A first release on CD for the first recording in stereo (and entirely complete) of Mussorgsky’s tragic chronicle of faith, rebellion and repression in 17th-century Russia.
With this and six companion issues, Eloquence makes available for the first time on CD the seven complete Russian operas recorded in 1955 by Decca with the company of the Belgrade Opera.
Fresh from a successful tour of ‘Boris Godunov’ in Switzerland the previous year, the Belgrade Opera, in 1955, was keen to make an impression on an international public. At the same time, the Decca company perceived a cost-effective but artistically assured opportunity to expand both its small but rapidly growing stereo catalogue and its opera discography with classics of the Russian opera repertoire which it had previously not been possible to record in the original language. In the event, the stereo versions were held back for the US market. They were only released in Europe in the 1960s, by which time the Belgrade Opera had acquired an international reputation for excellence thanks both to the mono issues and to the company’s tours of the major European operatic centres.
The role of Prince Ivan Khovansky on this recording is taken by Žarko Cvejić (1907-1994), a longstanding member of the Belgrade Opera who also sung the role at the company’s Edinburgh Festival residency in 1962. Cvejić is joined by other Belgrade stalwarts such as Melanija Bugarinović who also won acclaim as Erda at Bayreuth around this time and Miroslav Čangalović, an acclaimed Boris of his day as the dignified leader of the Old Believers, Dosifey.
The booklet for this newly remastered release, prints both a synopsis and an essay by Peter Quantrill giving full historical context to the Belgrade opera recordings.
Opera in five acts
Libretto by Modest Mussorgsky
Completed & Orchestrated by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Prince Ivan Khovansky, Žarko Cvejić
Prince Andrey Khovansky, Alexander Marinković
Prince Vasily Golitsin, Drago Starc
Shaklovity, Dušan Popović
Dosifey, Miroslav Čangalović
Marfa, Melanija Bugarinović
Susanna, Anita Mezetova
A Scribe, Stepan Andrashevich
Emma, Sofija Janković
Varsonofiev, Zivojin Milosavljević
Kuzka, Krsta Krstić
Streshnev, Živojin Iovanović
First Strelyets,Vladimir Popović
Second Strelyets, George Djurgevich
Third Strelyets, Živojin Iovanović
Belgrade National Opera Chorus & Orchestra
Recording Producer: James Walker
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (mono), Roy Wallace (stereo)Recording Location: House of Culture, Belgrade, 9, 11–13, 16 & 20–24 February 1955
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
Original LP Releases: Decca LXT 5045–48 mono; London OSA 1501 stereo; Decca (Ace of Clubs) GOS562–565 stereo
Eloquence Series Producer: Cyrus Meher-Homji
Art Direction: Raymond Bannerman
Booklet Editor: Bruce Raggatt
Project Consultant: Peter Quantrill
‘Žarko Cvejić and Drago Starc are both good as the rival brothers and Dušan Popović makes a commanding figure of Shaklovity… The chorus sing magnificently and the orchestra, under a conductor with a most vital sense of rhythm, are first rate… The various effects… are all well carried out and the successful recording of the opera is a good omen for the Boris which is to come.’ Gramophone
‘Both Marfa and Dosifei are in good hands: Melanija Bugarinović possesses what seems to be a contralto of impressive quality and richness, while Miroslav Čangalović… is a moving Dosifey.’ High Fidelity