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on 16 January 2017
Having watched it on BBC, some time back I was favourably impressed but have only just got round to adding it to my library. The whole production is in the style of a pantomime, and a very good one too.
The characters include our heroine Oxana sung and well acted by Olga Guryakova who is a round voiced mellow soprano, her suitor Vakula, Vsevolod Grivnov, takes a good part, his voice is pleasant but not outstanding. His mother who is a witch called Solokha is a nice clear mezzo, and has a part that one can have fun with. Maxim Mighailov has the real gem of a part as The Devil, his make up and costume is phenominal, and his voice is excellent base baritone. Oxanas father is Chub another good baritone, also a figure of amusement. There are quite a few other substantial parts all of whom are up to standard.
The sets comprise a number of cartoonish backdrops, highly mobile and appropriate, with village, cottage interiors, czars palace, a river and many more.
In act one Solokha tempts The Devil who is rather annoyed with Vakula for painting his picture. Solokha also has a number of suitors from the village including Chub, who all end up hidden in sacks which Valuka tries to dispose of, without knowing the contents.
Act 2 In the village a party ensues and Valuka rashly promises Oxana a pair of slippers like the Czarina wears. He is rejected unless he fulfills his promise, he feels suicidal.
Abandoning three of the bags he heads to the river.
Act 3 starts with a ballet of Rusalka water nymphs, who are after a pleasant dance section are keen to help Vakula to drown himself. Watch out for the water sprite, marvelous costume. The Devil however pops out of the last bag and offers to help Vakula in return for his soul. but Vakula catches him by the tail and gets taken to the czars palace.
Act 4 has exotic stately dancing, a pleasing ballet, and exciting Cossack dancing, and eventually the Devil obtains a pair of slippers just like the Czarinas, they head home.
Act 5 sees Valuka being mourned by Oxana and Solokha, who think him dead, but of course he complete with slippers and the Devil,, turns up. A big party including all the villagers turn out for an exuberant finish.
I highly recommend this one, a great change from the usual run of operatic tragedies, and Tchaikovskys music is of course brilliant.
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This recording of Tchaikovsky's Cherevichki (Tsarina's Slippers), recorded in 2009 at the Royal Opera House is, to my mind, a valuable addition to the operatic repertoire on disc. The opera was Tchaikovsky's own favourite but failed to take off during his lifetime despite his time spent creating 3 versions, this being the last. The opera has not entered the regular Russian repertory since and is generally unknown world-wide so this is a good chance for it to make a break-through.

Unlike Eugene Onegin or the Pique Dame this opera is much lighter fare and like many previous Russian operas it includes ballet and dance sections. As such it could be considered as part of a previous Russian tradition that was gradually coming to an end. Nevertheless, as this production shows, it is certainly worth watching and it provides a most enjoyable experience on its own terms.

Essentially the story is set at Christmas time and concerns a good hearted witch, Solokha who is the focus of attention of several men, attached and not, and also the Devil who also finds her very desirable. All of this is treated very light-heartedly. She has a blacksmith son, Vakula, who is in love with Oxana who is the very attractive but self-aware daughter of widower Chub who is one of Solokha's admirers. Ultimately Oxana agrees to marry Vakula so long as he is able to give her a pair of shoes such as worn by the Tsarina. This he is able to achieve by snaring the help of the aforementioned devil. During his absence Oxana fears that Vakula has killed himself in despair and regrets rejecting him. Upon his return all is forgiven and their marriage is arranged without further delay. This is a happy ever after story of complete fantasy along the lines of a fairy story and a far cry from Tchaikovsky's two tragic operas.

The setting of this production created the fairy-tale element by adopting stylised backdrops and props of a minimalist but highly colourful design. This seems to be totally appropriate to me as realism seems unnecessary. The costumes, on the other hand, are a clear attempt at proper Russian dress of the period and are suitably lavish as regards the nobility and nationalist as regards the villagers and dancers. In total this is a very convincing production with the right emotional feel.

The solo singing cast is essentially Russian and this extends to the four Cossack dancers. There are several Russian dances such as a Gopak and these are well-performed by the Royal Ballet. The Royal Opera chorus clearly enjoys this musical adventure too. The mood is celebratory in feel. Larissa Diadkova is the excellent witch and those who are familiar with Prokofiev's equally fantastical Betrothal in a Monastery/Gergiev/Mariinsky will not be surprised to hear that her earlier sense of humour as the nurse is fully apparent here. Vakula is excellently sung and portrayed by Vsevolod Grivnov and the Devil is entertainingly portrayed by Maxim Mikhailov. The rest of the cast are equally at home with their respective roles and everyone seems to be having a really good time on stage. This comes over unmistakeably at the final curtain calls and makes for a satisfying shared experience with the audience.

