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Glinka: Ruslan And Lyudmila
Mikhail Glinka, Valery Gergiev, St. Petersburg Kirov Orchestra
Glinka: Ruslan And Lyudmila
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #3

This recording of Glinka's melodically marvellous but dramatically lacking fairy tale opera offers outstanding singing and conducting, a thoroughly idiomatic performance, and modern sound, all of which combine to make it t...  more »


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This recording of Glinka's melodically marvellous but dramatically lacking fairy tale opera offers outstanding singing and conducting, a thoroughly idiomatic performance, and modern sound, all of which combine to make it the preferred edition. The only problem, and it's a minor one, is occasional intrusive noise from the house and stage--this is a live recording. For most listeners, the greater intensity of a live performance over a studio recording will overcome that objection. Anna Netrebko's Lyudmila is clear-voiced and winning; Vladimir Ognovienko has a typically back-of-the-throat Slavic production that is not a problem in this repertoire. Conductor Valery Gergiev offers one of his best performances in this series. --Sarah Bryan Miller

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CD Reviews

Gergiev & the Kirov give Ruslan & Ludmilla great justice. Bu
David A. Hollingsworth | Washington, DC USA | 12/01/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"After Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka enjoyed the success of his first opera "A Life for the Tsar" (1836), he set his sights on his next operatic project, "Ruslan and Ludmilla" (based on Alexander Pushkin's mock-epic story). The score, which Glinka started in 1838, was finished by 1842. The premiere took place on November 27th of that year and unlike the premiere of "A Life for the Tsar", Ruslan and Ludmilla" generated more of a mixed response from the audience and the critics alike. While some praised Glinka's use of Russian and Caucasian folk music and his vivid and imaginative orchestration, others criticized the work for its lack of drama.

Yet on the other hand, "Ruslan and Ludmilla" became a very important work for the next generation of composers. Tchaikovsky called the work "the tsar of operas" whereas Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev and his group (the Russian Five or Moguchaya Kuchka) used the opera in advocating the essence of nationalism in writing Russian music. Balakirev effectively pointed out the orientalism in "Ruslan and Ludmilla" in furthering the cause against western cosmopolitanism. In fact, "Ruslan and Ludmilla" was Balakirev's bible of sorts and generations of composers after the 1880s understood the importance of Glinka's work for the sake of Russian art thanks largely to Balakirev (although "A Life for the Tsar" was the first to use Russian folksongs).

Curiously, compared to "A Life for the Tsar", "Ruslan and Ludmilla" fared less well in recordings, even though performances of these operas are few & far in between. The 1952 recording featuring Kyrill Kondrashin and the Bolshoi was among the earliest recording of the score (Samuel Samosud recorded it earlier, in 1937, and it is considered by many to be finest version ever, even with cuts made during that performance). This gem of the work had to had to wait until 1983 for another recording, that of Yuri Simonov and the Bolshoi (again, with minor cuts). A twelve year gap separates that from the 1995 Kirov production with Gergiev on the podium. And it is this maestro who, like Kondrashin earlier, remains totally faithful to the full edition of the score.

As for the performance, Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra and Chorus come up huge, with plenty of excitement & absolute vividness. Only Kondrashin and the Bolshoi places a bit more of an élan in that vintage recording while Simonov's take is memorable to say the least. The singers overall are spectacular in this Philips recording. Anna Netrebko is probably the best Ludmilla currently on record while Vladimir Ognovienko (in Ruslan) gives the character more of a purpose (in finding the abducted Ludmilla). Irina Bogachova (as Naina) and Galina Gorchakova (as Gorislava) sing with warmth and intimacy with such professionalism and admiration for Glinka's fantastical score (as with the rest of the cast).

But the legendary though largely forgotten singers in the Kondrashin/Bolshoi recording scores even higher. The steller cast of great singers, which includes Ivan Petrov (Ruslan), Vera Firsova (Ludmilla), Georgi Nelepp (Finn), Aleksei Krivchenya (Farlaff) Yevgenya Verbitskaya (Ratmir), and Sergey Lemeshev (Bayan), sang with a marginally greater sense of panache & artistry than the current version here. That recording was re-issued briefly by Voce della Luna label (VL 2006-3) under Jem Music Corporation from the original Melodiya recording) and it's to me the most special of the recordings ever made.

That said, the Philips album, with great sound and presentation, is highly recommended. But for me, the Kondrashin/Bolshoi recording takes first place.
Perfect Ruslan!
David A. Hollingsworth | 12/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As a country, we have been truly unfortunate when the proletariat such as moskvich came to power in 1917 and has effectively wiped out the intelligencia. Had it not been for people like this, the two theaters could enjoy a fruitful working relationship, utilizing the talent of Mariinskiy (Kirov) and the experience of Bolshoi. Truly a shame.
The recording at hand has much overlooked bass Vladimir Ognovenko as Ruslan and the talented and beautiful Anna Netrebko as Lyudmila. Ognovenko's bass at first would seem too sonorous for the role of youthful Ruslan, but he manages a fiery rendition of "Dai Perun mne mech bulatnyi" cabaletta where he shows that a bass can be cast in parts other than "dads, bads, and priests". This Ruslan also has the best Farlaf (cowardly knight) on record - Gennadiy Bezzubenkov. Ratmir is sang by Larissa Diadkova, whom Opera News rightfully calls The Enchantress. Even the supporting roles are done by great singers, e .g. Michail Kit as Vladimir, Lyudmila's father.
I would like to recommend folks who are relatively new to Russian opera to read a translation of Alexander Pushkin's poem prior to listening to the recording. You'll find the most fascinating aspect of it - Chernomor, the evil wizard is played by... the orchestra. Enjoy!Vasiliy Nikolaevich Nikitskiy"
RUSSIAN BELCANTO! | Seattle | 04/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a fantastic recording. I love Russian opera...and this recording marks the 11th in my Russian opera series...and is quite different. I was quite shocked...after all Glinka was the father of Russian opera. Although it laid the foundations for Tchaikovsky, Moussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Prokofiev, is much different from their works.This is Belcanto, something I was not expecting- exciting and can definitely hear the Donizetti influence here. Even Bellini and Rossini. Quite thrilling in fact. Very wonderful melody after another....glorious. Music is beautiful, cast is wonderful. You just can't go wrong with Gergiev at the helm of the Kirov.Most recommend in the Russian canon, along with Boris Godounov and Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk!"