The 2016 Dutch Opera production of Pique Dame (Queen of Spades) is the best acted and sung performance of this opera available on DVD and Blu-ray thus far. Unfortunately, this perplexing and surreal production is marred by artistic choices that get in the way of its narrative and trivialize this operatic masterpiece. Why anyone would think that this was the appropriate vehicle to focus on Tchaikovsky's homosexuality simply boggles the mind. To begin with, even before the opera's orchestral introduction, this production begins with an offensive tableau that is prurient, unseemly and insulting to Tchaikovsky and to the opera. Similarly, introducing lewd behavior during the pastorale in Act II, scene 1 is not only out of place but offensive. As if this were not bad enough, the entrance of Russian Empress Catherine the Great becomes a transvestite segue, with the Empress turning out to be none other than the anti-hero Hermann in drag. Moreover, having Lisa begin to disrobe and make sexual overtures to Hermann in Act III, scene 2 detracts from the dramatic impact of the drama. Plus, inserting Tchaikovsky, who also doubles as Prince Yeletsky, into the opera, and having him behave like a busy body while composing the opera, playing the piano and conducting an imaginary orchestra, is distracting and shifts the focus of the story to him. Finally, filling the stage with a slew of Tchaikovskys again and again is more slapstick than dramatic.
The above is especially disheartening because the singing of the entire cast is absolutely flawless. Remove all the kitsch and you have a performance that does justice to the opera. The singing of Misha Didyk as Hermann, a role he performed perfectly in the Liceo Opera Barcelona in its 2010 production, is perfect, as is that of Svetlana Aksenova (Lisa), Vladimir Stoyanov (Tchaikovsky/Yeletsky), Larissa Dadkova (the Countess), Alexey Markov (Tomsky) and Anna Goryachova (Polina). In fact, the singing of the entire cast, down to the smallest part, is a joy to hear.
This production stages the three-act opera in two acts, by combining the first three scenes as Act I and the remaining four scenes as Act II.
The set is basically a large study with movable panels. The opening St. Petersburg garden scene is staged indoors, forcing the guests to panic during the thunderstorm and scamper for shelter. The costumes are all black, white and gray or a combination thereof, the only deviation being in the pastorale, which gives us splashes of red and green.
This is a beautiful vocal performance marred by questionable artistic choices that tarnish the overall production. I would have given this production five stars were it not for the offensive choices made. I still recommend it highly but suggest that you listen to rather than watch this beautifully sung performance of Pique Dame.
- Format: NTSC
- Language: Russian
- Subtitles: English, German, French
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 26 Jan 2018
- Run Time: 181 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B0783Z3PCK
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