The orchestra is on top form under the guidance of conductor Alexander Polianichko who expresses his own puzzlement at this score's rarity.

There are several extra features including an introduction to the work and also to staging Gogul's world (the writer of the original short story). The booklet is also very clear and informative. The recording is fully up to the usual Opus Arte standard with involving camera work and crisp imaging of good colour depth and definition. The sound is full-ranging and clear. It is presented in both DTS 5.1 and stereo options.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable entertainment which is unlikely to be challenged by alternative versions for quite some time. Fortunately the performance is of very fine quality in every respect and nothing unacceptably is attempted with the production which is very imaginative. The audience clearly loved the excursion into the unknown. It seems very possible that this will be the reaction of many future purchasers and therefore it seems completely reasonable to rate this with the full 5 stars.

In summary therefore, I would suggest that for anyone wishing to explore this very enjoyable musical byway within the operatic world, this disc warrants very serious consideration indeed.
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on 4 October 2010
Actually I am not particularly keen on opera, but I love Tchaikovsky's music and ballet.
Somehow I believed that this BD contains another ballet - one of those 'missed' works, so I went ahead and ordered it before there was any review.
And I don't regret it! I have nothing to compare to, (I never seen this production before) but I thouroughly enjoyed it.
It has a lot of Russian atmosphere and their specific sense of humour together with good music and decent acting.
And Tchaikovsky is the master!
So, if you are looking for an alternative entartainment for comming Christmas season - consider this! It's not so innocent as the Nutcracker and not so well known as Christmas Story so it has a chance to actually surprise you.
Give it a chance!
(oh, by the way, there is some ballet in there, too)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 January 2011
A little-known Tchaikovsky opera, rarely performed, Cherevichki (entitled The Tsarina's Slippers in English) is not a particularly great opera either, although it was considered highly by the composer himself, who worked through several versions of it over a number of decades. Based on a Gogol short story, a fairy tale of fantastical proportions, it's served well however by this 2009 Royal Opera House production directed by Francesca Zambello which manages to brilliantly evoke the characteristics that are specifically Gogol, while giving it a definite Tchaikovsky flavour, as well as being utterly Russian - all of them coming together to often dazzling effect.

You could say that there are two strands to the story in this respect, the side that emphasises the qualities of Gogol, and the other that works in Tchaikovsky's favour, both of them connected in the essential Russian qualities of the piece as a whole. The Gogol elements are most evident in the activities of the devil and his consorting with the witch Solokha on Christmas Eve. Infuriated at a mocking picture painted of him by Vakula, her son, the blacksmith, the devil sets out to cause disruption to the town and hamper Vakula's wooing of Oxana. The opera and the production, with terrific set designs by Mikhail Mokorov, fully brings out the playful Gogolesque character of these segments. In the second strand Vakula sets off on an impossible task to win the love of Oxana, travelling to the capital to obtain a pair of shoes as beautiful as those of the Tsarina. Here the beauty of Tchaikovsky's music is allowed to shine in a couple of ballet sequences and an authentic Cossack dance, again, all wonderfully staged.

Indeed, it's Mikhail Mokorov's set designs that are the real star of this production, appropriately bold and colourful like a big Christmas pantomime, with similar fun antics taking place on the stage. There is no major technological wizardry employed, just traditional backdrops and props, but brilliantly designed and imaginatively used. The costumes are just as colourful and impressive, suiting the occasion while also being authentic to Ukrainian tradition. The production, while wonderful to look at, doesn't however flow all that well. The acting feels a little stiff, never really entering into the spirit of the farce, and the singing seems a little underpowered, the whole thing never really sparking to life in the way that it should.

A rare production of a little-known Tchaikovsky opera, this performance of Cherevichki is not without its merits, and is worthwhile for that alone, but any shortcomings in the performance or the opera itself are more than compensated for by the colourful spectacle and a rousing finale. The opera is also a welcome new alternative to Hansel and Gretel, The Nutcracker or Cinderella as an even more seaonally appropriate classical Christmas entertainment.

The qualities of the production are enhanced by the Blu-ray High Definition presentation, which does full justice to the colour and spectacle, and it sounds simply incredible in either its PCM Stereo or DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 surround mix. Extras are not extensive, the Making Of broken down into smaller pieces that serve as an introduction, a look at the characters and the cast, with some background on the staging of Gogol's world.
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on 7 April 2011
To start with, THANK YOU ROH

I have actually heard this opera for the first time ever, and am enthralled with it. I am NOT bothered whether the Tenor hits brief awkward cadential flourishes up to high D and then up to high Eb (!). I just loved this production for what it was.

