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We need not take too seriously the ballet suggestion that Prince Kurbsky, most effective of the boyars and originally bosom companion to Ivan, was a former suitor of Anastasia's; but it gives Karl Paquette the chance to demonstrate despair when she is chosen by Ivan and a stricken grief when she dies [listen -- 'The death of Anastasia' (Act 2 Tableau 3), DVD chapter 12, 0:00-1:27]. Was she poisoned? History cannot make up its mind. There is no doubt, however, that Kurbsky fled to Lithuania and tried to stir the Poles against Moscow and the tsar. The feud was carried on in a spitfire correspondence demonstrating that both men were very familiar with the bible.

Ivan and the Oprichniks (Act 2 Tableau 7). DVD screenshot © 2004 Opéra National de Paris
Ivan and the Oprichniks (Act 2 Tableau 7). DVD screenshot © 2004 Opéra National de Paris

A dread moment in Ivan's reign was the foundation of his sinister police force. The Oprichniki wore black, rode black horses, and carried a dog's head to front the saddle, with broom to sweep the country clean. The Paris production produces a moment of real terror when Ivan, as masked as his minions, cracks a whip to launch their operations [listen -- 'The oprichniks' (Act 2 Tableau 7), DVD chapter 16, 3:00-4:10]. We should remember that it was Ivan's special achievement finally to scotch the Tatar menace by the capture and firing of Kazan. The Russian state was consolidated by him so that Moscow was now, after the fall of both Rome and Constantinople, a third Rome, over which its people might reasonably rejoice [listen -- 'The triumph of the Russian people' (Act 2 Tableau 9), DVD chapter 18, 1:20-3:06]. Vello Pähn and the orchestra make a marvellous thing of Prokofiev's score, judging to a nicety both its chill lyricism and compulsive motor rhythms.

Copyright © 2 January 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


Ivan the Terrible

DVWW-BLITT DVD9, 16:9 anamorphic, NTSC, all regions DD 5.0, DTS 5.0, LPCM Stereo NEW RELEASE 114' 2004 Opéra National de Paris, CLC Productions

Nicolas Le Riche, Ivan; Karl Paquette, Kurbsky; Eleonora Abbagnato, Anastasia; Le Corps de Ballet et l'Orchestre de l'Opéra National de Paris; Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine; Choeurs d'enfants de l'Opéra National de Paris; Vello Pähn, conductor; Yuri Grigorovich, stage director; Natalia Bessmertnova, assistant choreographer; Valery Ryjov, assistant choreographer; Simon Virsaladzé, sets and costumes; Hugues R Gall, manager; Brigitte Lefèvre, director of dance; Daniel Charrier, executive producer; Thomas Grimm, TV and video director

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953): Ivan the Terrible (ballet in 2 acts and 18 tableaux, choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, ballet version by Mikhail Tchoulaki, Editions Le chant du monde; recorded live at the Opéra National de Paris, December 2003)


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