Review of Queen of Spades--Great Scenes
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
by Robert Levine
Classics Today

This is 78 minutes of Pique Dame, or a bit less than half the opera. Rather than just being a highlights disc, this new series from Delos (of which this is the first example), is designed to "preserve the flow of an opera's story and character portrayal."

For the most part, it works, and the only place I wish the rule had been broken is at the end of Act 1, where the Hermann-Lisa duet is interrupted by the entrance of the Countess and then taken up again, to end the act ecstatically. Here, the scene ends before the Countess appears and the duet is never completed. But we do get all the main characters and much of their music--the big public scenes are the ones that have disappeared.

And the singing is absolutely top-notch. Elena Prokina is a wonderful Lisa, better (warmer, lovelier) than Guleghina for Gergiev (Philips) or anyone else, except perhaps Freni (BMG). Sergej Larin's sturdy, expressive tenor is just right for Hermann; he can hold his own with Grigorian (Philips) and easily beats Atlantov (BMG). Elena Obratsova, in a very competitive field (Arkhipova, Forrester), is the best Countess available. Vassily Gerello's Tomsky is very fine, Dmitri Hvorostovsky owns the role of Yeletsky, and newcomer Marina Domashenko sings Pauline's first-act song well enough to give Borodina a run for her money.

Chorus and orchestra are excellent, and conductor Constantine Orbelian manages to hold everything together in a way that Delos' marketing people might have imagined. The sound is realistic and clear. If you're looking for most of the juicy bits of Pique Dame, this is swell.

 

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