Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Tchaikovsky - Pique Dame|
Actors: Vladimir Galouzine, Hasmik Papian, Nikolai Putilin, Irina Bogatcheva, Ludovic Tezier
Director: Lev Dodin
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
A well-acted, well-sung visual equivalent of a gulag
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 10/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tchaikovsky wrote this masterful setting of Pushkin's eerie blend of the supernatural and overweening human obsession while living in Florence during 44 days of frenzied creation early in 1890. The libretto was written by his brother Modest. Although Tchaikovsky was originally reluctant to write this opera, upon its completion he was convinced it was his masterpiece. It is certainly a splendid match of beautiful music and inspired story telling.
But you lose much of that superb fit in this puzzling production. Director Lev Dodin has "reimagined" the story, which now takes place entirely in the protagonist's mentally unbalanced mind as he is confined to a psychiatric hospital in St. Petersburg. As Hermann lies in a grungy, bare hospital bed in an otherwise empty ward, the stage is horizontally split into a second level, where much of the action of the opera now takes place. Since the "reimagined" opera occurs in Hermann's maddened brain, characters are paraded along the (metaphorical) split level in their very own grungy dressing gowns as if they, too, are psychiatric inmates. This is, quite simply, not what Tchaikovsky wrote.
Also, this production is essentially monochromatic. There are no real, substantive changes of sets or scenery. Whatever small changes do occur keep the same visual line, are devoid of color and are essentially an abstraction. The scenery is predominantly that single hospital bed and one long institutional wall with a catwalk attached. For what it's worth, the loss of color and beauty doesn't work for me in this case (it has in abstract productions of different operas). After all, this is Pique Dame by Tchaikovsky and not Wozzeck by Alban Berg.
Of course, if this opera were poorly sung or conducted it wouldn't matter all that much. But it isn't. All of the singers are splendid. Conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvensky does an exemplary job with the Opera national de Paris. Vladimir Galouzine sings a splendid Hermann. Irina Bogatcheva is an excellent Countess. Hasmik Papian is a good Lisa. The entire musical production is excellent. The video production is equally good. Sound in DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 and PCM stereo is clear and well recorded. It is the director's vision that I find lacking. And this is endemic to modern European productions generally. To quote Tolstoy: "What is to be done?"
If you think you can deal with this dreary setting, you will gain a well sung, beautifully played Pique Dame. Though you might be more forgiving than I, nevertheless, caveat emptor. Be aware of what has been done to this beautiful opera. If you're in doubt, you probably should pass it by.
T. C. | 10/22/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Visually, this production is a disaster. The director simply destroyed the charm of Tchaikovsky's creation in a twisted way. This is really frustrating, because musically this is an excellent production. Listen with your TV closed...
Vladimir Galuzin (Galouzine) as Gherman -- YES!! This Produ
Elizabeth Y Forman | Boston MA USA | 08/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD two months ago despite the perceptive and helpful observations of others. I thank you, and should have been forewarned, but I wanted a performance by Vladimir Galuzin as Gherman. This was the only one around. I watched this DVD twice straight through, and I'm sure I won't look at the whole thing again. It should be reserved for old opera hands with strong stomachs and a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. It should NOT be one's first or only experience of a wonderful opera.
Just a couple of points to add to criticism already made. Little is gained by Lev Dodin's "new dramaturgy" and a lot is taken away. Pushkin's original story only ends in the mental hospital - it is mentioned in the last lines of the novella - and the story is not framed as the hero's retrospective reenactment of past life and delusions. The few interesting changes - having Lisa "read" her letter to Gherman in Act III; redistributing the Pastoral so that Gherman, Liza and the Countess take part, increasing the singing load on the leads, but adding nothing to understanding [now Gherman must choose between the rich countess and sincere Liza, as the shepherdess Prilepa originally decides between the poor shepherd and the rich Zlatogor] -- seem random. Gone is the St. Petersburg presence. No Embankment in the asylum, no Summer Garden, no wine, no pistols - well, just leave it out or rewrite the text!!
"Creative" directors should remember that Tchaikovsky needed the libretto his brother Modest finally gave him. He could not get his head around composing a treatment of Pushkin's dry, elegant novella. He wanted the Petersburg setting, the impoverished hero whose sincere passion leads him to fatally transgress the moral/social/economic order to make marriage to a noblewoman possible; the gradual descent into obsession, murder, madness, and finally, suicide. Tchaikovsky's opera has as much of the early "romantic" Dostoevsky - an "insulted and injured" "little person" challenges an impregnable social order and perishes - as it does Pushkin. Directors should respect the composer and the text. If a director wants an opera of Pushkin's QUEEN OF SPADES, he should write a new libretto and commission appropriate new music. Otherwise, he deserves a visit from Tchaikovsky's vengeful ghost....
