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01 July 2008

Six Minutes of Russian Opera to Knock You on Your  Жопа

I'm currently obsessing over this "Polovtsian Dances" segment of the opera Prince Igor, by Alexander Borodin. Here it's performed by a massive theatre company with everyone in full medieval-russkii drag, and it's quite a spectacle!

You might recognize the opening melody, which was ripped off (via the Broadway show Kismet) and turned into the 1950s pop standard "Stranger in Paradise." But the really fun ass-knocking-down-on part starts at about the 3:40 mark.

I found the Russian text after a little searching; it's wierd how the sounds that had been meaningless operatic tra-la-hah-ing suddenly crystalize into intelligible Russian words once I'm able to read along as I listen.

Anyhew, the bombastic, Carmina Burana-ish section with the hellza-bangin' kettle drums is imaginatively titled "Everyone Starts Dancing" (Общая Пляска) and the chorus is basically saying how super fabulous and terror-inspiring their Big Boss is. His name is "Konchak," but in the song, they refer to him by the title of his office: Khan. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine Ricardo Montalban's minions singing this to William Shatner:

♪♫ Пойте песни славы хану! Пой!
Славьте силу, дочесть хана! Славь!
Славен хан! Хан!
Славен он, хан наш!
Блеском славы
Солнцу равен хан!
Нету равных славой хану! Нет!
Чаги хана славят хана...

♪♫ Sing songs of glory to KHAN! Sing!
Glorify his might, honor KHAN!
KHAN is glorious! KHAN!
He is glorious, our KHAN!
In the brightness of his glory,
KHAN is like the sun!
There are no equals to the glory of KHAN! None!
The slaves of KHAN glorify KHAN, etc.

Executive summary: If you dare call yourself a Polovtsian, a massive hard-on for KHAN is mandatory.

Mind you, the opera as a whole is about how the Prince Igor tries to protect the motherland from the invading armies of Konchak, which means that this balls-out showstopper musical number belongs to the bad guys.

By the way, the Polovtsians were apparently a Turkic people who are now extinct by assimilation into other ethnicities. At the time depicted in the opera (late 12th century), they were still some flavor of pagan, but not too long afterwards, the Western Polovtsians converted to Christianity, while their cousins to the east chose Islam.

And to my non-Russian ears the ethnic name "Polovtsian" sounds amusingly similar to the adjective polovóy, which can mean either "sexual" or "floor-related." (Yes, really.  Половой воск , for example, could arguably be translated either "sex wax" or "floor wax.")

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posted by Throbert | 7/01/2008 10:51:00 PM |
Hi, I'm posting a test comment
I think it is the pattern on the fabric of the pantaloons the dancers are wearing that adds to the visual effect

Nice find!

Can't say anything much as I'm not into Russian Opera ... or ballet.
Verdi is more my thing!

yma o hyd
Greetings from lgf!

Love me some Russian Opera. Thanks for the great clip.
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