Solokha – Larissa Diadkova
The Devil – Maxim Mikhailov
Chub – Vladimir Matorin
Panas – John Upperton
Oxana – Olga Guryakova
Vakula – Vsevolod Grivnov
Pan Golova – Alexander Vassiliev
The Schoolmaster – Viacheslav Voynarovskiy
Odark – Olga Sabadoch
Wood Goblin – Changhan Lim
Echo – Andrew Macnair
His Highness – Sergey Leiferkus
Master of Ceremonies – Jeremy White
The Royal Ballet Royal Opera House Orchestra
Alexander Polianichko, conductor
Francesca Zambello, stage director
Alastair Marriott, choreography
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Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, November 2009.
Bonus: - Introducing Cherevichki by Francesca Zambello
- Cast and Characters
- Staging Gogol's world
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 154 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
TCHAIKOVSKY Cherevichki • Alexander Polianchko, cond; Olga Guryakova (Oksana); Vsevolod Grivnov (Vakula); Larissa Diadkova (Solokha); Sergei Leiferkus (His Highness); Maxim Mikhailov (Devil); Viacheslav Voynarovsky (Schoolmaster); Alexander Vassiliev (Pan Golova); John Upperton (Panas); Royal Opera House Covent Garden O/Ch • OPUS ARTE OA 1037 D (155: 00) Live: Covent Garden 2009
Cherevichki has never been an opera I cared for much. It suffers structurally from a first and second act that are simply one long act cut in half, and an under-developed subplot that’s no more than a couple of events. Musically, it contains a fair amount of substandard content, both in Tchaikovsky’s folk manner and his more ambitious symphonic one, especially throughout the first act. The most memorable things in the work aren’t arias, but two ballets, and one Great Big Tune (which sounds as though it were borrowed from some unpublished string work) that the composer simply states four times in the act II finale. I rank it below Tchaikovsky’s Eugen Onegin, Mazeppa, The Maid of Orleans, The Queen of Spades, and The Oprichnik for inspiration.
So why would I want to review this? First, because the opera is uneven, not wholly bad. It does contain some fine music, especially in the third and fourth acts. When it all comes together—during the second ballet of act III, or the lengthy first scene of act II, with Solokha the Witch entertaining each of her four suitors as she quickly improvises means of hiding the last one who appeared—it succeeds very well, indeed. Secondly, because it’s a Russian folk opera, based on Gogol, and I have an abiding interest in both of those categories. In other words, while I’d much rather have seen a new production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night, Tsar Saltan, or Kashchei the Deathless, I’ll settle for Cherivichki, and patiently wait through act I for some of the bright spots in the rest.
The waiting is made more pleasant in this case by an excellent production. Francesca Zambello decided on an overarching visual theme of stylized Ukrainian folk art for the three acts set in the village, with set designer Mikhail Mokrov providing a flattened perspective, playful imagery, and plenty of bright primary colors. When the action switches in act III to the forest, a haze of earth tints (and dry ice) is joined by a background of huge, dagger-like leaves: appropriately dangerous for a place where rusalki gather to lure humans to death-by-drowning. Later, St. Petersburg and the nobility are displayed as folktales presented them, all shining gold buildings and exaggerated French fashions. The lighting is good, the costuming excellent. Blocking is handled expertly, and it’s a mark of Zambello’s craft that even individual chorus members quietly display distinctive facial reactions to events on stage.
I have only one criticism to make in all this, and it concerns the heroine, Oksana. In Gogol’s original story, in older folktales, and in the libretto, she’s presented as a flighty, imperious, cruel beauty. She constantly puts down her suitor, Vakula the Smith, and the task she assigns him in public, in exchange for her betrothal, is impossible: Get her the Tsarina’s slippers. Olga Guryakova, clearly with Zambello’s approval, softens that portrayal, making her look hesitant when tossing her heartless zingers, or gaze lovingly on Vakula when he isn’t looking. The problem as I see it is that this cheapens the success of Vakula’s quest—which really isn’t the slippers, at all. It’s Oksana’s love, for which the slippers are a means to an end. If she appears too melting from the start, there can be no grand thaw when Vakula hands her the slippers in act IV.
The cast is mostly very good. Guryakova is in excellent form, agile and lyric, while Vsevolod Grivnov, whom I’ve enjoyed greatly in Rachmaninoff’s The Miserly Knight, may be a bit heavy, vocally speaking, for the part, but possesses the requisite bel canto approach to phrasing required by all the lyrical tenor roles in Russian Nationalist operas. Sergei Leiferkus plays “His Highness” as Field Marshall Kutuzov, complete with eye patch, but it doesn’t cover for an elderly voice in sad decline, with a wobble, scoops, and forced chest resonance. Larissa Diadkova is in excellent form, her focused mezzo and fine acting providing distinction to every scene she appears in. The secondary roles are almost all filled with distinction. (Viacheslav Voynarovsky would have made a fine Vakula himself, judged solely on vocal merits, if he didn’t look like a 45-year-old accountant.) The Royal Ballet acquits itself well, though the introduction of a child dancer into both act III and the act IV finale pushes the sugar index up just a bit high for my tastes. Conductor Alexander Polianichko is somewhat stiff, and repeatedly falls out of sync with his singers, but sets reasonable if at times over-relaxed tempos.
The camerawork suffers through the first couple of acts from the usual inability to angle shots, or apply anything other than close-ups—which renders the Vakula-Oksana duet of act I and act II’s scene between Solokha, Vakula, and her three hidden suitors dramatically ineffective. Matters improve during the last two acts, which are almost entirely ensemble work, and the camera crew suddenly discovers that it can frame larger pieces of action than just a single person waist-up at any given time.
My recommendation? Get this, for the production, and the best of the score, while hoping that Covent Garden and Zambello will give us something more musically memorable in the future.
The slippersby Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Performer:
Alexander Vassiliev (Violin),
Vsevolod Grivnov (Tenor),
Olga Guryakova (Soprano),
Maxim Mikhailov (Bass),
John Upperton (Tenor),
Larissa Diadkova (Mezzo Soprano),
Vladimir Matorin (Bass),
Viacheslav Voynarovskiy (Tenor)
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1885; Russia
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Great OperaOctober 23, 2014By Denton Moers (Houston, TX)See All My Reviews"Cherevichki is a very good opera. a rare one at that. I like all of Tchaikovskys music including Opera and Ballet as well.-----Denton Moers"Report Abuse
A Hidden DelightAugust 1, 2013By James F. J. (Independence, VA)See All My Reviews"I thought I knew all of Tchaikovsky's major works, but this one eluded my radar entirely. This work is one of his finest. So playful, so melodic, so buoyant. And the staging is ideally suited. The cast is outstanding. Tchaikovsky treasured this creation and it's easy to see why."Report Abuse