It’s amazing how often dramatic creations from the past throw up contemporary resonances, and this is certainly what Graham Vick has found in Mussorgsky’s Khovanschina , an opera of power-struggle in Russia set centuries ago, and which is topically so relevant today.
In Khovanskygate, this updated Birmingham Opera Company presentation (can’t say “staging”, as there is no proscenium in this vast marquee) we are greeted with public demonstrations of anger against corruption and greedy bankers, with media-fuelled political mudslinging, and fundamentalist homophobia and anti-abortionism.
To an extent it works, with BOC’s huge and devoted community chorus jostling us in the arena as we shuffle around the various performing areas (that kind of marshalling is almost totalitarianism in itself). But all this physical bewilderment actually leads to disengagement with the actual thread of the narrative, so we end up neither understanding nor caring about what is going on.
And the excellent musical values may well pass un-noticed. To the backdrop of Stuart Stratford’s well-paced conducting of the glowing CBSO, the singers perform remarkably as they cavort around the arena. Outstanding in the team are Paul Nilon as the bribed journalist, Eric Greene as the conservative Khovansky, Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts as his liberal opponent, Keel Watson as Dosifei, a born-again Patriarch, and, especially, Claudia Huckle as Marfa, his tormented daughter.
Repeated May 2 (7pm). Running-time three hours, 45 minutes.