Tchaikovsky: The Queen of Spades

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: The Queen of Spades
PERFORMER: Grigorian, Guleghina, Leiferkus, Borodina; Kirov Opera Chorus & Orchestra/ Valery Gergiev;dir. Yuri Temirkanov (Kirov Opera, St Petersburg, 1992)
CATALOGUE NO: 070 434-9
The combination of Russian music, Kirov forces and Valery Gergiev is pretty nigh unbeatable – at least from a purely sonic point of view. In visual terms this 1992 production takes an extremely traditional view of Tchaikovsky’s disturbing psychological melodrama, and the lighting scarcely helps the would-be realistic sets to look their best. Acting standards are never less than presentable, though sometimes they’re a little stiff.

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The voices, however, are out of this world. Gegam Grigorian’s singing of the arduous role of the doomed Hermann is superb, and matched bar-for-bar by Maria Guleghina’s desperately impassioned Lisa. Sergei Leiferkus fields an elegant Tomsky, Alexandet Gergalov a vibrant Yeletsky and Olga Borodina is nothing short of vocal luxury as the confidante Pauline.

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Ludmila Filatova’s Countess has a proper air of mystery, and her pivotal scenes with Hermann — the second a posthumous appearance, overwhelmed by a lurid green spotlight — are impressively achieved though in a distinctly stagey way. It may not be state-of-the-art music theatre, but you will rarely experience the score delivered with as much conviction or idiomatic command as it is here. No extras on offer other than subtitles and the usual note and synopsis in the booklet. George Hall