More thinking overnight about Prince Igor gave us some more insights. We haven’t yet watched the above YouTube video, but look forward to doing so tonight.
BTW, some people didn’t like the Met’s current version. But they were taking it at face value. IFO gets that. No one mentioned it, but the lyrics often didn’t match the action – bows and arrows in a 19th century world? We don’t think so! But still, consider these unconscious revelations …
* The Princess Yaroslavna, Prince Igor’s wife, appears in the last act after the Russians have been attacked inside their fortress by the Polovtsians. Devastation. She walks among the people lying wounded or standing warming themselves at street fires, is if asleep, singing about how sad she is – missing her dear husband, mourning his loss.
It came to us that if she had been a Western princess, she would have been wiping the brows of the wounded, offering water to others, patting and comforting the standing citizens. Not so a Russian princess.
* It is critically important to SEE the opera as well as hear it. We are now listening to our CD, an earlier version brought to us by Valerij Gergiev of St. Petersburg RU. The Met version follows it pretty closely, just rearranging a big for plot clarity. … as if. There is no plot clarity in a Russian epic opera. Sorry.
We got by for decades on the Met Radio Broadcasts, which started in IFO’s birth year. But if you don’t know the visual context, you are missing at least 50% of the meaning. Also, when set, costumes and music come together in your brain, the impact is much stronger.
* The real point of the opera, as IFO now understands it (may change on repeated viewing/listening) is that nobody was any good. Prince Igor was an idiot to ignore the council of his advisors and the people. He lost a whole army “in the quicksands” and many Russian princes. The people, inexplicably, welcomed him back home and cheered him as their father and prince.
Prince Galitsky, who stayed home to mind the palace, was a complete b*st*rd and a traitor – tried to usurp the position of Prince Igor. The boyars were helpless, just said to put hope in G-d and the strength of the fortress. Only Khan Konchak came out looking like a good guy – honest, virile, tough.
* The women were a bit passive, but honorable and loving. Konchakovna, the Khan’s daughter, fell in love with Igor’s son. Some of her words explain much about the Russian view of the people of the steppes: “I am a child of freedom, the beauty of the native steppes. I am the pride of the land. I am the daughter of the leader of all Khans.”
* Narod is the Russian word for People. See how you can learn languages? Just read librettos! The narod were just wallpaper in the opera – ordinary folk just wanting to live in simple peace and harmony.
Why are we spending so much time and thought on this opera? Because we are seeing a variation of this playing out in Ukraine today.
Here is a collection of Tweeted photos captured by The Conservative Treehouse. No moral equivalency, please! Ukrainians are different from the Russians! Pay special attention to the third and fourth pictures and this comment @ the third picture:
This is extraordinary bravery and should be recognized, supported and rewarded.