OP2133. IVAN THE TERRIBLE (The Maid of Pskov) (Rimsky-Korsakov) - Excerpts, recorded 1949, w.Nebolsin Cond. Bolshoi Theatre Ensemble; Mark Reizen, Elisabeta Shumilova, Mikhailo Tucha, Nicolai Schegolkov, etc.; MARK REIZEN, w.Rozhdestvensky Cond. USSR Radio Orch.: DIE WALKÜRE – Wotans abscheid und Feuerzauber (in Russian), Live Performance, 15 Jan., 1965. (Russia) Aquarius AQVR 352. - 4607123631140
“The received view of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas is that they are essentially for Russian consumption only, placed beyond the scope of a wider audience by complex questions of language, legend and arcane tradition. This recording, however, underline[s] the fact that, on a musical level and in terms of dramatic impact, Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas reach beyond national boundaries, whether performed in Russian (as here) or not. On a purely geographical point, there is no reason why we should need a detailed knowledge of north-western Russia simply because the maid happens to come from Pskov, any more than we need a gazetteer of Spain to prepare for IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA or, indeed, one of Merseyside for EMILIA DI LIVERPOOL.
The themes on which Rimsky-Korsakov touches in his stage works – love, loyalty, remorse, death and so on – are scarcely peculiar to Russia, but his art was to place them musically in an unmistakably Russian context and to create in his operas a rich tapestry of national colouring. That he devised diverse ways of doing so is demonstrated in these four scores spanning, as chance would have it, almost the whole of his creative life. THE MAID OF PSKOV, Rimsky’s remarkable and dramatically astute first opera, has points of contact with Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV. This is no mere accident, for both composers, sharing common creative ideals, were writing their operas at the same time, in the same flat and at the same desk. Both operas have a vivid backdrop of Russian history; each centres on a Russian Tsar, Boris in the Mussorgsky, Ivan the Terrible in the Rimsky. Neither BORIS GODUNOV nor IVAN THE TERRIBLE had an exactly unblemished record in human rights, but both operas incorporate revelatory passages of soul-searching, which hint at a more humane side to their characters and at the same time establish in the operas’ developing plots a crucial moment of reflection.
In THE MAID OF PSKOV, Ivan, although his first appearance in Act II triggers understandable apprehension, is dissuaded from ravaging rebellious Pskov when he realises that Princess Olga (the maid of the title and ward of the ruling Prince Yuri Tokmakov) is his own daughter from an earlier dalliance with one Vera Sheloga. At this juncture, The Noblewoman Vera Sheloga comes into play. Ever the self-critic, Rimsky-Korsakov made no fewer than three versions of THE MAID OF PSKOV. The second one is preceded by a prologue, explaining how Olga came to be born. In the definitive, third edition (recorded here) Rimsky lets the information slip in gossip and overheard conversation: this is a much more subtle manoeuvre, posing, from the point of view of comprehension, no more problems than we have, say, in IL TROVATORE. The explanatory prologue was shorn off and made into the separate one-acter THE NOBLEWOMAN VERA SHELOGA. Rimsky-Korsakov, like Mussorgsky in BORIS GODUNOV, aimed to reflect in the music of THE MAID OF PSKOV the natural contours and inflections of speech, its varieties of pace and, in a notable example in Act I, the cross-cutting and confusion of argument. In 1896, Fyodor Chaliapin debuted in the role of Ivan the Terrible at the Russian Private Opera. Due to Chaliapin THE MAID OF PSKOV was noticed by the Direction of Imperial Theatres. First it was staged at the Bolshoi Theatre (November 10, 1901), with Chaliapin as Ivan the Terrible, and then at the Mariinsky Theatre (in 1903). In 1909, THE MAID OF PSKOV was introduced to the European audience by Sergei Diaghilev.”
- BBC Music Magazine
“Mark Reizen’s voice, for me at least, has always seemed to possess the grandeur of Lev Sibiriakov and the art and essential beauty of Alexander Kipnis. It is difficult to be objective when seemingly the basic sound is enough to sweep aside all critical values….In 1949, scenes from [the above] opera were recorded under the conductor Vassily Nebolsin for a proposed broadcast. This recording has now been made available for the first time and is the main content of [this] CD….The transfers are very good, and perhaps the best way to sum up this performance is to call it majestic in the extreme….A ‘must’ for all devotées of Russian, or indeed any, bass voice.”
- Alan Bilgora, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2011
“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
"Wotan's Farewell is written for a singer with a large, even range. It requires elastic breath and huge vocal resources. As ever, Mark Osipovich Reizen's execution of this monologue [at age 69] was an inspiration. The voice sounding amazing with a fadeless beauty."
- Natalia Shpiller
“Elena Shumilova’s creative career is inextricably linked with the history of the Bolshoi Theatre during the middle of the last century. One of Elena Shumilova’s most outstanding roles at the Bolshoi Theatre was in the role of Olga in Rimsky-Korsakov’s THE MAID OF PSKOV. The image of Olga, as performed by Elena Shumilova, has since entered the treasury of the performing arts thanks to the magnificent recording of THE MAID OF PSKOV, made by the All-Union Radio foundation in 1947. It was Shumilova’s first major radio performance. It is noteworthy to mention that when two years later, in 1949, a radio recording of large extended scenes from THE MAID OF PSKOV was made, Elena Shumilova was again invited to sing Olga’s part with Mark Reizen taking on the role of Ivan."
- Mike Weston
“Vassili Vassilyevich Nebolsin (30 May 1898 – 29 October 1958) was a Russian conductor. He studied at the college of the Moscow Philharmonic and became conductor of the orchestra in 1918. He became choir master of the Bolshoi in 1920 and its conductor in 1922. He taught at the Moscow Conservatory from 1940 to 1945. The Stalin Prize was awarded him in 1950.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron