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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Very satisfying productionJune 24 2011
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The Pique Dame that I was quite familiar with is the Kirov/Mariyinsky/Gergiev production with Grigorian (Hermann), Gulegina (Lisa) and Filatova (Countess). I can quite confidently state that this particular production is in every which way as good in most parts, lacks a bit here and there and better in others.
Herman's part is very very well sung and enacted by Misha Didyk the young Ukrainian tenor. The men do a great job with the vocals, Yeletsky by Ludovic Tezier and Lado Ataneli as Tomsky. The Liceu chorus sound great throughout.
However, Emily Magee is no comparison to Gulegina in the Kirov production. She just does not come as through for her role, with her acting leaving much to be desired. The suicide scene here is a real damp squibb which by itself pulls down one star. But Ewa Podles, is the best Countess I have ever seen and heard in the 4 productions of this Opera I have seen on DVD.
The dances of the second act are something to marvel at. No comparison with the Mariyinsky for pomp, splendour and sheer technique etc... but the sequence in this production is more earthy, more traditional in the sense that since the sequence is a throw back to the Roccocan period, the dances actually match the time frame, rather than in the Mariyisky production with a gold painted eros and dances with the 20th century sophistication that just did not exist in the time frame of the story.
Thankfully, this is more of a traditional production with period costumes, although I have heard in another criticism of this production that it has been pushed back by 40 years from the actual time of composing this to the age of Pushkin rather than Tchaikovsky. Since the original plot on which this is based comes from Pushkin, I think this is pretty acceptable.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Pique Dame From Unexpected SourceJuly 5 2011
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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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Queen Has Finaly ArrivedAug. 22 2011
Giles Bernard J. Hall
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Pikovaia Dama (Queen of Spades) has been my favourite Tchaikovsky opera along with "The Maid of Orleans". I have many fine performances of Pikovaia Dama and whilst they are very good productions; THIS production from Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu TOPS THEM ALL. Not only with an award winning cast, but with every small detail. Costumes, sets, lighting, movement to effects. It does not get any better than this. Who else on this planet could play the countess but Ewa Podles. Her performance is electrifyingly brilliant and her acting ability is second to none. Emily Magee if a formidable Lisa, her voice just fills the theatre and the timbre is perfect for the role. She too can bring you to your knees with her performance. Misha Didyk's Herman is just as commanding, his voice pitched right for the part and frighteningly almost evil to the point of his desperation on knowing the secret of the three cards. Ludovic Tezier's Prince Yeletesky is powerful but not overdone. He is the best I have heard in this role; in fact all principles seem to fit into their respective roles as though Tchaikovsky had written this opera especially for them. I cannot recommend this DVD highly enough. The staging itself is nothing short of spectacular not to mention the sumptuous costumes, especially the colour format employed. Special mention should be made to the children in Act One; just charming. So if you want to transported back in time where dark secrets transform and twist the subconscious mind of a desperate gambler, then Pikovaia Dama is for you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Thrilling Queen of SpadesSept. 20 2011
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With globalization a fact of life and the end of the Soviet Union, Russian opera is no longer the property of its originators. The first DVD was from the Maryinsky, the second was from Paris but for the most part all the participants were Russian and in the case of the Lisa, Hamsik Papian grew up in Soviet Armenia and the Yeletsky, Ludovic Tezier, would appear to share some Slavic heritage given his Christian name; and best of all the conductor was Rozhdestvensky. This most recent release is from Spain, the Liceu and has wisely cast the principal roles with artists who have a Slavic heritage; only the Lisa, Emily Magee who for the most part has sung German and Italian roles. Tomsky is sung by the Georgian baritone, Lado Ataneli and one can assume that the Russian language was part of his youth. The Countess is sung by Ewa Podles and she alnmost walks away with the show. Her presence, alone, justifies mounting the opera. It is a stunning performance.
The production by today's standards is quite lavish and utterly traditional. Those looking for a "konzept" will have to turn to the TDK edition from Paris. Beautifully sung and conducted it is dead from the get-go, set in an insane asylum. Hermann is sung by Galouzine, dressed in pajamas and a bathrobe throughout. He has owned the role for sometime and not without good reason. Hermann is obsessed and more than slightly unhinged but there is no nuance in Galouzine's interpretation. As the opera progresses the characters enter the asylum but never really interact with Hermann. The director, Lev Dodin, follows Pushkin rather than Modest Tchaikovsky, the librettist for his brother. The Liceu wisely opted for a straight forward version, one that can be revived as long as Dydyk or a reasonable facsimile can be found. Finding another Countess has been solved by most companies by handing the role to divas who are about to retire; the role is small and the vocal difficulties can be minimized. But hearing Podles' firm healthy tones one realizes that the composer wrote the role to be sung not simply gestured vocally. The only weak link is the Paulina of Elena Zaremba; the vibrations have loosened so that the tone becomes quite parlous at times. She is clearly trumped by Borodina in the Maryinsky set but the role is small and shouldn't be a deal breaker. The Maryinsky also boasts better dancers but then that should hardly come as a surprise when the theatre does boast of one of the world's great ballet companies. The Liceu doesn't embarrass itself and for most opera goers the presence of ballet iin opera is like finding sand in one's spinach.
