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ClassicsOnline Home » TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) [Opera] (Melik-Pashaev) (1949-1950)
Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) Opera
This recording of Tchaikovsky's wonderful opera deserves legendary status, and it is good to see it available again after a couple of CD issues succumbed to deletion. The original dates from the 78 era, but the sound was always decent for the time, as my old LPs still confirm, with the voices well-served. And what voices they are!
In the central role of Hermann, tenor Georgi Nelepp is outstanding. He manages the long and arduous role without any sign of strain, from rapt pianissimo to sustained outburst, always with fine tone and colour. He is also a totally convincing vocal actor, and the psychologically intense moments are gripping.
Interestingly, Galina Vishnevskaya, in her noted book, claims that he was an informer for the Soviet authorities, and much disliked. True or not, it indicates the atmosphere that hung over Soviet music in those Stalinist times.
The rest of the cast is a match for Nelepp. The great baritone Pavel Lisitsian sings Yeletzky to perfection. For me, his Act 2 aria is one of the finest pieces of singing ever recorded, with glorious tone, flawless legato and remarkable breath control.
Smolenskaya is lovely as Lisa - no Slavic wobble from her, and Ivanov is truly imposing as Tomsky. Verbitskaya is the Countess of one's dreams (or, more likely, nightmares). She is a creepy character in the original Pushkin, and the mezzo conveys that through her vocal colouring.
There are no weak links, although I am not taken with Firsova's voice in a minor soprano part. Others may well like her. Presiding over this galaxy of talent is the masterly Alexander Melik-Pashaev, who was one of the great Soviet conductors.
He succeeded Golovanov as Chief Conductor at the Bolshoi and, like that director, was booted out for political reasons. Sadly, both men died before their time. A.M-P is the perfect guide through this rich and varied opera, with its shades of Carmen, remarkable psychological moments, memorable motifs and sheer Russianness.
The orchestra plays very well, with that distinctive 1950s Russian sound that we no longer hear in these days of homogenisation. The transfers are clean and quiet, as we have come to expect. I apply a bit of a treble cut to warm the sound of the voices, more in keeping with what I like in the original. The tracks are conveniently laid out so as to give an Act per CD, if you wish to burn them.
ClassicsOnline has done us a real service in making this available. A great recording at a bargain price.more....
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