Tchaikovsky Pique Dame
Oleg Kulko, Viacheslav Voynarovsky, Sergei Leiferkus, Albert Schagidullin, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Karina A Flores; Ankor Choir; Gary Bertini Choir; Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Helicon 02-9672 151:38 mins (3 discs)
Undoubtedly the best singers available for Tchaikovsky’s spookiest opera are to be found on Mariss Jansons’s two recordings (slightly different, cast- wise) on CD and DVD. Those in Vladimir Jurowski’s live Tel Aviv performances of 2012 are variable. Most consistent dramatically is the Tomsky of Sergei Leiferkus, an experienced partner of Jurowski in marrying text and music; his ballad of the Countess’s three-card recipe for gambling success is vivid and he rocks the final gambling scene, though the voice even six years ago had suffered inevitable wear and tear.
Oleg Kulko’s protagonist is a belter who throws the Act I ensemble off kilter; but at least he’s a heroic tenor, and sings the final aria in Tchaikovsky’s B major with a brilliant top note (the transposed alternative means an uneasy segue; only Gegam Grigorian for Valery Gergiev shares the ‘right’ key). Karina A Flores as the manipulated heroine is committed, and the Canal Scene has the thrust of a live performance, but with some sharp singing – ditto the Countess, Nina Romanova, who megaphones her ‘secret’. Albert Shagidullin’s Yeletsky, and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Liza’s friend Pauline offer good support. Unusually it’s maid Masha who gets to sing the ‘faithful shepherdess’ in the Mozartian pastoral, nicely sung by Lilia Gretsova. Ultimately it’s Jurowski’s dramatic impulse and the stops pulled out for climaxes which make this recording worth hearing.