Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame is an opera that has much in it to enjoy in its wonderful music and it's ghost-story, manic-obsessive plot. For me it has always played better than the other Tchaikovsky operas, including Onegin.
Here it comes to us from Barcelona's Teatro del Liceu with a thoroughly international cast. The cast is strong: Misha Didyk as Hermann, a voice with an appropriately non-italianate timbre though reminiscent of a darker-hued Bergonzi, powerful and lyrical, an eloquent and musical tenor I had not heard before; Emily Magee sings a a very fine Lisa, hers being a full-voiced, focused spinto with a nice dramatic edge, again, a new voice for me; the wonderful Ludovic Tézier as the Prince, elegant and resonant, has a fresh voice, and a fine line for the legato of his beautiful aria; and in the role of the old countess my favorite "ham" and grande-dame of all, the voice still powerful, the presence totally commanding, the great Ewa Podles: she brings interest and class to whatever she does. A little surprising is the booming Elena Zaremba as the Shepherd in the peculiarly costumed Pastorale (why red?) and as Pauline. The chorus is exemplary. The conductor is the German Michael Boder, who introduces discrete string portamento here and there. Ukranian Misha Didyk is the closest thing to a Russian in the cast. Nonetheless, everyone sings (in Russian) with conviction. Of course in spite of the Russian allusions, Pique Dame, like St. Petersburg and Tchaikowsky, looks to the West.
It was fun, even if bittersweet, to see the once rich-voiced Stefania Toczyska play the cameo role of the Governess (she's about a decade older than Podles).
The Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona, production is traditional, lustruous and effective, even if it does not aim to set any standards. Catherine the Great has great presence when she shows up at the end of the ball scene. I have no memories of the Bolshoi production I saw live except that of a great Atlantov as Ghermann.
The blu-ray is pristine, with very effective surround sound (or if you prefer, stereo). Subtitles mercifully alternate as needed between the bottom and top of the screen so as not to interfere with the picture. The colors are bright, and when the production turns dark, which happens often, the blacks are deeply black. The theatre looks beautiful as always. I have always liked Pique Dame very much and this thoroughly international cast does it very well. Didyk is certainly beyond the "promising" stage, a fully formed artist, definitely a tenor to seek elsewhere, here always musical, passionate and with easy voice production. Magee is also someone I'd like to see again. And Podles is always welcomed, certainly the best Countess I have ever seen.
This blu-ray is sure to have repeated viewings, so it is warmly recommended.