The 2010 recording of Prokofiev’s The Gambler from the Mariinsky Theatre is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a complicated opera about obsession and power and it needs a strong production and a director who can get coherent performances out of a large cast to fully succeed. Temur Chkhiedze doesn’t really manage it. The production is very straightforward, set in slightly abstracted versions of a hotel, a casino etc and at times it is brought to life by the clever lighting of Gleb Fishtinsky but it doesn’t do enough to establish any real purpose for the piece. It’s not helped by some very broad acting, especially from Sergei Aleksaskin’s General which is further emphasized by video director Laurent Gentot’s heavy use of close ups.
There are some good performances too. The piece starts to come alive with the entry Larisa Dyadakova as the Babulenka. Tatiana Pavlovskaya, too, is an effective Poline. Her singing is sweet toned and accurate and her characterisation interesting, if rather aloof. I’m less sure about Vladimir Galuzin’s Alexei. He’s hampered by a wig and make up that make him look at least the 25 that the libretto claims he is. He’s also pretty over the top which works well enough in the climactic final scenes but is a bit trying in the first two acts. No reservations about conductor and orchestra though. Valery Gergiev gets a hard driven, exciting reading of this most interesting score from the Mariinsky orchestra.
Picture and sound are both Blu-ray standard with the sound balance being fairly realistic; i.e. voices not overemphasized. There are no extras and documentation is restricted to a synopsis. Subtitle options are English, French, German, Russian and Chinese.
This isn’t a bad recording but the vocal performances are a bit mixed and the production less than thrilling. The main competition is Tcherniakov’s Berlin production which his fans will surely prefer but traditionalists may not.