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Drinking songs, dances, folk tales and a wild witches' sabbath – the people as an effervescing source of energy serve as incredibly headstrong victims at the heart of Mussorgski's fast-paced and mercurial plot. Left uncompleted by the composer, this comical and grotesque masterpiece could only be premièred many years after Mussorgski's death. Last performed at the Komische Oper, and thus Berlin, in 1948, it is now set to reappear in a new production by head director Barrie Kosky.
The fairytale of a dipsomaniac devil who searches for a red frock drives terror into the hearts of the superstitious inhabitants and travelers in the small Ukrainian village of Sorochyntsi, including the farmer Cherevik. His daughter Parasya loves Gritsko the peasant lad, but is not allowed to marry him because her quarrelsome stepmother Khivrya, who makes her husband Cherevik's life a misery, thinks that a humble peasant lad is too poor a match. But anyone who knows how to use superstition to their advantage will get what they want, with our without the devil ...
»Simple events« in a loose, causally unconnected sequence fill Mussorgski's unfinished opera with rich, folkloric vibrancy. He achieves this effect by not only drawing on folk songs and dances, but also spreading their musical fabric across the entire composition. He also takes his orchestral fantasy Night on Bald Mountain from 1867 and expands it into a choral piece, inserting it as a dream dreamt by the peasant lad Gritsko. Several composers have tried to turn Mussorgski's material into a performable work. The most recently published version, by Lamm/Shebalin in 1932, seems to come closest to the composer's intentions. It does not seek to smooth things over, instead paying tribute to the »unpolished« character of the work.
Libretto by the composer, based on the tale by Nikolai W. Gogol
Reconstructed on the basis of the composer's autograph by Pavel Lamm; completed and orchestrated by Vissarion Y. Shebalin
The Komische Oper’s Colourful Portrayal of »The Fair at Sorochintsy«
»A Gogol opera would almost seem made for Barrie Kosky, offering magic, sex, exoticism, and of course grotesquerie. He and his production team certainly do a fine job here. Katrin Lea Tag’s set designs are relatively spare, without being minimalist; they provide an excellent frame for Kosky’s always detailed, convincing Personenregie. There is no doubting the mastery of his craft here. … The Dream Vision ballet sequence is, unsurprisingly, an exception to any hint of spareness. … Kosky’s fantastical imagination here runs riot. One does not necessarily understand, although one may feel compelled to attempt interpretation nevertheless. It is spectacle in the best sense, though, mysteriously changing what we have seen and heard forever.«