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.
18 July 2004
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.