An intimate Pique Dame
Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 03/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set is a pleasant surprise to those who prefer to have their Russian operas performed by an all-Russian cast, on a large Russian stage (the Bolshoi is allegedly the largest in the world) in a classical Russian production. I thought I could not enjoy Russian opera any other way until I watched this DVD. Glyndebourne productions are on a small scale. This enables you to savor this opera from an uncharacteristic intimate perspective. The three major male singers are Russian. Dimitri Kharitonov's Prince Yeletsky is noble and quite touching in his sorrow after he loses Lisa. Sergei Leiferkus' resounding baritone is very impressive (he is Iago in Domingo's last and best Otello set). But the real story is the tenor Yuri Marusin. Together with Leiferkus he was one of the stars of the Kirov in Leningrad, but here he goes in a very untraditional direction and experiments quite boldly with the role of Herman. Marusin projects Herman's sociopathy and "horrifying descent into madness" by a variety of singing and acting techniques, the most daring of which in my opinion is his choice of singing large parts of the role flat, with no vibrato. It lends the voice a hostile-defiant-mad quality. Even though it occasionally sacrifices the simple beauty of the musical line, it enables him to shade his voice in every possible way to express the drama. It also serves to adapt as well as to take advantage of the intimate dimensions of the production (which is staged in box-like sets). I believe it also helps him to survive Andrew Davis' conducting. His tempi are generally slow, exceptionally so where Herman's role is concerned. The role of Herman is quite large, he has almost an hour of singing, and subjecting him to such slow tempi is cruel and unusual punishment. The female singers are impeccable. It is a matter of personal taste whether the lack of the unique Slavonic timbre or the diction matters. Much has been written about the abstract modern sets. The audio and video quality are very good."
Horrifying terrific production
Noam Eitan | 11/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best acted and sung production of The Queen of Spades I've ever seen. The set looks bizzarre at first, but, as soon as Herman enters the abstruct painting on the leaning walls starts to make sense. It symbolizes Herman's horrifying descent into madness. Yuri Marusin is perfect in this demanding role. He is very much involved and looks even obsessed by the character he's playing. Really horrifying performance and what a voice he produces! Nancy Gustafson really a great singer actress, too. Very convincing. Everybody sings and acts perfectly, not to mention Sergei Leyferkus. This production was filmed especially for the video at Glynderbourne festival with no audience. Therefore there is no noise from the audience and it's very well filmed and edited. The image is very clear and the sound is surprisingly great even though it's only 2 channel PCM. A masterpiece!"
Hard to Sit Through
David N. Loesch | Seattle, WA | 05/14/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Pique Dame is indeed a great opera, perhaps Tchaikovsky's finest, and this production has it's good points. The acting and staging are often compelling. Nancy Gustafson is a joy to watch and hear as Lisa. Felicity Palmer is wonderful as the old countess, and both Tomsky and Yeletski are well sung. Yuri Marusin's Herman is well acted and the tenor seems thoroughly to understand the psychological nuances of this central character, however, Mr. Marusin's eccentric singing style and horrible intonation completly undermine his performance. No matter how dramatic the interpretation, it is necessary for the tenor to sing at least some of the notes on pitch. One wonders in the duets how Nancy Gustavson coped with him. (He does much better in the Vienna State Opera production of Khovanshchina on DVD which I recommend.) I have no aversion to surrealistic sets, except that these are memorably unattractive as is the lighting. The staging of the musically delightful pastorale in the second act is rendered uncommonly silly by the presence of dancing green sheep! Too much of this production is hard to look at and painful to the ears."
A great performance
C. Harbison | Montague, MA United States | 06/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As others have noted Marusin's singing is often a terrifying struggle to get on key--but except in a few instances, it pays off with an incredibly powerful performance. The rest of the cast is outstanding and totally committed. The sets are very effective as is the conducting. You won't forget this opera!"