photo: Monika Rittershaus
If the devil came to Berlin he would not be able to scare a single soul. Because Berliners have real problems like rising rents, shitty jobs or not getting into Berghain (depending on priorities) and have no time for religious superstitions. It’s quite a different story in the small village of Sorochinsky in the middle of nowhere in the Ukraine where the devil is the cause for a lot of fear and trauma.
At least what I learned from the opera “The Fair of Sorochinsky” by Russian composer Mussorgsky which I had the chance to enjoy last weekend at Komische Oper Berlin. In between Russian folklore, impossible relationships and a devil’s feast with pigs on fire I had a musical enlightenment I would like to share with you.
First of all, I never heard of this Opera before in my life. Which is basically no biggy, since this piece is barely played and did not appear on a Berlin stage since 1948. It’s even more fascinating though that the main music piece from this Opera “Night on a bald mountain” is very famous and that it was my favorite classical piece as a child.
Like all good kids with a musical family and a passion for animated cartoons I watched the movie from Disney called Fantasia with all kinds of classical “Hits” transformed into animated short films. One of these short films was exactly about this music piece which is about a crazy night of Sabbat in praise of the devil (I really don’t know why Disney chose it for their kids-friendly program). Maybe you remember this dark and impressive cartoon from your own childhood. If not feel free to watch it here.
To see my beloved music piece from childhood on stage with a giant choir and a live orchestra was already a fantastic experience. But my musical revelation was actually something else. The director of the piece, Barry Kosky (also the general director of the whole Opera House), inserted several songs from another composer called Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakow into the performance. Songs that were performed with such a magnitude but also tenderness by the fantastic choir of the Komische Oper that I could not un-notice the goose bumps on my arms every time they started to sing.
After the piece was over, it was not the story of the Opera that stayed in my heart but the poetry of the lyrics that captured this beautiful eastern European world of cold and snow and nature and magic. Where devils dance and witches sing and old men look for the love of their life inside their old heart buried in regrets and alcohol.
photo: Monika Rittershaus
I recommend you to watch this Opera even if you are not usually a fan of this kind of performances because it is musically speaking very different from the classic Italian Operas you might know. Not only Mussorgsky’s music has a deepness and sadness that is so painfully beautiful that you have to appreciate it. But also the team around Barry Kosky and the magnificent choir mastered to created a piece of art you won’t be able to see anywhere else in this way in the world. And that is something we can only applaud and wonder how magical the arts on stage can be in a world of steril digitalization and redundancy.
If you are curious to get a sneak peek before watching it on stage you can also have a look at the free online streaming on arte.
Find out more about dates and times of the next performances over here.