A Night At The Opera

Delta Green: A Night At The Opera

Agents are contacted on their secure phones and invited to "A night at the
opera". Air tickets to New York and tickets to the current Metropolitan Opera
performance of "Khovanshchina" by Mussorgsky are delivered by courier.

Agents attending the performance find that "Khovanshchina" burns white-hot.
Blazingly sung, acted with conviction and conducted with intensity by Kirill
Petrenko, it is one of the best things the Met has done this season. Keepers can
find CDs of the opera at reasonable prices and may wish to play it for the
players.

Mussorgsky mined episodes from 17th-century Russian history for a brooding work
of both wide scope and disquieting intimacy. The nation's future is in play, and
the characters represent the warring factions vying for authority. They are
archetypes, but their emotions and weaknesses — destructive self-righteousness
is universal in "Khovanshchina" — come to life in music of shining grandeur that
recedes to passages of disarming delicacy. Folk songs mingle with majestic
choruses.

The work is deliberate in its pace and episodic in its structure, its characters
ambiguous and unsympathetic. But with the passionate performances in this
revival of August Everding's lucid production, introduced in 1985 and not seen
here since 1999, the risks and idiosyncrasies of "Khovanshchina" feel inspired.

The Met's Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian cast is idiomatic and consistently
superb, led by the commanding bass Anatoli Kotscherga in a belated, booming Met
debut as Ivan Khovansky, the leader of a rebellion against the czar. The
softness and steel in Olga Borodina's mezzo-soprano are ideal for Marfa, a
member of the fundamentalist Old Believers sect, with mystical tendencies.

The baritone George Gagnidze is richly forbidding as Shaklovity, one of the
czar's allies, and Ildar Abdrazakov's bass-baritone full and eloquent as
Dosifei, the leader of the Old Believers. The tenor Vladimir Galouzine is
passionate, as always, as the reform-minded nobleman Golitsin.

Perhaps the most impressive performance is Mr. Petrenko's. The orchestra rise to
powerful climaxes, but in quieter, conversational moments he holds the sound
carefully below the singers. His pacing is controlled but flexible, ebbing,
flowing and inexorably building under Shaklovity's dark monologue bemoaning the
state of Russia.

While the chorus sounds astonishing — clear and secure — the men tend to get
ahead of Mr. Petrenko, and the whole group's acting, as is too often the case,
is inconsistent: sometimes engaged, sometimes detached. The ballet in the
penultimate scene does nothing to advance the opera's plot or themes,
particularly not with Benjamin Millepied's bland new choreography.

But there are moments agents won't soon forget. Mr. Kotscherga's delivery of
Khovansky's final greeting to his troops — "Good day, my children" — moves from
thunderous arrogance to patronizing kindliness to hushed fear, capturing the
character in a single line. With only the barest of sets in the third scene for
Marfa's confession that she is haunted by a past love, Ms. Borodina makes the
cavernous Met feel tiny.

Mussorgsky never finished or arranged his opera, and the Met performs it in the
version completed by Shostakovich, with one exception for this revival: Mr.
Petrenko has interpolated the ending of another version, this one by Stravinsky.
Unlike Shostakovich's crashing finale, Stravinsky's fades to nothing as the
flames rise around the Old Believers. In this version "Khovanshchina" subsides
back into the dawn with which it began, offering little hope but tremendous
beauty.

San Costs: 0/1 loss for players who sit through the whole thing.

Stats for NPCs will follow in an email on some other date.

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