A tantalizing piece of historical fiction, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tsar’s Bride” imagines the brief, unhappy courtship of Ivan the Terrible and his third wife, Marfa, who, in accordance with Romantic dramaturgy, promptly goes insane. Even though it was composed less than two decades before the Russian Revolution, the opera largely exonerates the Tsar of foul play, using the subject matter as an excuse for opulent music rather than as a call to arms. Doug Fitch’s semi-staging closes the Bard Music Festival on Aug. 19, at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. It splits the difference between a concert and a full production—the orchestra is in the pit, but some of the singers carry their scores onstage, while the English translation is projected behind them—giving the lie to an account that was never really true to begin with.
—Oussama Zahr (New Yorker)