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Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) [DVD] 
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Sound: PCM Stereo
Menu languages: GB, D, F, SP
Subtitles: GB, D, F, SP
Region code: 2,5
This Glyndebourne production of Pique Dame ("The Queen of Spades") received rave reviews when it appeared in 1992 due to its claustrophobic intensity and powerful acting, and these qualities help it to transfer to DVD with great success. Graham Vick's direction ensures that the story is told clearly and simply but includes a wealth of telling details: the pastoral scene from Act 2, for example, uses the boys from the opening chorus as comical sheep and the effect is enchanting. But there are much darker undertones too: Richard Hudson's slanting, angular designs produce a disorientating atmosphere which mirrors Herman's increasing mental deterioration with uncanny precision. There is a brilliant stroke of visual assonance when the Countess returns to haunt Herman and all the furniture from her death scene appears on the roof.
The singing is generally good, though Yuri Marusin's voice may not be to everyone's taste; sometimes he sounds like he's shouting, and his frequent lack of vibrato produces a piercing, uncomfortable effect. Nancy Gustafson is a fine Lisa, however, and Dimitri Kharitonov (Yeletsky) is heartbreaking in the famous "Ya vas lyublyu" ("I love you") aria. For overall better singing but a more plodding production, try the 1992 Kirov recording, but for spine-tingling drama this is the one to go for.
On the DVD: Pique Dame on disc has subtitles in English, German, French and Spanish. The camerawork captures the odd angularity of the designs and gives an excellent account of a fast-paced, powerful production.--Warwick ThomsonSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The orchestration is extraordinary in the way it picks up the emotional state of the main characters (particularly Lisa and Herman) and adds a powerful propulsive force at the great high points of their development. It is as though they were being driven on by the music, which carries an implied morbidity. Added to that, the use of a number of specific motifs related to, for example, fate and the three cards - which develop as the action progresses - and fantastic work in the strings all combine to make Herman's ultimate destiny - descent from obsession to a deranged paranoid madness - seem inexorable and inevitable.
This 1992 Glyndebourne production with Graham Vick's staging presents all this with ingenious and imaginative clarity. The basic set is modern and abstract, a white rhomboid cube narrowing towards the back of the stage (and thus drawing our eye there). The centre of this cube is dark black with frantic black ink scratches - like an angry Scarfe cartoon - emanating from it. In the elegant first scene, the Summer Gardens, the black space is opened out as a white rhombus containing a drastically wind-swept tree (there is another one on stage). Costumes are refined and beautifully detailed haute bourgeois and military outfits. Here we meet all the protagonists. As the opera progresses the stage space is narrowed down or opened out to reflect the action: Lisa's room and the Countess' room both verge on the claustrophobic, the Ball and Canal scenes are opened out.Read more ›
Go for it, then.
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.Read more ›