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Reviews for Prince Igor 1962 IPCD 1044-3

Reviews for IPCD 1044-3



Borodin PRINCE IGOR


Oskar Danon, cond; Consuelo Rubio (Yaroslavna); David Poleri (Vladimir); Igor Gorin (Prince Igor); Boris Christoff (Galitsky; Konchak); Lyric Opera of Chicago O & Ch. IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES IPCD 1044-3 monaural (3 CDs: 212:08) Live recording: Lyric Opera of Chicago, 10/12/1962


& Igor Gorin sings Arie Antiche and Barber of Seville: Largo al factotum


& Igor Gorin Interview


Henry Fogel
FANFARE magazine
November/December 2014


Some operatic careers are puzzling to those of us who do the observing rather than the singing or hiring, and certainly one of the most puzzling must be Igor Gorin. The Russian-Jewish baritone began his career as a cantor, and achieved quite a measure of fame in America as a concertizer and as a star of radio. He was a regular on the Bell Telephone Hour and Voice of Firestone, and an RCA recording artist, yet he made a single performance as Germont at the Met, quite late in his career. The principal value of this important release is Gorin’s Igor, a towering achievement vocally and dramatically. His rich, resonant, firmly focused voice is based on an extremely sound technique, and he sings with presence and character. Those who really love this opera should know this performance, which is as richly characterized and beautifully sung as any.


One cannot, however, consider this as a main recommendation for a recording of Prince Igor. As with so many recordings and performances, it is severely cut, omitting the third act entirely. The Philips recording with Gergiev is the gold standard for this opera. Benjamin Pernick’s brilliant review of that recording in Fanfare 19:1 gives a thorough history of performing editions and other recordings, and I would refer the interested reader to the Fanfare archive for the valuable information contained therein. There is something to be said, as a supplement, for the Opera d’Oro release of the 1951 Russian recording with Andrei Ivanov, Mark Reizen, Alexander Pirogov and Sergei Lemeshev. George Jellinek reviewed that in 26:6.


What Immortal Performances offers us in addition to a chance to hear a wonderful baritone in a major role is a glimpse into an important moment in a major American opera company. The Lyric Opera of Chicago during the period in which it was run by Carol Fox competed with any house in the world (save for the fact that no one in that administration was smart enough to make some kind of recorded archive, so many truly important performances are lost to us). The Björling/Callas Trovatore is one that we’d all like to have heard. The standard practice was to broadcast the opening night, so only one opera per year was broadcast, thus allowing for preservation. In 1962 it was Prince Igor, a performance that had an extra frisson as Ms. Fox engaged a dancer for the Polovtsian Dance sequence who would make his American debut that night—Rudolf Nureyev. Sadly we cannot know his performance from an audio recording, though we can share in the excitement of the ovation he receives during his bows. It is worth noting that for this era it was an act of some courage for the Lyric Opera to produce the opera entirely in Russian.


In addition to Gorin, this performance boasts Boris Christoff in the dual roles of Galitsky and Konchak, a trick he repeated for EMI about five years later. In his excellent notes, producer Richard Caniell notes that Christoff is not in quite as firm voice as he was on his earlier EMI Boris Gudonov recording. That may be true, but he sounds pretty good to me here, and with much firmer tones than he shows on the later EMI set. The voice had really started to spread by that time. So the monumental presence of Christoff and the rich Prince of Gorin are the reasons for serious collectors to explore this set. That is especially true because of the added bonus of a 1961 studio recording originally on the Golden Crest label called Arie antiche, with Gorin accompanied very nicely by pianist Willard Straight. This recital includes music of Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Scarlatti and many others, and adds immensely to the value of this set. Again, it shows a warm, rich, focused baritone voice supported by a very firm technique. And one further bonus—Largo al factotum in a 1945 Gorin broadcast from The Voice of Firestone that demonstrates (along with the Arie antiche) the truth of his claim that he tried to build his technique by studying recordings of Battistini. A brief interview rounds out the Gorin material here.


There is one more highlight in Prince Igor, and that is the tenor David Poleri. Those of us who still treasure his brilliant Michele in Menotti’s Saint of Bleecker Street recording will be delighted by his sensitive and lovely singing here. This version of Vladimir’s Cavatina can stand with some of the finest.


The remainder of the Prince Igor is, to be honest, a mixed bag. I find Consuelo Rubio a bit harsh and unsteady, the other singers fair but rarely more, and the chorus sounds a particularly motley conglomeration. The Lyric Opera Orchestra plays much better today than it did in those days, with some ensemble problems and less-than-stellar solo playing. Danon’s conducting is, however, well shaped.


