appearance from Mephistopheles and Faust, and shedding the patient and plodding Ruprecht when there is nothing more to keep him in the plot.

The music similarly does not seem to get into its stride until we get the early narrative stuff behind us and find ourselves in Koeln with its unfinished Dom (which the liner unaccountably keeps mentioning). Until then we have been accompanying poor Ruprecht in his struggles to make sense of Renata. Leiferkus does an excellent job with his part such as it is, and indeed it is a big part in the basic sense of giving him plenty to sing. Sadly the lack of melodic or lyric interest makes all this seem to me longer than it really is, Leiferkus or no Leiferkus. However once set the composer loose on the occult stuff for real, and we are in business. Everyone seems unanimous in commending Gorchakova in the part of Renata, and let me join in that wholeheartedly. The male roles that interest me a lot more than Ruprecht does are Mephistopheles and the Inquisitor. Mephisto himself is, interestingly and effectively, a tenor part, which I think a brilliant inspiration on the composer's part, because it captures the pantomime devil-in-red-tights side of his portrayal. Konstantin Pluzhnikov has the idea absolutely, and so has Vladimir Ognovenko as the frantic Inquisitor, totally out of his depth in the final maelstrom.

It is a large cast and they really all do very well. My collection of Kirov/Gergiev operas on disc (even Sadko on DVD) is still smallish, but my confidence in what to expect grows with every successive acquisition, including this one. How you will like the sound I'm not too sure. I thought it a little lacking in bloom when I started listening, but my ear adjusted, as happens, and after a while I had forgotten my reservations, as also tends to happen. It is all very clear, at least. The liner is a de luxe effort, with a good introductory essay by Robert Layton, a detailed synopsis of the plot (indispensable, I'd say), photos of the main movers and shakers, and the full libretto in Russian printed using Roman characters, and translated into three languages.

I just wish I had thought to do what I did with Sadko, and got it all on DVD. This was a live performance (there is applause at the end of each disc), so presumably it was videorecorded and not just in sound. Maybe I have managed to help a little in the interpretation of the plot, depending on whether you think the way I do about it, and there can surely be little dispute about the set's quality in other respects. However if you decide to go for it, go for the real deal.
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, if disturbing neglected 20th cent. masterpiece, 16 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Prokofiev: The Fiery Angel (Audio CD)
Nuf said. The performance is incisive, performed by those who have the music in the blood.
Gergiev can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, this recorded performance demonstrates why.
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Prokofiev: The Fiery Angel
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