Although Eugene Onegin may be a more popular opera, Pique Dame is arguably Tchaikovsky’s most accomplished and dramatic achievement in the form.
Here it is presented in a new live recording from BR Klassik, with Misha Didyk playing the role of lovelorn gambler Herman, Tatiana Serjan as his intended Lisa and Larissa Diadkova as the Countess. The Bavarian State Opera Choir and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra are the massed forces.
What’s the music like?
The music shows just how spontaneous the composition of this opera was, Tchaikovsky finishing the entire work in six weeks with the help of a libretto from his brother Modest. In addition the plot and its execution become more dramatic as they progress, leading to the white hot intensity of the final act.
By this time Tchaikovsky’s music has darkened, moving on from a style that benefits from classical influences to one that bares its truly Russian soul. The darker colours that infuse orchestral works such as the Symphony no.5 are fully in evidence, and the writing for voices is at times sumptuous but also of a searing intensity.
Does it all work?
Emphatically, yes. This is a superb live performance from Jansons and his forces that is truly electric in the third act. Misha Didyk of Herman has admirable stamina in a demanding role that calls for him to sing in a wide range throughout, and his voice penetrates every scene in which he is present.
While Tatiana Serjan is also superb as Lisa, the chilling revelation of the ‘secret cards’ from the ghost of the Countess (Larissa Diadkova) lingers long in the memory, by which time Jansons has taken a fearsome grip on the opera.
Support from the chorus and orchestra is exemplary, the offstage choir towards the end of the scene in Herman’s quarter of the barracks a particularly magical moment.
Is it recommended?
Yes. Even to someone who does not listen to a great deal of opera on record, this particular Pique Dame is a wholly compelling experience.
Listen on Spotify
If you do not have Spotify you can listen to clips from the recording on the Presto website. If you do have Spotify however, the opera can be heard here: