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Tchaikovsky Cherevichki
The Tsarina’s Slippers

Solokha, a Witch – Larissa Diadkova [R]
The Devil – Maxim Mikhailov [R]
Chub – Vladimir Matorin
Panas – John Upperton
Oxana – Olga Guryakova
Vakula – Vsevolod Grivnov
Pan Golova – Alexander Vassiliev
The Schoolmaster – Viacheslav Voynarovskiy
Odarka – Olga Sabadoch
Wood Goblin – Changhan Lim
Echo – Andrew Macnair
His Highness – Sergei Leiferkus
Master of Ceremonies – Jeremy White

Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Dancers of the Royal Ballet, Members of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, Alexander Polianichko (conductor)

Francesca Zambello (director)
Mikhail Mokrov (set designs)
Tatiana Noginova (costume designs)
Rick Fisher (lighting)
Alastair Marriott (choreography)

Royal Opera House, London, 23 & 28 November 2009

Opus Arte DVD OA 1037 D [In Russian with English subtitles]

This well made DVD of Tchaikovsky's fairy-tale opera has given us great pleasure and we would recommend it for Christmas purchase.

It originated from a notably successful production at Wexford, a collaboration between Elaine Padmore and Francesca Zambello, who expanded it for Covent Garden's Christmas Tchaikovsy Season in 2009. The reviews of its first night were "mixed", with serious shortcomings noted in the singing. A great improvement seems to have happened by the later performances from which this DVD was taken.

Best to get the context by watching first the brief but illuminating 'extra' "Staging Gogol's World". Zambello & Mokrov's sets and direction are exciting, and the costumes are gorgeous. The opera does have its longueurs and a few points of stasis, especially in the 3rd Act Petersburg scene; a set-piece song outstays its welcome and might have been cut to advantage. But there are some splendid dances interposed here and elsewhere, ballet being a substantial component of this entertainment.

There is enough unknown vintage Tchaikovsky music to make this a worthwhile acquisition in any case. And the Overture (played before an enticing screen, without distracting action such as directors these days regularly impose) is good enough to consider for symphony orchestra concerts.

Subscribers to The Opera Critic will have 21 reviews of the Covent Garden production to consult; the one which best fits our experience is Colin Anderson's: - - Tchaikovsky himself thought Cherevichki his finest opera - - No masterpiece, but delightful nevertheless - - it does contain some lovely and exhilarating music and The Royal Opera's new production, directed by Francesca Zambello, is a treat, and includes a pleasing contribution from The Royal Ballet - - the eye is charmed by picturesque landscapes, snow on the ground and the houses' roofs; the overture is pastoral and soulful, it could only be by Tchaikovsky and is played to a backcloth of devils, the sun and the moon. This is a peaceful village, the moon on guard-duty, a trepak offers a knees-up, green and blue scenery dominates and there is the picture-postcard interior of Oxana's room and the darker hues of Solokha's austere dwelling... this opera is rare enough to welcome this new production with open arms, for its comic turns and farcical situations as well as the portrayal of the principal characters.

Recommended warmly.

Peter Grahame Woolf