University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame

11/27/2022 1:00 pm
11/27/2022 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Russia's most famous composer wrote ten complete operas, two of which achieved international status: Eugene Onegin (1878) and Pique Dame or The Queen of Spades (1890). Peter Tchaikovsky's brother Modest prepared the libretto for Pique Dame, which is based on a story by Alexander Pushkin, Russia's first great author of international stature. Pushkin's original tale is too cynical for most theater-goers to take in unadulterated form. In the opera the young military man, Hermann, is not a cold-hearted monomanaical cardshark. Then again, in Pushkin, there is no double suicide.

A number of recordings of the opera have been made that reside in our station's holdings. Two different ones I have featured previously, on Sundays in November of 1988 (Melodiya LPs/Bolshoi Theatre) and April of 1991 (Sony Classical CDs/ Bulgarian National Opera). Then came Vladimir Jurowski's recorded interpretation with the Israel Philharmonic and Ukrainian tenor Oleg Kulko as Hermann (Helicon Classics), which went over the air on Sunday, September 22, 2019.

Our WWUH classical record library has acquired yet another recording of Pique Dame with Mariss Jansons conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of Bavarian Radio and tenor Mischa Dyduk as Pushkin's anti-hero. (A BR Klassik compact disc release in 2015.) It was recorded in a live concert performance in Munich, with very minimal audience noise. This may be the best of all the "Dames" I've presented over the decades. Fanfare reviewer Huntley Dent says of it,"...this powerful new release is hard to surpass." (Fanfare, March/April, 2016.)