Julia Varady (Lisa), Elena Obraztsova (Countess), Vladimir Atlantov (Hermann), Alexander Voroshilo (Tomsky), Bodo Brinkmann (Yeletsky), Ludmila Shemchuk (Pauline), Yoshihisa Yamaji (Chekalinsky), Karl Helm (Surin), Ulrich Reß (Chaplitsky), Alfred Kuhn (Narumov), Friedrich Lenz (Master of Ceremonies), Gudrun Wewezow (Governess) & Carmen Anhorn (Masha)
In contrast to Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky’s other operas have led something of a shadowy existence in the repertoire. Only his penultimate music drama The Queen of Spades (also after Alexander Pushkin) can claim to look back on a continuous performing tradition in recent decades. In 1984 the Bavarian State Opera gave a production that was musically exemplary in many ways, starting with the role of Lisa, sung by Julia Varady. She had already been celebrated in Munich for her portrayal of Tatyana in Onegin, and here again she showed herself to be the ideal interpreter for one of Tchaikovsky’s female roles. She savoured the lyrical aspects of the part with the utmost subtlety, while in the tragic plot twist on the banks of the Neva she showed herself a match for its dramatic climaxes. Her vocal portrait of the self-sacrificing young lover Lisa can at last be heard here on CD. Her partner Vladimir Atlantov had to master one of the most murderous tenor roles and did so brilliantly. During the course of his international career, it was above all with Tchaikovsky’s Hermann and with Verdi’s Otello that he truly succeeded in making his mark in a manner that has been remembered long after. There has rarely been another singer able to portray in so gripping a fashion the increasing intensity of Hermann’s passion for Lisa, up to the point of his deadly obsession to win her by means of the “secret of the three cards”. The old Countess is sung by the mezzo-soprano Elena Obraztsova, like him another of the great voices from the former Soviet Union. They were joined by several further compatriots: Polina was sung luxuriantly by Ludmila Shemchuk, Count Tomsky by Alexander Voroshilo, and last but not least Algis Shuraitis was at the helm of the Bavarian State Opera to ensure that their joint efforts were crowned by the creation of an idiomatic cast for this production of The Queen of Spades. The ensemble, chorus and orchestra of the Bavarian State Opera contributed above and beyond the call of duty to the success of it all, playing and singing with fire and verve, and they well deserve an honourable mention here.
Act 1: Gorí, Gorí Yásno
Act 1: Chem Kónchilas' Vcherá Igrá?
Act 1: Ya Ímeni Yeyó Znáyu
Act 1: Mne Stráshno!
Act 1: Kakáya Véd'ma ... Odnázhdy V Versálye
Act 1: Se Non È Vero
Act 1: Uzh Vécher
Act 1: Obvorozhítelno! ... Da, Vspómnila ... Podrúgi Mílie
Act 1: Mesdemoiselles
Act 1: Otkúda Éti Slyózy
Act 1: Ostanovítes' ... Lisa, Otvorí!
Act 2: Rádostno, Véselo V Den' Sei
Act 2: Khozyáin Poósit Dorogíkh Gostéi ... Ya Vas Lyublyú
Act 2: Pósle Predstavléniya ... Kto Pýlko I Strástno Lyubyá!
Act 2: Vsyo Tak, Kak Mne Oná Skazála
Act 2: Blagodétel' Nitsa Násha
Act 2: Akh, Postýl Mne Étot Svet! ... "Je Crains De Lui Parler La Nuit"
Act 2: Ne Pugáites'!
Act 3: Ya Nevéryu Chtóby
Act 3: Mne Stráshno! Stráshno!
Act 3: Uzh Pólnoch' Blízitsya
Act 3: A Yésli Mne V Otvét
Act 3: Búdem Pit' I Veselít'sya
Act 3: Yéslib Mílie Devítsy
Act 3: Za Dela, Gospodá
Act 3: Chto Násha Zhizn'? Igrá
Act 3: Idyót Yeshchó?
“[Varady is] in radiant voice here, convincingly youthful and appealing at her first encounter with Herman, throwing caution to the wind as she goes to her death in the Neva. Vladimir Atlantov's Herman is a known quantity but it is good to hear again how fearless he could be onstage...there is a grandiloquence about his portrayal here that can be thrilling.”
“Varady retains her appeal, thanks to splendidly clear textual projection, prbing musicality and a delectably youthful timbre...The truly aching expressiveness of this singing is just right for Lisa, and significantly more affecting than anyone I've heard on disc in this role...[Obraztsova holds] the listener's attention through sheer incisiveness of projection...the performance is immensely disciplined and never frantic.”
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