5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Humanist-reformist stage director guts Mussorgsky's religious mysticism.,
This review is from: Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (Bayerisches Staatsorchester / Kent Nagano) [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
First of all, google the name Calixto Bieito and run through the first five entries, especially the one in Wikipaedia. These will give you abundant information on his track record & why not to waste your time / money on this latest one.
In his conception and staging, Bieito throws out the religious intoxication and mystical desperation definitive of the Russian masses envisaged by Mussorgsky and replaces it with his humanist, reformist message that people everywhere need a break and all rulers are remote. "Power to the People!" would solve everything. Bieito's social location is not in any special country. He's depicting a generalized trend that's been widespread in modern times. It's very reminiscent of 1984 --- both the opera and the film starring Richard Burton. This entirely satisfies Bieito. In an interview in the program notes, he acknowledges that his humanist rage at the callousness of those in power today drives his conceptions: "The core part of directing is the need to express something that's inside you and has to come out. It's a really strong need."
********* It would be better if he had a strong need to express what is inside Mussorgsky's music / vision, instead of shoving his own agenda forward and turning the production into a form of psychodrama to air his own ideas. *******
In the program notes, Bieito makes the silly statement that Mussorgsky's Boris Gudunov "depicts . . . a society that is very similar to today's, where the social, economic and cultural distinctions between a minority and a majority are steadily growing. Where the broad mass of people doesn't know why, where or by whom the decisions that affect their daily lives are made." With this orientation Bieito airily cancels Mussorgsky's Orthodox Christian vision, the delirious yearning to have Boris partake of an apotheois that will answer their needs to have a ruler saturated by the blessings of God. Bieito offers us instead a secular plea for better participatory democracy, the clean up of city hall and an end to "the acquisition of wealth at the expense of the people. . . The common people in Boris Gudunov can't rebel (because] they're like us, passive creatures, the victim of manipulation by huge economic structures." This call to revolution and a more just society is closer to Che Guevara or Rosa Luxemburg than the immersion of Mussorgsky in the mystical, religious, collective unconscious of the Russian people that's not interchangeable with populations elsewhere. A line from the chorus says, "to be Russian is to take on eternal sadness" --- this is Christian resignation without a glance toward the kind of reform so dear to Bieito and that, as he says, he personally "has this strong need to express".
Bieito's humanist message, as he spells it out in the program notes, is big hearted and humane but hardly different from any socially conscious undergraduate. That Mussorgsky should be eviscerated for it and staging set up for thugs in an alley + all purpose fascist uniforms with religion banished entirely shows us a stage director of vain glorious appetites. And the production is grotesque, hollow and ill fitting as a result.
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Initial post: 21 Apr 2014 05:52:06 BDT
What a brilliant review! It is so irritating that directors see themselves and their often misguided thinking as more important than the composer they are supposed to represent. Mussorgsky was a genius but he has been gutted here well and truly gutted!
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2014 18:15:51 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Apr 2014 18:37:29 BDT
Alas, but none of this seems to matter to the people who shell out the money. This dvd is among Amazon's top 100 of ALL DVDS,, including crime and the worst sort of sexual teasers. I wage a lonely battle to rescue Gounoud's FAUST & Offenbach's TALES OF HOFFMAN from the hands of Eurotrash where the sacred mission of the composer is steam rollered by various stagings hungry for notoriety and "naughty boy" status. This BORIS is tainted at the core but is endorsed by critics who want to be"with it". Here's a reliable list of free wheeling interpretations of classic operas that serve the intentions of the composer: (1) Don Giovanni Mozart - Don Giovanni (Jacobs) [DVD]  + (2) Rodelinda [DVD]  (3) La Traviata: Salzburg Festival (Rizzi) [DVD]  Staging is daring, but the intentions of the composers are respected and even enhanced.
The sad fact is modern audiences lack reference points to jar them into an awareness they're being traduced. If something holds their attention, no matter in how degraded a fashion, they love it. It beggars the imagination that the new BORIS is in the Amazon top 100 of ALL dvds, no matter what their awful level.
What we're witnessing is the end of elevated taste.
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2014 23:38:52 BDT
Sadly you are all too often right! I have seen so many tasteless productions coming to Blu-ray recently that totally refute the composer's intentions, that one begins to despair. An appalling Dutchman set in a gang infested Amsterdam, La Fanciulla set in part in a car wrecker's yard, Khovanshchina set in a Russian special forces world of torture - the list goes on, it is so hard to know what to buy and reviews like yours are such a help. As you say - avoid this interpretation like the plague!! What a tragedy and a lost opportunity. On a brighter note have you seen Peter Grimes on the Beach? That is an original and brilliant production. They are about but harder and harder to find. Cheers
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2014 20:02:30 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Apr 2014 20:05:58 BDT
Flash! I just learned Amazon is offering the following treasure for £14:
Handel: Deidamia (De Nedelandse Opera) (Sally Matthews/ Veronica Cangemi/ Olga Pasichnyk/ Concerto Köln/ Ivor Bolton/ David Alden) (Opus Arte: OA1088D) [DVD]  [NTSC]. My 5* review is posted and it's also very worthwhile to read the dissenting comment appended to the lone 3* review. The added premium cost for Blu-ray won't add much to your experience.
So now I've set forth 4 innovative productions that are on safe ground.
Meanwhile, I haven't forgotten your recommendation above, but Peter Grimes is just off my track. Thanks again.
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Apr 2014 01:36:20 BDT
No 14 quid on Blu! The price on Blu is a whopping 29 quid! Will track and try when price drops. Ta very much. The Beach is really innovative and well worth a try, it may be on You Tube.
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Apr 2014 13:21:21 BDT
Blu adds quality to many things, especially when original signals (visual or audio) are complex, disadvantageous and hard to sort out. Or when there are big crowd scenes and challenging lighting.
With this one, simplicity and clarity reign supreme on their own. There are normally 2-4 people on screen in a well-lit, very simple, unchanging setting. (Different scenes have different settings, of course, but none of them are problematic.)
This is one of those cases where Blu would gobble up extra money without justification. It may take years for superfluous Blu-ray to cut their price and meanwhile you could be enjoying the quality "dvd" release time and again.
OK --- will keep eyes open for Beach.
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Apr 2014 13:35:48 BDT
Surprisingly Blu-ray is often cheaper than the DVD and rarely is the difference huge. I think it is always worth while and only buy DVDs when Blu is not available. Peter Grimes on the Beach is an extraordinary production and is best watched in Blu.
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