A first international release on CD for the first recording in stereo of Tchaikovsky’s tragic masterpiece of obsession.
With this and six companion issues, Eloquence makes available for the first time on CD the seven complete Russian operas recorded in 1955 by Decca with the company of the Belgrade Opera.
Fresh from a successful tour of Boris Godunov in Switzerland the previous year, the Belgrade Opera in 1955 was keen to make an impression on an international public. At the same time, the Decca company perceived a cost-effective but artistically assured opportunity to expand both its small but rapidly growing stereo catalogue and its opera discography with classics of the Russian opera repertoire which it had previously not been possible to record in the original language.
Known in Russian as Pikovaya Dama, in English as The Queen of Spades and in much of the rest of the opera-going world as Pique Dame, the opera holds to its chest a card-trick, the secret of which drives the young officer Herman insane. The story elicited from Tchaikovsky a score of almost relentless intensity, unparalleled in his output except by the Pathétique Symphony, yet he placed at its heart a pastiche eighteenth-century masque which is his most moving offering to the spirit of his beloved Mozart. In Herman (sung here by Alexander Marinković) and the innocent Lisa (Valerija Heybal), Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest, acting as librettist, created a portrait of doomed love as rich and complex as a mature Verdian music-drama.
Recorded in both mono and stereo but originally issued only in mono, the stereo versions were held back and finally released in Europe in the 1960s, by which time the Belgrade Opera had acquired an international reputation for excellence. Remastered for this release from the original stereo tapes, this is a demonstration-quality examples of the renowned early Decca sound.
The booklet for this newly remastered release prints both a synopsis and an essay by Peter Quantrill giving full historical context to the Belgrade opera recordings.
‘The recording is excellent, with depth and ample sonority … Marinkovic makes a striking character of horrid Herman … The overall conception seems to me highly authentic.’ Gramophone, June 1956
‘[Valerija Heybal] possesses a warm and appealing voice … There is plenty of excitement, and the quality of recording is good.’ Opera, August 1956