According to me, if one wants to analyse why this opera has not been one of the regulars in Russia, I feel it is because there exists not one piece that stands out like the Polonaise in Eugine Onegin or the waltz from it, and/or the standout pieces in Nutcracker or Sleeping Beauty.

BUT

On the whole, the Opera is outstanding in its sustained good mood and optimism, right from the beginning to the end. I am not going to nitpick if the girls were straining or singing to the gallery, or if the tenor was adequate. I am only going to declare that IF this production were not produced in the ROH at the right time, ie, NOW,this Opera might have had to wait for a much longer time to make its mark in the general listening public that love Opera, Ballet and Music in general, without bothering if there are awkward cadential flourishes up to high D and then up to high Eb (!)

I am not going to say, MOVE OVER Nutcracker or Hansel and Gretel. No. The Opera is not good enough for that to happen. BUT, It is an Opera that gives a "Feel Good" effect with the type of Music consistently pleasant and enjoyable without depressing downsides or philosophical episodes. It is just a 'pick-me-up' type of an opera that has been, yes, neglected over the years.

WHY NEGLECTED?

Like I said before, there is no one piece in this opera that is a stand-out piece. After Tchaikovsky finished all his revisions, there was no room for it, considering the popularity of his other works in Russia, and after the Revolution, it could have become embarrassing for the powers that were, to stage it with Catherine the Great as the ultimate source of power, Royalty.....that the Soviet Regime could not stomach.
To add to that, Russian Operas were not too well received in the richer parts of Europe to start with and then the Americas, with the exception of Mussorgsky, Korsakov, Borodin or Tchaikovsky, who all had works of much greater substance than just a 'feel-good' pleasant opera as this one.

THANK YOU ROH AGAIN.

This is the time to try and popularize this opera, that comes a close second to Hansel and Gretel and even the Nutcracker as something that could perhaps, with a little sympathy and understanding could become a big hit.

The world of blu ray and DVD belongs to US. The music lovers who are not exactly musicologists.....these works are written for US, and not for the run-or-the-mill nitpicking critics....

Do not bother what the aficionados say. It is a beautiful Opera, and even if Tchaikovsky was exaggerating about its quality (the best he has composed etc), it is still worth it. Don't forget, even Beethoven declared his 8th Symphony as being better than his 7th. It may sound a little jarring, but, ultimately, both works are regarded very well.. Perhaps it is the same case with this Opera.

Just Buy it, enjoy it, and forget about whatever the other critiques or I have written about it.

And again THANKS ROH.
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on 23 February 2015
Great production of a wonderful opera. This has a fantastical fairytale story courtesy Gogol. There are great characterizations of Vakula (smith's son), Oxana, the witch mother, Oxana's drunk father etc. These are performed as only Russians can with a largely Russian cast. The set is wonderful and colourful. The music is what you would expect from Tchaikovsky: full of melody, rhythm and a pleasure to listen to. He thought it his best opera. As listeners in the 21stC, we may prefer Eugene O, but this is still as good as (say) the Sleeping Beauty. This is an excellent DVD/Blueray: the ROH is at its best here. You can treat it as an xmas special, but really can be listened to anytime.
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on 7 September 2015
I saw this live at the opera house and loved it at the time.This was due to the imaginative sets and costumes which were both motivated by folk traditions of Russia. Also, the singing and acting were of the highest standard by all the cast bringing out the lyricism of the music which displayed both pathos and humour during the course of the opera. Mention should also be made about the excellent filming which we have come to expect from Covent Garden productions.
In all, this was a memorable performance and I hope that because of it, the opera will be restored to its rightful place after being neglected for so long.
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on 12 December 2016
Not a well known opera but well worth watching. The music is typically festive Tchaikovsky, although not as memorable as the Nutracker's. But the story is very Christmassy and makes a nice spectacle with the very imaginative Royal Opera production.
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on 8 November 2012
I was always fascinated by the cover and eventually bought it. It is the strangest opera with ballet I have come across but it is totally fascinating. The sets are amazing, bizarre but so creative and all done in bright, bright colours. The costumes are in brilliant colours. The performance is wonderful but the BUT is that you can't watch it often. In fact I haven't watched since the first time. However I am not sorry that I bought it. It is hard to believe that Tchaikovsky thought it would be his major work.
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on 1 January 2011
The unknown opera of Tchaikovsky have found a luxury revival thanks to Elaine Padmore. A fairytale in music, original costumes and wonderfull scenography. An unconventional christmas story with all the musical characteristics of the composer.
A story where the devil is drawn by the tail by the male hero, and the whitch a woman with an appetite for live (and men), and where the straightforward villagelife is the positif contrast to the stiff and stylish life at the zarinas court.
Indeed recomendable.

Erik Mortensen
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