Queen of Spades

Yuri Temirkanov’s 1992 Kirov Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades is extremely traditional but not dull.  It’s given the default Catherine the Great setting and there are opulent ball rooms, gold braid, wigs and crinolines aplenty.  There’s also careful direction of the action and some good acting so it’s far from a “park and bark” snoozefest, though it has nothing new or original to say.  The lighting for the supernatural bits is especially atmospheric.

Musically and dramatically it has a good deal to offer.  Gegam Grigorian manages Herman’s journey from melancholy to insanity with a good deal of subtlety and some fine singing.  Maria Gulegina makes an appealing and tuneful Lisa (which surprised me because I’ve hated everything else of hers I’ve seen.)  Alexander Gergalov’s Prince Yeletsky and Sergei Leiferkus’ Tomsky are nicely characterised, dignified and just right really.  Ludmila Filatova as the old countess manages both crabby old bat and spooky otherwordly rather well.  Valery Gergiev gets a very decent performance out of the ochestra who play with considerable spirit in the big climaxes but sound issues make it hard to be sure exactly what’s intended.

The video direction by Brian Large is quite decent.  He’s expansive when he needs to be, which is a lot of the time as there are many big set piece scenes.  The trouble is he’s not backed up by the picture quality.  It’s 16:9 but it’s not really even basic DVD quality.  The picture is grainy, suffers from MPEG artefacts, flickers and has weird colour balance in places (that may be the lighting though I doubt it).  The sound is mixed quality.  The DTS 5.1 track has good balance between orchestra and singers and OK spatial quality but the brass seem over prominent and the percussion is badly muffled.  The stereo track adds a thin, reediness to those faults.  There are no extras.  Subtitle options are English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese.  The documentation was missing from my library copy.

I think this is only recommendable if you don’t care about the sound and video issues.

4 thoughts on “Queen of Spades

  1. Wonder if you’ve watched the Graham Vick production with Yuri Marusin, Nancy Gustafson, Felicity Palmer and Sergei Leiferkus? 18th century costumes and abstract sets. Rather effective. The play is quite charming.

      • The Graham Vick production is a classic fly-in-the-ointment production. Fascinating sets which underline the psychological disintegration of the hero, a great strong Lisa (much more interesting than Guleghina’s rather drippy portrayal), good supporting singers, and really committed and convincing acting from Marusin. The fly? Marusin sounds like a a rather off-pitch labrador. By the end of it I could hardly bear to listen to him and was ready to shoot him myself.

      • I can see “fly in the ointment productions” will have to join the canonical list of canonical lists along with “productions with gratuitous BDSM references” and “productions with a gratuitous appearance by a potato”.

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