Atypical for a Russian opera, PIKOVAYA DAMA belongs to the lead tenor; he sings in every scene over a three hour stretch. At present, Vladimir Galuzin owns this role. He has stamina and endurance in addition to a huge voice, and plays well with others. He has the acting chops and psychological acuity to limn Gherman's devolution from passion-obsessed romantic lover to gambling-obsessed suicidal murderer. Though not conventionally pretty and beginning to show his age(50ish), Galuzin has commanding charisma onstage. Obviously, he can even pull off Gherman in a bathrobe and grungy pjs, but does he have to?
In looking for a watchable, more traditional performance than Dodin's, I was able to find a "limited edition" DVD of the current Mariinsky production by Alexander Galibin, conducted by Valery Gergiev, broadcast by the BBC in February, 2007. The cast partially overlaps Dodin's: Galuzin is Gherman, with Putilin and Bogacheva; Tatiana Borodina sings Liza and Vladimir Moroz, Yeletsky. It is a minimalist staging: an 1830s St Petersburg is barely suggested, principals are dressed in neutral colors, while the ball scene/ballet/gambling house are garish and psychedelic. There is some unnecessary stage business with non-singing extras. Characters are herded on and offstage by giant black and white scrims that represent their inner states - an annoying and unnecessary effect, but not fatal. Most important, the music and text are respected, and the staging keeps out of the singers' way. (Nothing here for the Eurotrash Hall of Shame.) It's a wild ride in which Gergiev directs a strong cast, masterfully ratcheting up tension from beginning to end. You can actually look at and listen to a riveting performance without disgust. For now, this will have to do.
If you want a handsome, traditional Petersburg production from DVDs now available, and don't mind bad acting, the Gergiev/Kirov with Gregorian/Guleghina looks and sounds fine; or you can get the CDs and just listen. The Glyndbourne DVD is interestingly staged and acted, but marred fatally, I feel, by Yuri Marusin's hollow, reedy singing and bizarre acting.
My hypothetical "desert island DVD" would be a Mariinsky/Kirov "traditional" staging - St Petersburg in Catherine II's time or the 1830s. Galuzin sings Gherman, Gergiev conducts; Putilin, Bogacheva, and other Mariinsky stalwarts would provide fine support. I'd like to see Karita Mattila as Liza, a big voice, with passion and acting ability to match Galuzin's. The ideal Yeletsky would combine a glorious voice for his big Act II aria with the heft to cope with the Act I duet (with/against the tenor) and quintet, and the final showdown- Hvorostovsky, Chernov, Ludovic Tezier would all be fine. When????
If you like Galuzin, you might want to locate his other performances. The spelling he uses on his websites is "Galouzine" (for Francophones, so they pronounce it approximately correctly, since he lives and works often in France). "Galuzin" is the direct Cyrillic-to-English transcription, pronounced with the stress on the second syllable. You may also find him listed as "Galusin," so research all three.
A principal at the Mariinsky/Kirov since 1990, Galuzin is in the ensembles for their Philips CD releases: SADKO, KHOVANSHCHINA, INVISIBLE CITY OF KITEZH, GAMBLER (another signature role for him) et al. He also appears in recent Western DVDs of PAGLIACCI and KHOVANSHCHINA. Excerpts performances of PIKOVAYA DAMA and other operas are posted at Galuzin's websites, on YouTube, and at the website of the Paris music study center Nouvel Opera, where he has taught master classes.
A sad travesty of a great opera
Kareol | Arlington, VA USA | 01/15/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this video on the heels of having seen and heard Vladimir Galouzine sing performances of this opera with the Kirov Opera in Washington. (He's to this role what Lauritz Melchior was to Wagner, and I don't say that lightly.) As others have said so well, this production is a nightmare. Can any concept be more clichéd than staging this in an asylum with a character who admitted GOES mad already mad from the get-go? The more modern stagings you have seen, the more of the visuals you will recognize quoted here.
The singing is superb. Galouzine's impressiveness is a given, but I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderful Pappian's Liza is -- fully "in the picture" in a way one might not expect from her Normas.
I wish I could say that just listening and not watching made this a satisfactory production. Even if you do not find the conducting sluggish, there are inexcusable cuts and alterations, presumably at the whim of the director's concept. In the first act, for example, the choral episode is missing from the storm scene. In the embankment scene, Liza sings extensively altered text to compensate for the fact that German is right under her nose when the original would require her to say that there is no sign of him.
Galouzine's final number in the gambling scene is perfect -- it almost makes up for everything else on the video. But what a pity that this and not the Kirov's current production is preserved on DVD!"