Opera review: ‘Khovanshchina’

August Everding’s production of “Khovanshchina” is the most dramatically compelling and spectacularly realized production in town.

“Khovanshchina,” composed and written by Modest Mussorgsky, will be performed at the Metropolitan Opera on March 10 at 7:30 p.m., March 13 at 7:00 p.m., and March 17 at noon.

Welcome to the first edition of Off-Off-Broadway, Metro New York’s new theater blog brought to you by the creator of The Obscure Art of Cinema. Most of these Off-Off-Broadway plays, musicals, spectacles, and other kinds of dramatic performance will have longer runs, giving you an ample opportunity to catch them while they’re still onstage. Today, however, I will be reviewing Modest Mussorgsky’s Russian national music drama “Khovanshchina,” whose final three performances of the season will take place at the Metropolitan Opera over the following week.

Opening with the gathering light of dawn illuminating the Red Square and ending in fires of immolation at an Old Believers’ Hermitage in the woods, August Everding’s production of “Khovanshchina” is the most dramatically compelling and spectacularly realized production in town (with the possible exception of Michael Grandage’s production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” also playing at the Met through next week). Like Mussorgsky’s more famous opera “Boris Godunov,” this drama en musique delivers deliriums of intoxicating arias, striking set-pieces, and prodigal moments of lyrical and emotional grandeur without sacrificing character or narrative drive. Set in the late Seventeenth Century during the minority of Czar Peter (the Great) Romanov, who is never seen because of a prohibition at the time of the work’s creation on showing members of the royal family onstage, the historical plot depicts the Khovansky Rebellion and the suppression of the Old Believers as the young Czar and his advisers strip the Boyars of their considerable influence and consolidate political and religious power around the throne.

Coinciding with the election of Vladimir Putin as Russia’s President in his thirteenth year as the nation’s de facto leader, Mussorgsky’s tale of the strategy and human costs behind the centralization of governmental authority shows itself to be both timely and timeless in its understanding that the manipulation of public opinion and terror by proxy are paramount in achieving and maintaining political hegemony. Then as now, leaders debate whether their fated nation should follow the example of the West or find a uniquely Russian way forward, while the Orthodox Church wages its own internal struggle of allegiance between the Kremlin and the people. These opposing, allied, and always intermingled forces are brilliantly represented in the opera by morally ambivalent characters whose eloquent music bring these eternal questions to life with seductive rage and melancholy beauty. Moving from scene to scene with stately grace, Mussorgsky’s score (with some posthumous revisions by Stravinsky and Shostakovich) masterfully blends raucous and otherworldly choral scenes, deeply expressive arias, dramatic imbroglios, and instrumental tone painting to depict a land caught between profanity and holiness, struggling to be reborn.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor reveals new tech hub Digital.NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed Digital.NYC on Wednesday, a new online platform aimed at connecting all things tech in New York City. The public-private partnership…

Local

Falling debris hits two men in Times Square

Two men were taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after being hit by falling debris from 110 feet above Times Square. Nancy Greco from the…

Local

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough accused of misusing campaign…

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough has been indicted on state and federal charges for allegedly withdrawing campaign funds as cash for personal use. Scarborough, a Democrat…

News

U.S. Secret Service director Pierson resigns under fire

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned under fire on Wednesday after a series of security lapses came to light.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, Oct. 1: 'Criminal Minds,'…

The "Criminal Minds" team adds some supernatural assistance, as the "Ghost Whisperer" herself, Jennifer Love Hewitt, joins the show. She's playing an FBI agent, but you never know when someone…

Music

See the most popular Pandora station in your…

Who knew Bachata music was so popular?

The Word

The Word: Twilight just won't die

You thought our "Twilight" days were behind us, didn't you? Well think again. Series creator Stephenie Meyer (who would rather you not ask about "Twilight"…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

NFL

Rex Ryan fields more questions about Geno Smith,…

The idea Geno Smith will be replaced by backup Michael Vick appears to be all smoke, as the Jets are intent to ride with their second-round draft pick.

NFL

Will Beatty playing like franchise left tackle again…

Left tackle Will Beatty, who is the elder-statesman of Giants’ line, has turned around his season and become a consistent force on Manning’s blindside.

NFL

John Conner back with Jets for second stint

He'll be back. It's "Terminator 2" for the Jets, who brought back John Conner to the team on Tuesday after placing fullback Tommy Bohanon on…

NFL

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry…

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry Donnell will stay solid

Career

Creating a support system for minority women in…

When Kathryn Finney founded digitalundivided — an organization devoted to engaging minority communities with the tech world — she didn’t know quite what to expect.…

Sex

We can learn a lot from animals about…

There’s a lot we can learn about love from the birds and the bees — and the chickens, monkeys and squirrels that we share the…

Style

Saint Laurent

Our review of the Saint Laurent Spring '15 show at Paris Fashion Week.

Style

Céline: Paris Fashion Week Spring 2015

Our review of the Celine Spring '15 show during Paris Fashion Week.