Sergey Neller has scored a notable success at his debut on the podium of the Prague National Theatre, leading the company’s striking and compelling production of Rodion Shchedrin’s opera Lolita, based on Nabokov’s celebrated and controversial masterpiece novel. The work, premiered by the Royal Stockholm Opera in 1994 under the baton of Mstislav Rostropovich has seen few revivals in its 25 years, although Valery Gergiev brought excerpts of the score to the Mariinsky Theatre. This production, from Slovak director Sláva Daubnerová with internationally renowned scenographer Boris Kudlička and costume designer Natalia Kitamikado, featured a new version of the score reworked by Tatiana Juraszek, a young Russian composer, under the guidance of Shchedrin himself, now in his 85th year.

Bachtrack’s reviewer noted that “Shchedrinʼs brilliant score [is] a modern masterwork that almost precludes the need for clear dialogue and titles. Motifs define the characters, abrupt changes in mood and tone propel the story, inventive instrumentation (tenor saxophone, celesta and harpsichord, chimes, rattles, bongo drums) lends a fresh burnish, and occasional sonic effects, like a phone ringing, add moments of unexpected humor. […] Much of the credit for the eveningʼs success lay in the pit, where Russian-born German conductor Sergey Neller did a brilliant job drawing every note and nuance from the State Opera Orchestra, which is very good in the classical repertoire but not well-versed in modern music. The performance was so good that Shchedrin, in attendance for the premiere, went to the front of the stage after taking a few bows with the cast and made a point of encouraging extra applause for the musicians.”

Press from the Czech Republic and further afield was similarly positive:

Lidovky‘s Helena Havlíková writes “The German conductor of Russian origin Sergey Neller, himself also the author of several operas, masterfully demonstrated perfect knowledge of the score.”

Roland H Dippel of Kunst Technik says “Sergey Neller and the orchestra of the State Opera brought to Shchedrin’s score a natural and seductive clarity, without over-emphasizing the score’s effects of virtuoso-sounding Americanisms, melodramatic climaxes and retro-impressionistic colour.”

Michael Ernst from NMZ writes “The powerful music of Rodion Shchedrin flooded the senses under the extremely intensive conducting of Sergey Neller in the well-known Estates Theatre [the place of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and “La clemenza di Tito” creations] and makes this traditional house with its picturesque architecture once again a place of modernity.”

The production continues with further performances on 10 and 14 November and 8 and 10 January.

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