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A devil is on the loose in the little Ukrainian village of Sorochyntsi, driving terror into the hearts of inhabitants and visitors alike. These include the farmer Cherevik, whose daughter Parasya loves Gritsko the peasant lad, but is not allowed to marry him because her quarrelsome stepmother Khivrya is against it.
Drinking songs, folk tunes and a wild witches’ sabbath – Barrie Kosky stages Mussorgski’s comically grotesque opera as a colourful, effervescent folk piece “with plenty of tempo and joy at the absurdity of human existence” [BR-Klassik]: at the heart of the goings-on are the exuberantly-lived lives and doings of a tight-knit village community, with all its jokes and crudeness. There is cooking, loving, boozing, boasting – and, of course, singing!
»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.«