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 translation that communicated the different 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
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, 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