As usual, Immortal Performances’s production standards are top of the line. The notes are both informative and interesting (yes, it is possible to be one without the other), and the sound is quite good. Caniell also provides a remarkably well designed scene-by-scene chart telling us who composed which scene and who orchestrated it. Very helpful indeed, and a major asset of this set. There are some minor issues with the source, which Caniell explains, but overall this is a natural sounding early 1960s monaural radio broadcast, and for this kind of material the sound is really terrific. The original radio announcer from Chicago is kept, but is tracked separately should you wish to omit that particular piece of atmosphere.


For those with an interest in Borodin’s opera, or in hearing Gorin and Christoff in wonderful live, staged performances, this is a very valuable release.




Borodin PRINCE IGOR


BORODIN Prince Igor • Oskar Danon, cond; Igor Gorin (Prince Igor); Consuelo Rubio (Jaroslavna); Renato Cesari (Eroshka); Carol Smith (Konchakovna); Mariano Caruso (Jaroslavna’s Nurse); Prudencija Bickus (Polovtsian Maiden); David Poleri (Vladimir); Boris Christoff (Prince Galitsky, Konchak); Richard Carl Knoll (Skoula); Lyric Op of Chicago Ch & O • IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1044 (3 CDs: 212:08) Live: Lyric Opera of Chicago 10/12/1962


& Igor Gorin sings Arie Antiche and Barber of Seville: Largo al factotum


& Igor Gorin Interview


Colin Clarke
FANFARE magazine
January / February 2015


This was a gala performance that included luxury casting, with Rudolf Nureyev in the Polovtsian Dances (his first appearance in an opera production). Of course we can’t see him, but it is good to know, and the applause certainly indicates that something special is (pardon the pun) afoot. It’s also nice to have the broadcast commentary included, which always adds to the sense of occasion, but in this instance all the atmosphere is in the performance. The chorus, for example, has a real Slavic edge to its delivery and given its prominent status in the opera’s Prologue, this means the performance gets off to a remarkable start. But it is the impeccable casting that makes this special. The baritone Igor Gorin takes on the titluar role and it is praise indeed to state that he is not upstaged by Christoff. As (the role) Igor, Gorin seems to have impeccable credentials: a baritone that has the tonal richness of a properly Russian bass.


Boris Christoff does one of his favorite things, not confining himself to just one role. Here he takes on both Galitsky and Konchak (as he does in his EMI recording). Everywhere he is preternaturally attuned to the vocal line and the style. Famous though he might be for his Boris Godunov, there is no doubt that this set presents him in consistently great singing. Consuelo Rubio is in good voice here, although she can tend towards harshness in her upper reaches. A case in point is her entry in act III, where the quiet portion is magical; the sudden forte is like a high-pitched slap in the face.


Mariano Caruso is a fresh-voiced Nurse, Carol Smith an eloquent Konchakovna. American singer David Poleri’s ardent tenor suits the music well. Oskar Danon draws out splendid playing from the Chicagoans, finding amusement as well as tragedy. He also brings the various soloists together to give the sense of an over-arching musical argument. The famous Polovtsian Dances are given affectionately in the slower sections and plenty of earthy vim in the faster ones (with the strings delivering plenty of definition at high velocity). The transfer throughout is wonderful, with minimal distortion.


So why does Prince Igor not get the outings it seems to deserve? It is not a uniform score, to be sure, but it surely should be on our stages more. It would be churlish not to mention the fillers: a group of “Arie antiche” recorded in November 1961 of songs by Alessandro Scarlatti, Monteverdi, Falconieri, Vivaldi, and Legrenzi, among others. They should not provoke as much outrage amongst the early music brigade as one might think, and are utterly delightful.


The brief interview (actually entitled “Men, Women and Tenors”) gives some background to Gorin and the set concludes with his choice: the “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Barbiere from a 1945 Firestone Hour broadcast. It’s in a rather dry recording acoustic but is a tremendous, fiery performance, even if the band does sound rather like a scratch orchestra. The pause on the penultimate note of the vocal line is the sort of thing one either loves or hates.


I have praised Immortal Performances’ documentation before now on many occasions, but this booklet has never been bettered. Caniell provides an indispensable table of which sections of the score were composed or orchestrated by whom (Glazunov and Rimsky, of course, and Lyadov for the Polovtsian Dances as well).



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