The Ukrainian, Dydyk, is a major find, a tenor whose spinto tones are thrilling and an ability to act, a combination that is not all that common. His Maryinsky counterpart, Gregor Grogorian, is a sturdy stalwart tenor, able to sing spinto roles and valuable to his theatre. He is short and slightly pudgy but he is aware of the poetry in much of the music and is not to be dismissed. But there is no question that the DVD is a visual as well as an audio medium and Dydyk is clearly the winner; fortunately he is an artist as well. Robert Levine in Classics Today is very critical of Magee, finding her uninvolved and "out of sorts with Lisa'a youth, naivete and confusion". He found that close-ups revealed a woman at least twice the age that a Lisa should be! I will concede that not having spent any time with the Russian repertoire is a drawback but find it difficult to agree with his other criticisms. The camera can be merciless but he is overstating his point; Magee is an attractive woman, an engaged actress and vocally very secure. Gulegina in the Maryinsky performance is resonsive vocally but dramatically she is a cipher. Indeed had she not decided to sing the heaviest repertoire she would be a much better singer today than what we hear currently from the Met. Ludovic Tezier sings Yeletsky a role he sang in the TDK release. It is exquisite, nearly matching that of Pavel Lisitsian.
I have purposedly ignored three sets: two from the Soviet era and a Glyndebourne performance. The former have some virtues, but technically they are deficient and the latter boasts of a very poor Hermann. Incidental intelligence: the TDK set is now on the Arthaus label.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is strong enough as a production and performance to lead the current fieldNov. 12 2012
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This production of Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame was recorded in 2010 and is a recording of a production also first seen in 2010. The production is essentially traditional in feel and is sumptuous in its use of period costume and scenery. The cast includes quite a number of Russians and this adds considerably to the authentic feel of the vocal textures. There are some impressively cavernous lower range male and female voices to be savoured in this production about which there will be more detail further on.
The crowd scenes, which feature considerable numbers of chorus members, are frequently delivered as tableaux with movement limited to the minimum. This is probably as much a practical consideration in terms of stage space as opposed to interpretation and it seems to me that this is perfectly justifiable in the circumstances. In effect these moments work rather like the chorus to be found in Greek tragedies. The chorus members have clearly been coached well in the Russian language and sing well so, even though they are generally not required to show great acting skills or interaction, the chorus work remains effective.
The ballet and ballroom scenes provide good and believable choreography which maintain the concept of opulence.
The unaccompanied Russian male voice choir setting of the assembled gamblers who sing immediately after Hermann's suicide is a remarkably powerful moment in this performance and requires a special mention as it utterly retains the tension of the moment so the opera ends with tension rather than as an anti-climax that can happen with a less successful handling of this conclusion.
There are some stand-out solo performances which must be mentioned. The key role of Hermann is taken by Misha Didyk who is young and fit enough to be physically completely convincing in the role. He is on stage practically all the time and this is obviously a pivotal role in terms of the story. Any weakness in this main character and the plot must fail. In this case we are treated to a very strong performance which portrays Hermann's increasing obsession with the three cards at the expenses of all else. Not only is this a strongly acted performance, it is also tirelessly very well sung over the whole evening. This is an impressive performance here overall. Didyk is well-matched by Lado Ataneli who gives a strong portrayal as his friend Count Tomsky who has one of those tonally satisfying 'Russian' sounding voices mentioned earlier.
Ludovic Tezier sings the part of Prince Yeletsky well and with good tonal resources but, as so often with this singer, the lack of eye contact with the person to whom he is apparently singing considerably reduces the communication of the role. In this case, as Yeletsky is portrayed as essentially an emotionally reserved character, so this matters rather less. However, when he sings to Lisa of his deep passion and his desire to be a friend and supporter in addition to being a considerate lover the total lack of facial communication or body language makes one wonder if he is capable of what he is singing about. He needs to be more camera-aware in my view.
Turning to the main female roles, Emily Magee delivers a suitably distraught vision of Lisa but the camera is often rather too revealing as it is with Tezier. She looks far more attractive on her own website image and there one could more easily imagine Hermann falling for her! Ewa Podles gives an impressive portrayal of the generally disapproving and currently joyless Countess, Lisa's grandmother. Elena Zaremba, as Lisa's friend Pauline, has an impressively deep and resonating Russian vocal timbre that she uses to good effect in the scene with the princesses.
Michael Boder draws powerful playing from the fine theatre orchestra and pacing is maintained to deliver a dramatically tight performance which rises convincingly to the climaxes. As mentioned above, the handling of the last pages of the opera is especially effective.
The recording was made by the experienced Opus Arte team who provide imaging of great clarity and good depth of colour that is so important in the sumptuously costumed production. Close camera work is involving but is so revealing that it can add drama at the cost of attraction at times and as suggested above. This is not enough of a reason to reject the recording though. The sound is excellent and is both well-balanced and wide ranged. It is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo.
The booklet is detailed and informative and there is a bonus feature in the form a cast gallery.
This is a strong performance with an authentic aura about the production. As such it should give plenty of satisfaction to future purchasers. I have owned a genuine Russian recording and performance of this work in the past and also been lucky enough to have seen a fine performance at Glyndebourne as a guest. This does not match the sheer emotional bite of the Russian performance but is vastly better recorded and I have been more than happy with the replacement. This performance is considerably more sumptuous than the one I saw at Glyndebourne and preferable for at least that reason alone.
In summary therefore I think this is a leading option at present and for that reason I would suggest 5 stars has been well earned and should be seen as a fair assessment at this time.