In my book, this is the production of the year 2012: Dmitri Tcherniakov´s staging of Rimsky-Korsakov´s 1907 opera entitled: "The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia". As this is probably the only production of this work many will see, luckily it will reach quite a broad audience being a co-production between Amsterdam, Paris, La Scala and Barcelona (and possibly others). Most probably a DVD will be released as well and why not with this Amsterdam cast, which cannot be substantially bettered.
Dmitri Tcherniakov outdoes himself in a staging I cannot imagine being done better. A mix of fairy tale and realism, the action is placed in present day Russia including favourite Tcherniakov thematics such as the russian people (protagonists in his Boris Godunov, Khovanshchina and Macbeth), power struggle (used in almost all his stagings), the mob (Macbeth) and collective suicide (Dialogue of the Carmelites). And infused with an exciting personen-regie, his perhaps most important trademark.
Those not familiar with Kitezh may want to refer to a synopsis of the work, which in brief centers around the girl Fevronia, who lives in a forest where a prince finds her and they subsequently fall in love (a hauntingly beautiful and evocative set design of fields of corn, staircases (symbolic?) and a small cottage). During their subsequent wedding, the party is attacked by Tatars (Russian mobsters) aiming to invade the city of Kitezh. They do not succeed however, as the city has been made invisible (here the inhabitants commit collective suicide in a make-shift field hospital). Fevronia, captured by the Tsars, escapes and finally dies in the woods (a dream-like ending, where she initially is reunited with her prince, however finally she dies alone).
Svetlana Ignatovich, ensemble member at the Basel opera, stepped in for Kristine Opolais, in what must surely be international break-through. She is simply outstanding, with immensely moving acting as well as a beautiful dark voice centred around her middle-register, slavic quality in spades. A performance of rare beauty and sincerity worthy of the saintly figure, Tcherniakov (and Rimsky-Korsakov) intended Fevronia to be.
Equally superb turn-outs for the male cast of Alexei Markov, Maksim Aksenov and John Daszak, who all formed an ensemble of true singer-actors.
With all this, one almost forgets the orchestra, and quite unjustly so: Marc Albrecht and Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest turns out a wonderful performance.
This is Dmitri Tcherniakov is at his at his absolute best in what I believe is the definitive production of The Invisible City of Kitzeh.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Svetlana Ignatovich: 5
John Daszak: 5
Alexei Markov: 5
Maxim Aksenov: 5
Dmitri Tcherniakov´s production: 5
Marc Albrecht: 5
Overall impression: 5