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Weinberg's The Portrait

2 hours, 35 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 28 May 2011

The Jewish composer Moisey (Mieczyslaw) Weinberg was born in Poland, but fled from the Nazis to Russia where he became a close friend of Shostakovich. However, today his music is much less well known than that of his contemporaries. His 3-act opera The Portrait is based on a short story by Nikolai Gogol, and tells the cautionary tale of the painter Chartkov who yearns for fame and fortune until he acquires a portrait which brings him exactly that. Blinded by the attentions of the rich and famous he betrays his artistic integrity and, distraught at his own actions, resorts to desperate measures.

This new production by Opera North is directed by David Poutney, a leading figure in the revival of Weinberg's music. Acclaimed tenor Paul Nilon takes the lead role of Chartkov and the Orchestra of Opera North is conducted by Rossen Gergov.

Presented by Christopher Cook with David Nice, an expert on Russian music.

Chartkov ..... Paul Nilon (tenor)
Liza ..... Katherine Broderick (soprano)
Nikita ..... Richard Burkhard (baritone)
Professor of Fine Arts/Journalist/Art Dealer/Landlady/Earl ..... Peter Savidge (baritone)
Lamplighter/Noble Gentleman ..... Nicholas Sharratt (tenor)
3rd Seller/Dignitary ..... Jonathan Best (bass)
Policeman/General ..... Richard Angas (bass)
Female Seller/Lady in Waiting ..... Helen Field (soprano)
1st Seller/1st Waiter/Turk ..... Mark Le Brocq (tenor)
2nd Seller/2nd Waiter/Cavalry Officer ..... Christopher Steele (tenor)
Noblewoman ..... Carole Wilson (mezzo-soprano)

Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Rossen Gergov.

  • Paul Nilon as Chartkov

    Paul Nilon as Chartkov

    © Bill Cooper

  • Paul Nilon as Chartkov and Peter Savidge as the Journalist

    Paul Nilon as Chartkov and Peter Savidge as the Journalist

    © Bill Cooper

  • A Scene from Weinberg's The Portrait

    A Scene from Weinberg's The Portrait

    Peter Savidge as the Earl, Christopher Steele as the Cavalry Officer, Helen Field as the Lady in Waiting, Paul Nilon as Chartkov, Mark Le Brocq as the Turk, Jonathan Best as the Dignitary, Nicholas Sharratt as the Noble Gentleman and Richard Angas as the General.
    © Bill Cooper

  • Synopsis

    The talented young artist, Chartkov, is starving. His professor urges him
    to be true to his talent, but Chartkov longs for his next meal. By chance he buys a painting in a junk shop with his last kopek, and this painting – a portrait – seems to have strange, ghostly properties. When his irate landlady arrives to evict him, money mysteriously falls from the portrait:
    Chartkov is not just saved, he is rich! He swears to dedicate his life to fulfilling his talent.

    But it turns out otherwise. He uses the services of a journalist to advertise himself, and in no time Chartkov is busy painting portraits that pander to the absurd vanity of Petersburg’s establishment. Then when Chartkov goes to the exhibition of a painter newly returned from Italy, he suffers a ghastly moment of epiphany: he has betrayed his talent, squandered his life, mired himself in servile compromise. His world breaks apart…



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