University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame

09/22/2019 1:00 pm
09/22/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

It's been a long time since I last presented Peter Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame or "The Queen of Spades" (1890). Actually, I aired recordings of it on two occasions, first on Sunday, February 7, 1988 (Angel/Melodiya LPs, Bolshoi Theatre, Boris Khaikin, cond.) and then Sunday, April 17, 1991 (Sony Classical CDs, Bulgarian National Opera, Emil Tchakarov, cond.).

The composer's brother Modest supplied him with a libretto based upon Alexander Pushkin's 1824 novella. In Tchaikovsky's operatic treatment of the story the young military man Hermann is not simply a coldhearted monomaniacal cardshark. Also, there is no double suicide in Pushkin's original telling of the tale. Along with his Yevgeny Onegin (1877), Tchaikovsky's Pikovaya Dama ranks as one of the greatest of all Russian operas.

Today you will hear "The Queen of Spades" as recorded not in Moscow or Sofia, but in Tel Aviv in Israel, with Vladimir Jurowski leading the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir. Starring as Hermann in this concert recording of the work, made in the Smolarz Auditorium in November of 2012, is the Ukrainian tenor Oleg Kulko. Mezzo Nina Romanova is the Countess, the "Queen of Spades" herself, and her niece Lisa is soprano Karina A. Flores. Like them, most of the rest of the singing cast is Russian-born and musically trained in Moscow. The UK label Helicon Classics, Ltd. released Pique Dame on two compact discs in 2015.