Tchaikovsky: Iolanta

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Iolanta
PERFORMER: Anna Netrebko, Sergei Skorokhodov, Monika Bohinec, Jun Ho You, Lucas Meachem, Vitalij Kowaljow, Luka Debevec Mayer, Nuska Rojko, Theresa Plut, Vladislav Sulimski; Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra/ Emmanuel Villaume
CATALOGUE NO: 479 3969

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Tchaikovsky’s last opera is no longer the rarity it used to be. Concert performances abound and there’s a well-cast production by Peter Sellars on DVD. This touring performance to showcase Anna Netrebko doesn’t reach the heights of that film or Valery Gergeiv’s Kirov Opera line-up on Philips. Netrebko has star quality on stage but I question the core of the now dark and powerful voice and the dramatic specifics of each performance. Iolanta is supposed to be young, virginal, and vulnerable because blind but Netrebko might as well be Lady Macbeth. Galina Gorchakova’s voice on the Gergiev recordings was also less than ideally bright for the role but her top notes were something else, the characterisation much more touching.

One star alone won’t carry Iolanta. Each lead singer gets a crucial set-piece with Tchaikovsky’s wonderful orchestration providing detailed connecting tissue. Sergei Skorokhodov in the perhaps even more demanding role of Vaudemont has the heroism but not the lyrical poetry of Gergiev’s Gegam Gregorian. Iolanta’s father, King Rene, needs to open up to top E flats at the peak of his arching phrases; Vitalij Kowaloj doesn’t. The baritones, Alexey Markov and Lucas Meacham, are both excellent. Orchestral quality under Emmanuel Villaume can’t be gauged from the synthetic sound picture, with odd reverb around the voices. I don’t say it often these days, but you really would be better off sticking with Gergiev.

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David Nice