OP0983. KHOVANSCHINA (Moussorgsky), recorded 1946, w.Khaikin Cond. Kirov Opera Ensemble, Leningrad; Mark Reizen, Sofia Preobrazhenskaya, Boris Freidkov, Ivan Nechayev, Valdimir Ulyanov, Ivan Shaskov, etc.; KHOVANSCHINA - Excerpts, by Nadezhda Obukhova & Pavel Andreyev - recorded 1937-48; Moussorgsky Songs by Igor Gorin, Mark Reizen, Sofia Preobrazhenskaya, Feodor Chaliapin, Mascia Predit & Vladimir Rosing. (E.U.) 3-Naxos 8.111124/26. Transfers by Ward Marston. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 747313312429
"KHOVANSCHINA is an opera in five acts by Modest Mussorgsky. The work was written between 1872 and 1880 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The composer wrote the libretto based on historical sources. The opera was unfinished and unperformed when the composer died in 1881.
Like Mussorgsky's earlier BORIS GODUNOV, KHOVANSCHINA deals with an episode in Russian history, first brought to the composer's attention by his friend Vladimir Stasov. It concerns the rebellion of Prince Ivan Khovansky, the Old Believers, and the Streltsy against Peter the Great, who was attempting to institute Westernizing reforms to Russia. Peter succeeded, the rebellion was crushed and (in the opera, at least) Khovansky's followers committed mass suicide.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov completed, revised, and scored KHOVANSCHINA in 1881 & 1882. Because of his extensive cuts and 'recompositions', Dmitri Shostakovich revised the opera in 1959 based on Mussorgsky's vocal score, and it is the Shostakovich version that is usually performed. In 1913 Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel made their own arrangement at Sergei Diaghilev's request. When Feodor Chaliapin refused to sing the part of Dosifei in any other orchestration than Rimsky-Korsakov's, Diaghilev's company employed a mixture of orchestrations which did not prove successful. The Stravinsky-Ravel orchestration was forgotten, except for Stravinsky's finale, which is still used.
Although the setting of the opera is the Moscow Uprising of 1682, its main themes are the struggle between progressive and reactionary political factions during the minority of Tsar Peter the Great and the passing of old Muscovy before Peter's westernizing reforms. It received its first performance in the Rimsky-Korsakov edition in 1886.
Though not as well known as BORIS GODUNOV, this opera is, in some ways, more accessible. The pace of the action is slow, but there is more in the way of traditional vocal writing compared to the earlier opera's use of a more speech-like style. The plot of KHOVANSCHINA is difficult to follow, but the story is grittier and the characters are more believable. There are also some fiery set-pieces, in particular the 'Dance of the Persian Slaves' and the spectacular mass suicide of the Old Believers in the final scene. KHOVANSCHINA is not seen on stage often outside Russia.
Certainly one of the most sonorous, expressive and beautifully-controlled bass voices ever to have been recorded was that of Mark Reizen. He was a legend in his own lifetime in Russia and, at the age of 90, he was still able to make a remarkable stage appearance, singing Prince Gremin in EUGEN ONEGIN....one of the greatest bass singers of the 20th century."
- Alan Bilgora, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2010
"A superb singer and powerful actor with a highly expressive, rich voice of astonishing color and range, [Reizen's] forte was legendary, but he also had a pianissimo so expressive it could stop a rehearsal to allow Natalia Shpiller singing opposite him to regain her composure, while the rest of the cast were drying their eyes.�
- Richard D. Sylvester, TCHAIKOVSKY'S COMPLETE SONGS
"Nature grants such voices [as Preobrazhenskaya] once in a century."
- Ivan Ershov
"Boris Emmanuilovich Khaykin was a Russian Jewish conductor who was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1972. Khaykin was born in Minsk, then part of the Russian Empire. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Nikolai Malko and Konstantin Saradzhev. He was artistic director of the Little Leningrad Opera Theatre in 1936-43 and the principal conductor at the Kirov Theatre in 1944-53, where he conducted the premiere of Sergei Prokofiev's BETROTHAL IN A MONASTERY on 3 November 1946. He moved to the Bolshoi Theatre in 1954."
- Z. D. Akron