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The highlight of this year’s Bard Summerscape festival must be a rare staging of Dvorak’s Dimitrij. “Trove Thursday” provides a preview of this (sort of) sequel to Boris Godunov with a broadcast featuring Stuart Skelton, Krassimira Stoyanova, Elena Prokina, Dalibor Jenis and Dagmar Pecková

Several characters will be familiar from the earlier Mussorgsky masterpiece—Dimitrij now married to the Polish princess Marina is in love with Boris’s daughter Xemia. Ambitious to succeed the late czar, he is opposed by forces led by Prince Shuisky. This being Russian history, a happy ending proves impossible as both Xenia and Dimitrij are (separately) murdered. Intrepid listeners may want to follow the bi-lingual libretto available here.

The composer continued to revise his grandest, most sweeping opera for years after its 1882 premiere. Although over the past 30 years Rusalka has become nearly ubiquitous, Dvorak’s other nine operas are virtually ignored outside the Czech Republic. Twenty years ago when I was visiting my sister then living in Prague I seized the opportunity to see Jakobin at the Narodni Divadlo where I also caught Smetana’s Braniboii v Cechách (The Brandenbergers in Bohemia). All in all, Jakobin was a pleasant evening rather than a memorable one.

One reads wonderful things about the comic Cert a Káca (The Devil and Kate) but I’ve yet to hear it. Back in the day I did own a distant-sounding reel-to-reel tape of Dvorak’s final opera Armida in German starring a young Montserrat Caballè but it didn’t get much play.

Perhaps Dimitrij’s time has come though: last year Boston’s Odyssey Opera did a highly acclaimed concert performance starring rising tenor Ales Briscein in the title role. Bard’s production will play for five performances beginning July 28 directed by Anne Bogart with Leon Botstein conducting the American Symphony Orchestra

Bard’s fervor for producing rarely heard works has provided happy opportunities to see Weber’s Euryanthe, Mascagni’s Iris and Busoni’s Turandot. And thanks particularly to sterling singing by Erin Morley and Michael Spyres, I even made it to the end of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots which I now never have to sit through again.

Dvorak: Dimitrij 
BBC Proms
18 July 2004
Broadcast

Marina: Elena Prokina
Xenia: Krassimira Stoyanova
Marfa: Dagmar Peckova
Dimitrij: Stuart Skelton
Shuisky: Dalibor Jenis
Patriach: Manfred Hemm
Basmanov: Peter Coleman-Wright

Slovak Philharmonic Choir
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Conductor: Richard Hickox

Two other Dvorak vocal works remain available for listening here—Rusalka (in German) with Hildegard Behrens and Kurt Moll and Gabriela Benacková and Peter Dvorsky in the wonderful but rather neglected Svatební Kosile (The Spectre’s Bride).

Dimitrij can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, more than 80 “Trove Thursday” podcasts are available from iTunes–for free,or via any RSS reader.

  • grimoaldo2

    I was present at this fabulous performance, a Prom from the Albert Hall, so not staged, but the magnificent cast semi-acted it out. The opera and the performance blew me away, one of the greatest musical experiences I have ever had. First time I ever heard or saw Skelton or Stoyanova and I couldn’t understand why they were not already famous stars. Prokina was also amazing as the evil Princess, she left the platform up a staircase after a duet and the audience cheered and whooped until she came back for a bow. The choruses were also simply stunning. Thanks so much for providing this so I can enjoy it again.
    “Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots which I now never have to sit through again”
    You are extremely unlikely to be faced with that prospect unless you are in continental Europe where Meyerbeer’s French grand operas are making a strong resurgence, for which I am very grateful.

    • Our invaluable Odyssey Opera in Boston put on a tremendous concert perfromance of Dimitrij last fall with three great Czech singers heading the cast. I will soon see a staged performance at Bard College to which I am looking forward eagerly as it is a very fine opera.

      • Rowna Sutin

        Will I am going as well. Can we meet? I look exactly like my photo :)

        • Sure, Rowna --my opera-going friend Kathy Boyce will be with me on August 2nd but I don’t know where we’re sitting as she has the tickets.
          We should maybe arrange a specific place to meet — my email address is wagf@hotmail.com

      • aulus agerius

        I’m attending the August 2nd matinee as well. I’d like very much to meet you -- and Rowna too, of course!!

        • My cell number (it will be off during the opera, of course, but on before it starts
          and during intermissions) is 603 557-3063. Rowna wants to meet somewhere and
          it will be good if we can all get together. Might I have your cell just to guarantee we
          can all connect?

          Looking forward,

          Will

          • manou

            Parterre -- or Tinder?

            • What does Tinder mean?

            • manou

              I thought Tinder was a dating app -- but I am old and I might be wrong.

            • Nope — I Googled and that’s what it is. But this isn’t dating, just meeting people at a performance.

            • manou

              Did the same! You should not take me seriously as I am not une personne sérieuse.

            • Liz.S

              Oh I liked it. Tinder & parterre as a tinderbox -- very clever :-D

            • Cicciabella

              There should be a “meeting at the opera” app, bringing like-minded fans together. Maybe called Tinta. Swipe left if you love Verdi, swipe right if you think Wagner is everything.

            • Ah but what about those of us who are devoted to a mixed bag of Janacek, Rameau, Glass, Rimski-Korsakov and Massenet? :-)

            • manou

              Your options are endless.

            • manou

              Good thinking -- maybe LaC will produce one.

    • southerndoc1

      Prokina’s career seemed to wind down earlier than one would have expected. Anyone have any details?

      • Sebastian_Petit

        No. A pity as she did some stunning stuff including Glyndebourne Onegin and a wonderful Katya at a ROH in underrated Trevor Nunn production

        • Damianjb1

          I saw her as Tatiana in Eugene Onegin in Sydney many many years ago and she was superb.

  • Monabel

    Thanks to my Dvorak-devoted father, I have loved “The Devil and Kate” since my school days. The overture, and the orchestral interlude before Act III are just delicious. I don’t know why they are not played as concert pieces.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Stuart Skelton . . . Jim Gaffigan . . . James Corden . . . anyone else see a resemblance?

  • BrooklynPunk 1954

    anyone going to the Sunday July 30th matinee?

  • hai lui

    In a weak moment, I thought to look at the “bilingual libretto” mentioned above, but could not get a link. Not to worry -- I am unlikely actually to read it as I listen. Thank you for the Trove -- I love Stoyanova