Opera Scotland

Khovanshchina 1991Kirov Opera, Leningrad

Read more about the opera Khovanshchina

The Edinburgh Festival opera programme in 1991 was dominated by visits by the two great Soviet companies. The Bolshoi from Moscow had enjoyed a ground-breaking success in the 1990 visit to Glasgow's year of culture with unusual pieces by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, followed by a stop at Edinburgh with a Prokofiev piece. They now returned to Edinburgh with more Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Meantime, Valery Gergiev and his Kirov forces from Leningrad also put in an appearance.

The Kirov, in their first visit to Edinburgh, brought all Musorgsky's operatic output - not just Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, but also versions of three unfinished pieces, Salammbô, The Marriage and Sorochinsky Fair. This was the start of a long and fruitful relationship between the Festival and Valery Gergiev. His company would go on to make a number of visits both as the Kirov from Leningrad and as the Mariinsky from St Petersburg.

Unlike Boris, Khovanshchina was given a complete staging in Edinburgh for two performances. The edition used was that of Shostakovich  The staging was traditional in a positive sense, and the technical limitations backstage at the Playhouse would have allowed nothing more complex. Valery Gergiev brought wonderful sounds from his orchestra and chorus, with all the acknowledged weaknesses in the work skilfully papered over. It was altogether an absorbing evening.

Among the singers, there were a number of notable contributionss from Galuzin, Steblianko, Kit and Minzhilkiev. Olga Borodina's Marfa was particularly effective - a beautifully even and velvety contralto that instantly made her one of the stars of the whole Festival. Later in this special Musorgsky season she made further very welcome appearances as Marina and Salammbô, before going on to become equally popular at Covent Garden and the Met in a range that included several non-Russian roles.

There are a couple of queries over casting, regarding the roles of Andrei Khovansky and Dosifei. Our programme gives two tenors for Andrei, Yuri Marusin for 10/08 and Vladimir Galuzin on 12/08. We know that Galuzin in fact sang opening night, but would like confirmation of the second. Similarly, with Dosifei, the programme gives Nikolai Ohotnikov (as the spelling went) for both performances. Mikhail Kit sang opening night. Again we need confirmation of the second night. The company did suffer some health problems during the visit, which threw casting of Boris Godunov into doubt until the last minute.

Performance DatesKhovanshchina 1991

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Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

10 Aug, 19.00 12 Aug, 19.00

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