Whoever would believe that New York's The Metropolitan Opera would break new ground with contemporary social commentary in presenting a new Opera?
It hardly can be an accident that the old, but now new again, opera PRINCE IGOR by Borodin first played in 1890 in St Petersburg would be brought back to life just as the Winter Olympic Games are running in Sochi Russia.
This terrific production runs through the trials and tribulations of the history of an imaginary Russia set in 1185 that has been repeated many times since and has themes familiar to everyone who has ever read about Peter the Great, Catherine, the Mongols, Rasputin, and the Revolution.
Pride---and false pride--- and love of country, coupled with an inability to see oneself the way others do, runs through this well told story dramatized with fantastic singing.
Now the Russians are trying again to put their best face forward with great athletes, fabulous architecture as well as organization and good sportsmanship.
The President of Russia who must have other important things on his mind--like Syrian poison chemicals--seems to be ever present even to help celebrate a Gold medal by an adorable 15 year old Russian girl figure skater.
He has made no secret of his commitment to the success of the games to the point of being everywhere all the time. One is reminded of Peter the Great who exhibited the same powers of persuasion and energy in his efforts to break Russia away from its insular and isolated state by bringing it into focus in Europe in his time through both war and peace.
If one is curious about the future of Russia in the world, it is helpful to be mindful of the analogies of the past. The arc of the story in this opera suggests that power leads to megalomania, which leads to being crushed, and that leads again to resurrection.
It is not -obviously--made clear where the Russian story is right now. The current threats of terrorists are suggestive of swoops by Mongols.
Peter's efforts to make Russia big, modern and powerful regardless of all obstacles come to mind in watching Putin's megalomaniacal insistence on claiming all the credit for the spectacles in Sochi.
Perhaps some of Russia's most famous historical characters like Igor and Peter have become scrambled in the modern world.
After all the President of Russia seems to combine aspects of Peter and perhaps his own forbearer Ras-PUTIN?
Where does that lead us now?