An experiment in using multiple recordings: Paliashvili’s Abesalom da Eteri (1971 studio recording)

Running Time: 2 hours 9 minutes.

I decided to do the studio recording as well because it is slightly different and why not. This will obviously be much shorter.

The experiment is for me to compare how I review this recording to my previous review of the same opera. Is it the score or the recording that determines the star-ratings?

LOOK OUT FOR:

ACT 1: (32.5 minutes)

Scene 1: A forest clearing near a spring.

0: The prelude ** is shimmeringly beautiful and does not include the choral prologue. Although long, almost five minutes, it does not feel its length. One of the themes is the love theme which recurs a lot and develops as the opera progresses.

4: The first vocal music is the hunting chorus *.

6: Eteri’s sad song **. It consists of a single movement and is followed by a repeat of the hunting chorus as Abesalom and Murman comes upon her.

12, 18: Abesalom’s first address to Eteri ** is rather nice, I like how not shrill the tenor is. Murman interjects and Eteri confronts Abesalom. The number climaxes in a trio **. The scene ends with Murman storming out and a slightly-Rossinian system of battery chords.

Scene 2: Somewhere near Eteri’s dwelling (?).

25: After a joyous interlude Abesalom declares that he will marry Eteri. She responds nicely but the real flowering of the number occurs when they sing simultaneously **.

27: Murman’s aria *** in which he bemoans the fact that Eteri will never love him, is oddly noble considering what he will do.

ACT 2: The Capital, before the Cathedral. (34 minutes)

0: The act opens with a long but energetic choral sequence for the courtiers awaiting the wedding ceremony ** which is interspersed with orchestral interludes. The royal procession to the Cathedral sounds like it’s from the soundtrack of a Cecil B. DeMille bible epic, but not a bad piece at all if not all that long (two minutes). The chorus gets back into gear, first males then females then both. The king makes his address.

12, 17: The first quintet ***, a beautifully delicate but short piece, is followed by more lush orchestral and choral interludes until a toast is given by a tenor soloist followed by the second quintet *** which is even more beautiful and full of distinctly Georgian rhythms. It is also much longer. It ends abruptly.

19: A reference to the love theme which will return at the end of the opera appears at this point * as Murman presents his wedding gift for Eteri (a neckless, but an enchanted one which causes her to become ill).

22: Abesalom’s sister Princess Marekh entertains with a mild little song *.

25: The ballet *** a series of Georgian dances. For once a totally authentic ballet! It ends  the act with Eteri’s collapse.

ACT 3: A room in the castle. (23 minutes)

0: After a brief but noble instrumental introduction we have Abesalom’s sobering aria about the state of Eteri’s health *. It has a surprisingly bel canto effect in the vocal line.

8: Female courtiers arrive with Eteri, they really don’t do much but the melody in the orchestra is quite lovely *. Abesalom makes a strong break out and engages in a dialogue with his mother and sister. Eteri needs to find treatment outside of the palace. Murman gives his advice (obviously to further his own designs on Eteri).

13, 16: A beautiful ensemble which seems to be based on a folk melody wells up ***. Abesalom makes the painful decision to allow Eteri to go with Murman (more love theme  a very strong moment ***).

19: The high drama of the act finale ***. The orchestra fades out.

ACT 4: Murman’s castle. (39 minutes)

0: The act begins with a lovely aria con coro **.

4, 9: The arrival of Abesalom *, the love theme returns. His duet with Murman takes a while to warm up. But when it does it is nice **.

11: Suddenly there is a happy theme and a second duet for the two men ***.

19: The dialogue between Abesalom and his mother leads to a duet between her and Eteri with a hauntingly beautiful tune ***.

23: Marekh gives us another of her songs, this time better *** and eventually joined by Eteri in a joyous duet and finally a quartet with the Queen and a tenor nobleman (not Abesalom).

25: Watch for the love theme as the opera turns into the finale. Two parts, first a beautiful eight minute death scene for Abesalom ***. It starts off almost in the same way as the comic quartet but rapidly takes a turn for the romantic. Apart from a single glowing melody which will end the opera, it almost sounds like a Verdi-style ensemble. Abesalom dies.

33: The remainder of the opera, about six minutes, consists of Eteri’s suicide, death, and the musical resolution of the work, *** of course as it ends on that miraculous love theme, split by– that Georgian polyphonic chorus! I will never get enough of that theme! I wish I were Georgian just because of this one golden melody! I cried.

COMMENTS:

This is, generally, the most performed Georgian opera in any given year and annually opens the National Opera in Tbilisi. This year it is in fact the only Georgian opera being performed according to OperaBase, although a few years ago it was overtaken by another Paliashvili opera Daisi (Twilight) which was his second opera from 1921.

Generally speak, the results were the same or close to the same but there were some exceptions where some numbers got higher or lower ratings. This had to do with the singing and instrumental quality but also the way in which the nuances of the score are more clearing brought out in the studio recording. An extremely beautiful A?

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