The Invisible City of Kitezh

11th April 2014

Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Legend of Invisible City of Kitezh" is often considered to be his greatest opera, but until this year only one version was available on DVD (the production by the Cagliari Teatro Lirico conducted by Alexander Vedernikov). Now this is joined by a new production by The Netherlands Opera conducted by Marc Albrecht, reviewed here.


Prince Vsevolod, lost and wounded during a hunt, encounters Fevroniya living in the wilderness in Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Invisible City of Kitezh.

The opera is a mysterious work, apparently about prince Vsevolod who encounters the innocent maiden Fevroniya in the woods and takes her back to the city to marry her. As their wedding procession goes through a village it is interrupted by invading Tartars. But when the drunkard Grishka agrees to lead the Tartars to the city, the story changes from a historical tale to a metaphysical allegory: Fevroniya prays that the city will become invisible so the Tartars cannot find it, and although her prince has been killed by the invaders, they meet again in the Invisible City.

This production by Dmitri Tcherniakov changes the setting from the time of the Mongol invasion to a post-apocalypse world in which Fevroniya has fled to the woods to escape what has happened to the Earth. The animals in the first act have become human refugees, and the second and third acts transpose the wedding celebrations into drunken debauchery among the survivors, and the Tartars into lawless skinheads. Although it's all visually entertaining, apart from the first act it seems very downbeat and ultimately depressing compared to the spiritual beauty that was intended in the original plot. 

The largely Russian cast give a superb performance, conducted perfectly by Marc Albrecht leading the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the chorus of De Nederlandse Opera, and Svetlana Ignatovich is particularly wonderful as Fevroniya, both in her understated acting, and in her captivating voice. John Daszak is compelling as the drunkard Grishka, and Maxim Askenov is also excellent as the prince.

Available on DVD