KHOVANSKYGATE: A NATIONAL ENQUIRY
Birmingham Opera Company 2014
A new English version of Musorgsky's Khovanshchina written by Max Hoehn
"Winner of Best New Production at 2015 International Opera Awards"
Graham Vick's production required a new English version of the libretto that communicated clearly the diverse ideological forces at work in Musorgsky's opera to an audience with no prior knowledge of Russian history. This meant dispensing with unfamiliar references to names, battles and treaties. The Streltsy, the Moscow militia run by Ivan Khovansky, are recast as a corrupt, anarchic police force. The Scribe in this version is a journalist, Scribbler, who is pressured by Peter the Great's advisor Shaklovity to leak 'Khovanskygate' to the public. The Old Believers of the original have become a far-right religious movement: the True Believers.
'In the pay of politicians
Gossip helped to fill the prisons
Built a network of informers
Gossip soon increased the tortures.
Leaking lies to all the papers
Wrecking public reputations!'
GRANNY GOSSIP CHORUS, Act 3
'Late at night she roamed the wild
all alone like a lost child.
She danced through forests in search of love.
Out of breath, she began to tire.
Thorns and nettles had cut her feet.
She kept on searching through the night
for the boy who'd promised her they would meet.
Just as the sun began to rise,
she crept up to her darling's home.
First she tapped on the window pane.
Then she knocked at his door,
hoping he'd appear.
Do you remember your loving words?
Oh, don't forget what you promised me.
How many nights have I lain awake,
with your vows of love ringing in my ears.
Like two candles burning bright,
we shall glow with a holy light.
Bathing in the flames of God,
we shall free our souls from the chains of life."
MARFA'S ARIA, ACT 3
'The nation named in Max Hoehn's demotic translation is still Russia...but we could be anywhere - even here...Crude politics, vivid performances, magnificent orchestral playing combine to exhausting, unsettling effect.' * * * * The Times
'Vick and his translator, Max Hoehn, transfer the power politics into contemporary terms...drawing parallels with extremist nationalist movements in Europe and the religious Right of America.' * * * * The Telegraph
'Max Hoehn's new English version seethes with urban slang...The contemporary echoes are only too evident...But Khovanskygate was a night for the chorus and the people of Birmingham. The cheers were ecstatic.' The Observer
'A logistical, musical and dramatic triumph'
The Sunday Times
'A scintillating new translation' Exeunt Magazine