16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
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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.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
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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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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Pikovaya Dama has some gorgeous music, but it is not served well by this production which is visually odd. Black screens move about 'framing' the action in different ways without any apparent logic. The motivations of the characters change quickly in almost unexplainable ways so the production itself needs focus, but the scenic distractions pulled me out of the dramatic action too often.
Didyk, as Hermann, is an earnest singer but has little warmth in his voice. Magee is fine as Lisa; Tezier is a standout as Yeletsky. (It was a surprise to see Toczyska in the minor role of the Governess; she is a fine mezzo and was an outstanding Amneris in the Pavarotti/Price 'Aida' from the Met.)
The real surprise of the set was Podles as the Countess with the 'secret of the three cards.' She scorches the paint off the scenery in the last act. It is one of the finest pieces of dramatic singing I've ever seen. Her performance is riveting.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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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.