Rimsky-Korsakov epitomises the fantastic side of the Russian soul. Regarding opera as "essentially the most enchanting and intoxicating of lies," he drew on his country’s rich folk heritage to create a fairy-tale world in which the fanciful and commonplace were fused through extravagant orchestral virtuosity and fervently Romantic vocal writing. This Châtelet revival of "Le coq d’or" brought to the stage once again by the great Kabuki actor Ennosuke III is performed by the Orchestre de Paris and the Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg, conducted by Kent Nagano and sung by Orlin Anastassoy (King Dodon), Olga Trifonova (Queen of Shemakha), Ilya Bannik (General Polkan) and Barry Banks (The Astrologer).
Completed in 1907, "Le coq d’or", based on Pushkin’s 1834 poem, was Rimsky- Korsakov’s last opera. It was also his most provocative. In 1904 the Japanese government, despairing of ever being able to persuade the Russians to give them back Manchuria, launched a naval attack on Port Arthur.
The Russian defences were disorganised and lost not only the opening battle but also the majority of the ensuing conflicts, with the army and navy humiliated by a country thought incapable of organising any serious military threat. Shortly after the Japanese victory in 1906, Rimsky-Korsakov began "Le coq d’or", using a libretto that turned Pushkin’s original tale into a satire of military incompetence, aristocratic stupidity and political corruption. When he completed the score the following year, he was forced to submit it to the censor with the result that it was barred from production. Rimsky-Korsakov died in 1908 without ever having heard the opera performed. When it finally reached the Moscow stage in 1909, it was with substantial changes imposed by the censor.
"Le coq d’or" is also available as DVD & Blu-Ray.