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 example 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.
PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
The Queen of Spades
(Pikovaya Dama · Pique Dame)
Herman, Alexander Marinković
Count Tomsky, Jovan Gligorijević
Prince Yeletsky, Dušan Popović
Countess, Melanija Bugarinović
Liza, Valerija Heybal
Polina, Biserka Cvejić
Chekalinsky, Dragutin Petrović
Surin, Alexander Veselinović
Chaplitsky, Zivojin Iovanović
Narumov, Vladimir Popović
Governess, Mira Vershevich
Masha, Anne Jeninek
Major-Domo, Nikola Janchich
Prilepa/Chloë, Sofija Janković
Milovzor/Daphnis, Biserka Cvejić
Zlatogor/Pluto, Jovan Gligorijević
Nursemaids, governesses, wet-nurses, promenaders, guests, children, gamblers, etc.
Yugoslav Army Chorus
Children’s Choir of Radio Belgrade
Orchestra of the National Opera, Belgrade
FIRST INTERNATIONAL CD RELEASE ON DECCA. STEREO RECORDING
Recording Producer: James Walker
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (mono), Roy Wallace (stereo
Recording Location: House of Culture, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 5–9 & 11 September 1955
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
Original LP Releases: Decca LXT 5189–92 mono; London XLL 1413–16 / XLLA 44 stereo; Decca ‘Ace of Diamonds’ GOS 568–70 stereo
‘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
‘[Valerija Heybal] possesses a warm and appealing voice … There is plenty of excitement and the quality of recording is good.’ Opera