(photo credit: Yossi Tzveker)
Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame
The Israeli Opera Tel Aviv
Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame can easily qualify as one of the repertoire’s most psychopathic operas.
It is an unwholesome melange of requited and unrequited love, jealousy, revenge, obsession, gambling, witchcraft, a ghost story, morbidity and suicides – two of them, for good measure.
Mariusz Trelinski’s direction followed an obsolete trend that was current in European opera once upon a time. It then attempted to radiate modernity by enveloping the stage in chiaroscuro. This consistent darkness was irritating at first, and then became cumulatively depressing as the show wore on for a solid three and a half hours.
In order to make the little difference between males and females unmistakably clear nonetheless, men were dressed in black and women in white most of the time, except for occasional exceptions for variety’s sake. Some technicolor inserted toward the end, presumably in order to make the final suicide more amusing, did not exactly brighten up the somber atmosphere.
Among the singers, Anja Silja, as the Countess, was particularly noteworthy. In her genuinely moving Reminiscences Aria, one of this performance’s highlights, her dark-timbred, expressive mezzo-soprano represented not only refined voice culture but also a high level of unostentatious artistry at its best.
A pleasant surprise was Daniela Lugasi, whose lightly flowing, flexible, appealing soprano and discreet, refreshing sense of humor were perfectly suited to the role of Prilepa.
One would have liked to hear her in a somewhat more significant role.
As Yeletsky, Vladimir Petrov’s intensely persuasive Love Aria was unfortunately wasted on Lisa, sung by Ira Bertman, who did not appreciate his sonorous, friendly baritone. Lisa for some strange reason prefers the hysteric-sounding tenor of Victor Lutsiuk’s Herman, whose love for Bertman’s shrill and assertive soprano in this gentle and tender role was not easily understandable.
Conducted by Ken-Lynn Wilson, the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion conveyed the dramatic tension, high-strung emotions and Tchaikovskian exaggerations with energy and perfect cohesion.