OP2868. LEGEND OF THE INVISIBLE CITY OF KITEZH (Rimsky- Korsakov), Live Performance, 19 Jan., 1955, w.Samosud Cond. Alexander Vedernikov, Vladimir Ivanovsky, Natalia Rozhdestvenskaya, Dmitri Tarkhov, Ilya Bodganov, Pavel Pontryagin, Sergei Krasovsky, etc. (Russia) 2-Aquarius AQVR 374. - 4607123631393
“There are few composers of Russian opera, if any, more highly regarded in Russia than Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, mainly known in the West for his flashy, highly programmatic orchestral works such as ’Capriccio Espagnol’ and ‘Scheherazade’. Some insist that his greatest opera is his 1907 effort THE LEGEND OF THE INVISIBLE CITY OF KITEZH. However, it is the most spiritual of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas and explores exotic Orientalism most closely of his operas - there is every reason to know it."
- Uncle Dave Lewis
“THE LEGEND OF THE INVISIBLE CITY OF KITEZH AND THE MAIDEN FEVRONIYA is an opera in four acts by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by Vladimir Belsky, and is based on a combination of two Russian legends: that of St. Fevroniya of Murom, and the city of Kitezh, which became invisible when attacked by the Tartars. The opera was completed in 1905, and the premiere performance took place at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1907.
Rimsky-Korsakov and Belsky first became interested in writing an opera on the Kitezh legend during the winter of 1898-1899, while they were working on the libretto to THE TALE OF TSAR SALTAN. The idea of combining the legend of St. Fevroniya into the story was part of the project from the beginning. The project remained in the minds of both composer and the librettist, but would have to wait until 1903 until serious work could begin. During the period between 1898 and the beginning of 1903, the composer was occupied with the composition of the operas THE TALE OF TSAR SALTAN, SERVILIA, KASHCHEY THE IMMORTAL AND PAN VOYEVODA. In his MY MUSICAL LIFE, Rimsky-Korsakov mentions ‘In the midst of work on PAN VOYEVODA, Belsky and I pondered intensively the subject of THE TALE OF THE INVISIBLE CITY OF KITYEZH AND OF THE MAIDEN FYEVRONIYA.
KITEZH is arguably Rimsky-Korsakov's finest opera, often being referred to as ‘the Russian PARSIFAL’, however it is not part of the standard operatic repertoire outside of Russia. Stylistically, it is more representative of Rimsky-Korsakov's work than the better-known THE GOLDEN COCKEREL. In its use of Russian history and legend, Oriental exoticism, and a mix of the real and the supernatural, the work has been called a ‘summation of the nationalistic operatic tradition of Glinka and The Five’. Rimsky-Korsakov considered the work to be his final artistic statement, not planning to write another opera until unexpectedly inspired to write THE GOLDEN COCKEREL as a satire of current political events in Russia. Rimsky-Korsakov was an atheist, and, though he often made use of fairy-tale, KITEZH was the only one of his operas to make use of supernatural or religious themes. In spite of the Christian themes, however, Simon Morrison points out that ultimately, ‘His was a secular heaven’."
- Ned Ludd
“Samuil Abramovich Samosud was the Principal Conductor of the Maly Opera Theatre from 1919 to 1936. He conducted three world premičres here: Shostakovich’s THE NOSE (1930) and LADY MACBETH OF THE MTSENSK DISTRICT (1935) - both interpretations were acknowledged as exemplary by the composer - and Prokofiev’s WAR AND PEACE (1946, 1955). Samosud also collaborated with director Vsevolod Meyerhold on a new version of Tchaikovsky’s opera THE QUEEN OF SPADES (1935).
Samosud was also not afraid to tackle works by contemporary Western composers. He conducted the Russian premičres of the operas DER SPRUNG ÜBER DEN SCHATTEN (1927) and JONNY SPIELT AUF by Austrian composer Ernst Krenek. ‘It would be worth travelling from Germany for DER SPRUNG ÜBER DEN SCHATTEN alone. It is an astounding, stunning production’, enthused composer Paul Hindemith. Ernest Ansermet, at that time Principal Conductor of the Geneva Symphony Orchestra, was fully in agreement: ‘I would be so bold as to say that the former Mikhailovsky Theatre is the best opera house in Russia; only La Scala in Milan can compete with it as regards performance. The production is simply brilliant. Samosud has no rivals in the West’. Thanks to Samuil Samosud, the mastery of the Maly Opera Theatre’s opera company and orchestra reached such a high level that almost every premičre was a sensation, attracting the cream of the country’s creative intelligentsia. The Mikhailovsky Theatre continues to follow the artistic principles laid down by Samuil Samosud: attention to and interest in the classics, coupled with experimentation and a search for new stars.”
- Mikhailovsky Theatre