CAST: German: Peter Gougaloff, Lisa: Galina Vishnevskaya, Tomsky: Dan Iordăchescu, Countess: Regina Resnik, Yeletsky: Bernd Weikl, Polina: Hanna Schwartz, Masha: Christine Mitlehner, Governess: Ewa Dobrowska, Cekalinsky: Fausto Tenzi, Surin: Dimiter Petkov, Caplitsky: Heinz Kruse, Narumov: Rudolf Alexander Sutey, Prilepa: Lucia Popp, Milovzor: Hanna Schwarz, Zlatogor: Dan Iordăchescu
Orchestre National de France
Mstislav Rostopovich, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 1977, 2002
This recording of Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame is among the best you could wish for. This result is mainly due to the very fine interpretation of the opera given by the conductor, Mstislav Rostropovich. His direction is the best you could want for this opera: there is in it no imperfection, the tempi are well measured and the gloomy atmosphere that permeates Pique Dame is perfectly expressed and cannot be forgotten even in the few lighter and relaxed moments. The first scene of the third act, in which the Countess’s ghost reveals the three cards to German, is particularly impressive: I have always believed that it is possible to distinguish a bitter irony, which already heralds the tragic joke of the end, in the orchestral accompaniment of the Countess’s speech.
I have some reservations about the two protagonists. I must confess that I am not a big fan of Galina Vishnevskaya (here she sings the role of Lisa) because I have never been able to overcome my aversion to her metal timbre, which have always been an obstacle to completely appreciate the dramatic talent that nonetheless I recognize to her. So, her performance has not inspired me very much, despite the very effective mezzevoci and incisiveness of accent. For his part, Peter Gougaloff is a correct but not outstanding German, who conveys pretty well the exaltation and the restlessness of the character, alongside with his love for Lisa in their scene of the first act. You listen willingly enough; if nonetheless Gougaloff never manages to be really exciting, it is another matter.
Regina Resnik is an outstanding Countess, who has her moment of true greatness when she appears to German as a ghost, when her voice is lifeless and sepulchral as if it belongs to a true underworld spirit. This is an effect that many other singers after her have tried to obtain, but that has not been recreated from none with the same perfection.
The other singers are also fine (in some cases, even of excellent) and, since none of them are native speaker of Russian, it is worth adding that the result is very fine as regards the diction. Dan Iordachescu’s Tomsky is overall more elegant than witty, but occasionally finds the way to enliven the character. Iordachescu sings also Zlatogor in the intermezzo of the second act. Prince Yeletsky is sung by Bernd Weikl, who manages to stand out for his beautiful dark timbre and expression in his only aria, and Hanna Schwartz in the roles of Polina and Milovzor (in the intermezzo) is also really enjoyable. The angelic voice of Lucia Popp complete the trio of the intermezzo creating the graceful character of Prilepa.