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Mazepa review at Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff

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Tchaikovsky’s 1884 historical opera about the ruthless Ukrainian separatist leader Mazepa is steadily gaining a place in the repertory and this searing new WNO production by the directorial duo of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser is going to win it many new admirers.

Since the music is vintage Tchaikovsky, one can only suppose that the relentlessly dark plot has held the work back up till now. The elderly ruler of Ukraine, plotting with Sweden to win autonomy from the Tsar, marries the young, vulnerable Mariya, thus causing a rift with her father, Kochubei, who shops him to Peter the Great. But Peter believes Mazepa, who promptly has Kochubei tortured and then executed. Mariya, meanwhile, loses touch with reality and in the final post-battle scene she cradles the dead body of her former admirer Andrei in her arms, singing a lullaby to his corpse.

It is a consistently hard-hitting piece, visually updated in this production to the break-up of the Soviet Union and its unstable and lawless satellite states. Christian Fenouillat’s sets and Agostino Cavalca’s costumes are strikingly realistic and the acting and direction faultless.

Marvellous individual performances from Gidon Saks as the noble Kochubei, from Robert Hayward as the vindictive anti-hero, from Tatiana Monogarova as the tragic Mariya and from Hugh Smith as Andrei. Conductor Alexander Polianichko and the entire company reveal the opera’s greatness in what is by any standards a superb production.

Production Information

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, May 20, 27 then touring

Composer
Tchaikovsky
Director
Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser
Producer
Welsh National Opera
Cast includes
Robert Hayward, Gidon Saks, Mariyanna Tarasova, Tatiana Monogarova, Hugh Smith
Running time
3hrs 20mins

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