Pyotr Tchaikovsky

The Dame, well-piqued

Queen of Spades, Russian Deck [Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]Last Saturday we caught the opening night of English National Opera’s new production of The Queen of Spades. Not entirely a success, albeit with flashes of magnificence.

Most of the problem was David Alden’s: the production had an air of cheapness about it, not to mention laziness. Present were the trademark harsh side-lighting and oddball extras, as well as much piling up of chairs, not to mention the frankly puerile appearance of a bunch of stuffed carton character heads at one point. Of darkness and tension there was practically none. (more…)

Glyndebourne Onegin: a sight for sore eyes

Room in the Winter Palace St Petersburg, detail

Room in the Winter Palace St Petersburg, detail

By way of stark contrast from the harsh ‘realities’ of Manon Lescaut or the confused banalities of Maria Stuarda, Glyndebourne offered the restrained and sensitive beauties of its production of Eugene Onegin. It was a sight for sore eyes.

The production is 20 years old this year, debuting at Glyndebourne in 1994, and its muted colours, emphasis on character-driven drama and exuberant dance interludes wear well. For a restricted view seat holder (in the Upper Circle Slips) the emphasis on use of the sides and rear of the stage can be a little frustrating, but you pays your money and takes your chances to an extent. The graceful curtains that separate scenes and, in the final palace ballroom scene, create a subtly shifting and disjointed perspective, and effective. The simplicity of the rustic scenes are beautifully appropriate to their setting. The emphasis really is placed on the characters to push this relatively simple story forward, with the sets providing a straightforward context for the action. (more…)

Tchaikovsky was buried in St Petersburg

This is a lovely city, no doubt about it.  Even with a cosmic battle underway between warm sunshine and torrential ‘showers’, the wide avenues and elegant facades of St Petersburg’s streets are a pleasure to wander.

Tchaikovsky's Tomb at Aleksandra Nevskogo Monastery Cemetery

Tchaikovsky's Tomb at Aleksandra Nevskogo Monastery Cemetery

As the long, bustling Nevskiy Prospekt terminates in a sea of tram cables and chaotic modernity, at Ploschad Aleksandra Nevskogo, you are brought up to the gates of the Aleksandra Nevskiy Monastery and its linked cemeteries.  One of those contains the Russian artistic ‘greats’ that associated themselves with this, most western of Russia’s cities in both geography and ideology.  In a grove dedicated to composers, there lies Glinka, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky.  Reigning benignly from the corner, the suitably grand and ornate momument stands to that greatest of St Petersburg’s musical sons, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

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Bolshoi at Covent Garden: Eugene Onegin

Well, it seems that Eugene Onegin is not a lucky opera for us.  Visits by Russian opera companies to Covent Garden don’t seem to come off altogether successfully, either…

We arrived at Covent Garden last night in good time, but both a bit weary after a week at work.  We had two Upper Slips tickets (on opposite sides so we could wave at each other across the void), and at quite an extreme angle to the stage (BB and DD 29 for those that know them).  We’ve had those sorts of Upper Slips before, and appreciate their limitations, but when it came to restricting the view, this production was something else. (more…)