Tchaikovsky: Iolanta

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Iolanta
PERFORMER: Michaela Gurevich, Arutiun Kotchinian, Alexander Ben, Ian Denolfo, Georg Lehner; Warsaw Philharmonic/Hans Rotman
CATALOGUE NO: 999 456-2
Tchaikovsky composed this last of his operas as part of a double bill with his Nutcracker ballet, but until recently it has not been widely known. The story, based on King Rene’s Daughter by the Danish playwright Henrik Hertz, concerns a blind princess whose over-protective father has raised her in ignorance of her handicap – until a young nobleman enters her cloistered garden and brings her the light in more ways than one. Indeed, the tale is laden with all manner of symbolism, but it inspired Tchaikovsky to write one of his warmest scores.

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This recording, taped live in concert performances at Ghent’s Vooruit Center of the Arts in August 1993, features an international cast of not ungifted singers on the threshold of bigger careers. Even so, while the voices are primarily attractive, the overall performance tends to convey that ever so slightly tentative quality of artists not yet sure of themselves. The best performance is tendered by the American tenor Ian Denolfo, who sings the ardent Count Vaudémont with some very suave vocal shading. Under the workmanlike baton of Hans Rotman, the orchestral playing is competent, if not world class. Ultimately, this is a decent recording for those on a budget; however, it cannot match the dramatic fire of the Kirov version under Valery Gergiev (Philips). Barrymore Laurence Scherer