An All Time Great Production. Brilliant!,
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) [DVD]  (DVD)
Here we have a brilliant 1992 recording of the proclaimed Glyndebourne production of 'The Queen of Spades'. For the purposes of his opera Tchaikovsky was wise to make changes to Alexander Pushkin's 1834 original story, in which Herman ends up in a lunatic asylum and Lisa marries an appropriately decent sort of a fellow, the kind of ending which would have considerably diminished the dramatic effect as we now have it in this greatest of the composer's operas. Glyndebourne achieves maximum realism from staging the action within cleverly designed 'skewed' staging which enhances the performance at every turn.
The endearingly staged scene early in the opera, in which boys and girls play at soldiers, aptly illustrates the pathos inherent in the innocence of childhood games. Some of the children return, dressed up as sheep, to perform effectively in the ballet early in Act 2. The children remind us that Herman has all the attributes of a lost child trying to come to terms with an alien environment. The only non-aristocratic officer in his regiment, he suffers from an inferiority complex, which he strives hard to overcome to the detriment of developing his abilities as an officer. His prospects are not helped by his falling in love with the adorable Lisa who is betrothed to Prince Yeletsky.
Whilst watching some of his fellow officers gambling, Herman hears an account of how Lisa's grandmother, the old Countess, won a vast amount of money from having revealed to her the secret formula of three winning cards. From then on Herman becomes obsessed with discovering the formula that he believes will enable him to gamble and win a vast fortune that will enable him to overcome his inferior social status and make him more acceptable as a suitable husband for Lisa. Every step of this drama is superbly presented in this Glyndebourne production, so much so in fact that it overcomes the the often 'shouting style' of singing adopted by Yuri Marusin in the role of Herman. Fortunately, his acting is so good that it almost seems right that the character should adopt a brash, shouting style stance in order to cover up for his inferiority complex.
All told, Herman is not a likeable character, and this work aptly illustrates the complex of how, all too often, intelligent women manage to throw themselves away into liaisons with weak, unstable types of men, chosen by them in preference to much more reliable, steadier characters. Torn within himself with regard to his own sexuality, it really does seem that Tchaikovsky had a deep understanding of the plethora of problems enveloping the whole sphere of human relationships and this great opera is a dramatisation of them.
Apart from the 'shouting' all the singer-actors were excellent in this production, which is an all time great worth watching over and over again. Whereas a great piece of singing in a poorly produced work will not compensate for the bad production, a brilliant production will nearly always overcome faults in one or other of the singers. In any case, the singing needs to be balanced against the acting. Being able to sing and act with equal brilliance is no mean achievement, but this production manages to achieve just that. It's an all time great.