Poisoned Bride Wins Virtual Tsar in Reality-TV Tragedy

Source: Staatsoper Berlin via Bloomberg

Johannes Martin Kraenzle and Olga Peretyako as Grigory Gryaznoy and Marfa in the final act of the Rimsky-Korsakov opera "The Tsar's Bride" at the Staatsoper in Berlin. Gryaznoy unintentionally poisons Marfa, believing he is giving her a potion to make her fall in love with him. Close

Johannes Martin Kraenzle and Olga Peretyako as Grigory Gryaznoy and Marfa in the final... Read More

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Source: Staatsoper Berlin via Bloomberg

Johannes Martin Kraenzle and Olga Peretyako as Grigory Gryaznoy and Marfa in the final act of the Rimsky-Korsakov opera "The Tsar's Bride" at the Staatsoper in Berlin. Gryaznoy unintentionally poisons Marfa, believing he is giving her a potion to make her fall in love with him.

“The Tsar’s Bride” is an energetic, tragic opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov with some rousing drinking songs and a drawn-out death by poison. It is rarely performed outside Russia.

Berlin’s Staatsoper has revived it in a new, smart staging by the Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov.

The search for the bride becomes a television casting show and the prize is a virtual bachelor tsar assembled in computer images flashed onto a screen.

He’s a digital composite -- a dash of Peter the Great, a smidgeon of Boris Yeltsin, a smattering of Leon Trotsky -- who ends up looking like Stalin.

The sham beauty contest is conceived in an Internet chat room. Close-up projected images of the blushing young finalists slide across the stage.

Marfa, who wins the contest just as she has taken that poison, becomes the victim of a modern celebrity cult which won’t allow her to peacefully marry her childhood sweetheart and lead a life of bourgeois contentment.

The tsar only makes a brief personal appearance to stare piercingly at Marfa in the libretto, so Tcherniakov’s treatment works. The emotional entanglement revolves around one of his aides, Grigory Gryaznoy, who is violently in love with Marfa.

Woman Scorned

The dynamic baritone Johannes Martin Kraenzle plays him as a TV mover-and-shaker in denial about his fading appeal to young women. Olga Peretyatko sings Marfa with girlish vivacity.

Source: Staatsoper Berlin via Bloomberg

The set of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Tsar's Bride." Director Dmitri Tcherniakov turns a bridal beauty contest into a television casting show with a virtual tsar as the prize bachelor. Close

The set of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Tsar's Bride." Director Dmitri... Read More

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Source: Staatsoper Berlin via Bloomberg

The set of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Tsar's Bride." Director Dmitri Tcherniakov turns a bridal beauty contest into a television casting show with a virtual tsar as the prize bachelor.

She can’t really compete with Anita Rachvelishvili as the scorned Lyubasha -- a more complex and interesting character. Rachvelishvili inspires pity, admiration and fear simultaneously and she earned the most enthusiastic applause of the evening.

When she confronts Gryaznoy after a dinner party, her humiliation is excruciating. As she paws at his chest, he leans away to examine his drink.

Tcherniakov’s directing is not just about clever concepts - - it is also rich in detail and meticulous in character analysis. Gestures chime perfectly with the libretto.

He designed the unshowy, intelligent sets too -- a modern TV studio and conference room. A large window overlooking the street gains poetry with lush projections of autumn leaves.

Pace and drama are supplied in spades by Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle orchestra, with a vibrant, varied performance. Rating: *****.

Information: http://www.staatsoper-berlin.de/en_EN

(Catherine Hickley writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Source: Staatsoper Berlin via Bloomberg

Olga Peretyatko, as Marfa, peers through a window at the heartbroken Ljubascha, played by Anita Rachvelishvili, who is plotting to rob her of her beauty with a potion in Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Tsar's Bride." The rarely performed opera opened at the Staatsoper this month. Close

Olga Peretyatko, as Marfa, peers through a window at the heartbroken Ljubascha, played... Read More

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Source: Staatsoper Berlin via Bloomberg

Olga Peretyatko, as Marfa, peers through a window at the heartbroken Ljubascha, played by Anita Rachvelishvili, who is plotting to rob her of her beauty with a potion in Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Tsar's Bride." The rarely performed opera opened at the Staatsoper this month.

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To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at chickley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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