Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera in Concert

Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera in Concert

Article excerpt

Alexander Pushkin wasn't able to revise his mock-epic Ruslan and Lyudmila as composer Mikhail Glinka requested because the poet was killed in a duel occasioned by allegations of his wife's infidelity. That's one reason why the libretto for Glinka's opera is not exactly a masterpiece of the wordspinner's craft. Moreover, its most memorable aspect is its familiar overture and the two arias with similar motifs. Opera in Concert Director Guillermo Silva-Marin overcame such challenges with polished ease when the company opened its season Oct. 24.

Fantasy fuels Ruslan's narrative, which possibly accounts for the stilted descriptions of sorcerer's spells, beautiful maids, evil dwarfs and haunted places that occur throughout. At the same time, the fantasy underscores the Russian-ness of the work and the gap between its forms and the warmth of opera conjured in Mediterranean lands. Yet Glinka, the father of Russian opera, provides much marvelous music, as well as delightful three- and four-part singing.

Set in ancient Russian times, the opera begins in a castle where Svetozar, Prince of Kiev, parades his daughter, Lyudmila, before three suitors: Ruslan the knight, Ratmir the poet and Farlaf the cowardly Viking. A crash of thunder interrupts, Lyudmila disappears (abducted by the villainous sorcerer, Tchernomor) and the prince offers her hand to her rescuer. After a convoluted series of adventures, Ruslan emerges as the Lyudmila's saviour.

Surviving even the bare bones of the plot, sung in Russian with English surtitles, is daunting, but OinC's performers were on top form. …

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