The Demon review – Cardiff winner Andrei Kymach makes his mark

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
A remarkable showing from the newly crowned Singer of the World and erotically charged scenes in this Rubinstein rarity

Anton Rubinstein is perhaps most frequently remembered as the inspirational teacher who, in 1862, founded St Petersburg Conservatory, where Tchaikovsky was among his pupils. He was also, however, a prolific composer in his own right, and his 1875 opera The Demon, superbly performed in concert by the Chelsea Opera Group, was among the most popular Russian works in the late 19th century, though it has become something of a rarity since.

Rubinstein’s source was Lermontov’s poem of the same name, about a Demon, portrayed as a doomed Byronic outsider, seeking spiritual redemption through the love of Tamara, a mortal woman. His desire for her eventually kills her, though her soul is saved through divine intervention, leaving the Demon to wander alone throughout eternity. Rubinstein was a cosmopolitan, anti-nationalist figure and his music has an eclectic quality that makes his style difficult to pin down. There are echoes of Berlioz and Wagner’s Lohengrin, along with passages that prefigure Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The scenes between Tamara and the Demon are erotically charged. Elsewhere, however, there are occasional longueurs.

Andrei Kymach, fresh from his win at Cardiff Singer of the World, took the title role. He is a remarkable artist, his voice darkly beautiful and evenly produced, his command – both of line and text – is at once subtle and deeply expressive. His Tamara, Anush Hovhannisyan, sang with fierce intensity and considerable power. In a cast without a weak link, Giorgi Sturua as Tamara’s fiance Sinodal and Barnaby Rea as her father Prince Gudal also stood out. Oliver Zeffman conducted with passion and elan, and playing and choral singing were thrilling.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Siegfried review – Jurowski showcases Wagner with wonder and excitement
Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO make the third part of Wagner’s Ring a thing of wonder, raising the bar with an astonishing performance

Tim Ashley

02, Feb, 2020 @4:07 PM

Article image
Anish Kapoor on Wagner: 'He was antisemitic and I'm Jewish. Who cares?'
As his set designs for ENO’s Tristan and Isolde are unveiled, Anish Kapoor talks about the flak they’ve caused him, his record-breaking slide – and how he got his own back on the Frenchman who sued him

Stuart Jeffries

08, Jun, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
Richard and the revolutionaries: why did lefties love Wagner?
His antisemitism made him a far-right icon. So what attracted reds and radicals from Lenin to George Bernard-Shaw to the tumultuous sounds of Hitler’s favourite composer?

Alex Ross

17, Sep, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Das Rheingold review – superb Jurowski hits awesome anvils
Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO were superb in this anniversary semi-staging that marks the start of a new Ring Cycle

Tim Ashley

28, Jan, 2018 @11:20 AM

Article image
Terry Gilliam's opera diary: 'We have a big head problem'

Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini is incoherent, bombastic and nigh on unperformable. The perfect project, then, for Terry Gilliam to direct. We asked him to keep a diary as he brought the work to the ENO stage

Terry Gilliam

03, Jun, 2014 @5:20 PM

Article image
Philharmonia/Nelson review – devotion and drama elevate Berlioz's Requiem
In this grand setting, the composer’s Grande Messe des Morts unfolded with intensity and gravitas, with tenor Michael Spyres bringing ease and beauty of tone

Tim Ashley

11, Mar, 2019 @1:30 PM

Article image
The Queen of Spades; Der fliegende Holländer; Dutch Classical Music Meeting 2011 – review

Despite the best efforts of a great dame, Opera North's Queen of Spades fails to lift off, writes Fiona Maddocks

Fiona Maddocks

22, Oct, 2011 @11:08 PM

Article image
L’Enfance du Christ/BBCSO review – Berlioz rendered with baleful beauty
Themes of refuge and religious doubt came to the fore in a poignant oratorio conducted elegantly by Edward Gardner

Tim Ashley

18, Dec, 2018 @3:48 PM

Article image
Eugene Onegin: unchain my heart

Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky's opera about love and loss, is one of the most seductive works in the repertoire. Kasper Holten on why he's making it his directorial debut at Covent Garden

Kasper Holten

02, Jan, 2013 @7:30 PM

Article image
Juliana review - Miss Julie reworking makes for a convincing, effective new opera
Joseph Phibbs and Laurie Slade’s spare and coherent chamber opera updates Strindberg’s claustrophobic three-hander to the present day, with Cheryl Enever compelling in the title role

Andrew Clements

17, Jul, 2018 @8:51 AM