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Prokofiev The Gambler

Op. 24, 1916/28; Libretto Dostoyevsky/Prokofiev

General – Vladimir Ognovenko
Polina – Kristine Opolais
Alexei – Misha Didyk
Baulen’ka – Stefania Toczyska
Marquis – Stephan Rügamer
Blanche – Sylvia de la Muela
Mr Astley –Viktor Rud
Prince Nilski – Gian-Luca Pasolini
Baron Wurmerhelm – Alessandro Paliaga

Potapytsch – Plamen Kumpikov
Casino Director – Gleb Nikolsky
First Croupier – Gregory Bonfatti
Second Croupier – Robert Hebenstrett
(plus other gamblers, etc.)

Dmitri Tcherniakov (producer, stage designs, costumes)
Elena Zaitseva (costumes)
Gleb Filshtinsky (lighting)

Staatsopernchor & Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim

Recorded live Staatsoper Unter den Linden March 2008

Unitel classica/cmajor 70184 (Blu-ray)

Daniel Barenboim and the Staatsoper Unter den Linden chose this as the centrepiece of the company’s 2008 Festtage in a co-production with La Scala, their commitment triumphantly vindicated by a fine performance and production, as reported in one of but few English language reviews [Mark Berry, MusicWeb].

It recently came to our screens on SkyArts2TV, and is even a little more vivid on this Blu-ray DVD (we have newly invested in equipment to play them).

The Gambler demands concentration to gradually appreciate 'the labyrinthine relationships and mutual dependencies in Tcherniakov's impersonal hotel sets', where 'no one is what he or she claims to be' [Julia Spinola].

This complexity, and the elusive anti-lyrical score (belying the young composer's claim to its 'simplicity') makes it ideal for home viewing, with the 'chapters' facilitating repetition of sections.

Not natural Barenboim territory, he heads what sounds to be a magnificent musical realisation, the only noticeable question whether the voices seem a little under-projected, especially towards the beginning. But I guess that was so in the theatre too, and is preferable to its opposite; certainly, one missed nothing of the rich orchestral fabric.

The multiple roles of director Dmitri Tcherniakov give the visual presentation, austere and even deliberately confusing at first, a great integrity, and the eventual scene at the roulette table is spectacular.

Not a 'nice, Christmassy' show, but a very distinguished DVD, produced impeccably and with just the right supportive text. Strongly recommended.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Prokofiev The Gambler (Kirov Opera/Gergiev)