thu 01/10/2020

The Tsar's Bride, Royal Opera | reviews, news & interviews

The Tsar's Bride, Royal Opera

The Tsar's Bride, Royal Opera

Rimsky-Korsakov's melodrama lacks A-list casting in semi-plausible update

All weddings for the Russian rich end in tears: Paul Curran's updated Rimsky-Korsakov at Covent GardenAll images Bill Cooper for the Royal Opera

Long before the curtain rose on this soapy operatic tale of power and poison, one big question loomed: could director Paul Curran, could anyone, bring Rimsky-Korsakov's sweet, doomed and very Russian bride to convincing life? The music's mostly strong, and unusually singer-friendly for this composer; the historically dodgy plot's patchy, but not inimical to resetting in the queasy milieu of the new Russian rich. Given the bloodstained start in a swish Moscow restaurant, I thought Curran could be on to something, but by the end of the evening it was just a tawdry old melodrama dressed up in flashy suits.

Long before the curtain rose on this soapy operatic tale of power and poison, one big question loomed: could director Paul Curran, could anyone, bring Rimsky-Korsakov's sweet, doomed and very Russian bride to convincing life? The music's mostly strong, and unusually singer-friendly for this composer; the historically dodgy plot's patchy, but not inimical to resetting in the queasy milieu of the new Russian rich. Given the bloodstained start in a swish Moscow restaurant, I thought Curran could be on to something, but by the end of the evening it was just a tawdry old melodrama dressed up in flashy suits.

Kevin Knight's applause-winning designs take us from penthouse roof terrace to claustrophobic palace gilt, but the ceiling surely needs to lift as Marfa spiritually soars

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