Khovanshchina (Khovanskygate)

Birmingham Opera Company, Cannon Hill Park, April 2014
Composer, Modest Musorgsky  /  Conductor, Stuart Stratford  /  Director, Graham Vick  /  Choreographer, Ron Howell  /  Lighting, Giuseppe Di Iorio. Photographs © Donald Cooper (except nr  3, 18, 20)

Winner – Best New Production, International Opera Awards 2015



— The Times, Anna Picard 

— The Guardian, Andrew Clements

— Birmingham Post, Christopher Morley

A captive audience thrills to Birmingham Opera Company’s heartfelt reworking of Mussorgsky’s epic Khovanshchina.
— The Observer, Fiona Maddocks

The drama is magnificently managed – charged, electric, bitter and twisted.
— Exeunt, Roderic Dunnett

“Khovanskygate is a version of Mussorgsky’s opera with irresistible imaginative panache”
The audience promenades through the inside of a circus tent, where designer Samal Blak creates a space in which an election rally is taking place. Video screens broadcast news of crisis, protest and repression, as shifting factions and coalitions result in scandalous back-stabbing mayhem.
— The Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen

the most gripping of the half dozen or so I’ve seen in the past thirty-odd years
“…it also responds brilliantly to the mobile context. In the Freedom Tent the audience stands for the entire three hours of Musorgsky’s score, turning this way and that to face a series of platforms and arenas (designers Samal Blak and Giuseppe Di Iorio), being pushed around and kettled up like any crowd of innocent bystanders at a perfectly legal demonstration. The choral scenes, especially, take on terrific energy from the sense of mobile space and the sheer presence of top-class choral singers elbowing their way through the audience, or popping up next to you, so that for a minute you wonder if you aren’t supposed to be joining in (I did once – the music is so irresistible…”
—  The Arts Desk, Stephen Walsh 

“The space is plastered with up-to-date campaign posters advertising the electoral claims of Andrei Khovansky, an extreme rightwing politician. The audience is herded by menacing police (all actors) and, at various points throughout the evening, infiltrated by political agitators, gun-toting thugs and the religious right.
Gradually the performance surmounts its heavy-handedness and works a spell. Part of its magic stems from the illusion of reality/spontaneity and the way Vick makes every member of the audience a participant…. you can’t help being swept up in the inspired craziness, the sheer theatricality of it all.”
— The Financial Times, Andrew Clark