Following Nicolas Krusek's comment regarding
his find of the 1954 Samossoud recording of The Enchantress, I also found
this, on Ebay, a great source of rare music. The CDs were posted to me in
the UK from Russia. I also secured from ebay the four LP 1977 recording of
the complete opera, with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted
by Provotorov. The LP set contains full text with English translations. There
is a lot of stunning music in this opera, which impresses even if you don't
know anything about the story. The 1954 recording is astonishing for the date,
except to say towards the end the quality does seem to fall off for some reason.
Ive no access to an old record player at the moment so can't report on the
LP recording yet, but will review when this changes.
The Enchantress does indeed have some striking attributes but from what
I can recall it's all in the first act which is very appealing and attractive
indeed, being as it is imbyed with the Russian folk element which Tchaikovsky
turned to his advantage on many occasions. But the following acts simply do
not measure up. Had Tchaikovsky been able to sustain his inspiration on to
the end we might indeed have had a masterpiece and it could well have entered
the ranks of the repertorie. Nor was the rest of the libretto able to stir
up the composer's muse. Another
Onegin was simply not forthcoming.
In addition to the 1954 Samosud recording of The Enchantress, I also recently
acquired (through Amazon) the 1946 recording of The Maid of Orleans conducted
by Boris Khaikin (with Sofya Preobrazhenskaya as Joan), recently released
on Myto Historical Line. Both operas contain much splendid music, including
effective crowd scenes (especially Act 1 of The Enchantress) and some gorgeous
love duets. I agree that Tchaikovsky's level of inspiration is not consistently
maintained in the final scene of both operas, but this is largely due to dramatic
weaknesses in the libretti.
The performances under Khaikin and Samosud are very good and thoroughly
idiomatic, although the recordings occasionally show their age (what do you
expect for 1946 or 1954?) On a positive note, I find the singers very easy
to understand, even with my limited knowledge of Russian.
Unfortunately there is no libretto included for The Enchantress, although The Maid of Orleans has a complete
English libretto. I also find it strange that neither booklet includes timings
for individual CD tracks. However, these are minor complaints, and I wholeheartedly
applaud Myto Historical Line and Preiser Records for the great service they
have done us by releasing these two rare operas on CD.
Despite the lack of newer commercial recordings of The Enchantress and The Maid of Orleans on CDs,
there are still non-commercial live recordings of both works from independent
organizations such as “House of Opera”. Some of these recordings have the
quality of professional recordings and cost around $7 to $10. Among the operas
recorded, I have found two recordings of The Enchantress and one of The Maid of Orleans. The details
are listed below:
The Enchantress: Amsterdam
1/18/1992 conducted by Gergiev with Alexeiv, Schemtchuk, Cyrianova, and
The Enchantress: London
2/28/1998 conducted by Gergiev with Gorchakova, Kiadkova, Putilin, Grigorian,
Matorin, and Riadchikova.
The Maid of Orleans: Turin
2002 conducted by Ranzani with Freni, Oslen, Orciani, Guarnera, and Caruso.
The website is www.operapassion.com
For a list of available recordings of all Tchaikovsky operas, both commercial
and non-commercial, you can visit the site (http://operadis.info/clortcha.htm)
by Brian Capon, which has a compilation not only for Tchaikovsky, but for
other composers as well.
Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for recording companies to transfer existing
recordings of these two operas from LPs to CDs. So far, the Russian label
Aquarius has already made available the 1979 of The Voevoda conducted by Kozhukhar
and the 1980 recording of The Oprichnik
conducted by Protatorov on CDs.
Of all the great composers Tchaikovsky may be the most sensitive to performance.
It can often seem that his inspiration failed him, yet when you hear an inspired
performance it can be an incredible revelation. Surely this is why Mazeppa languished in near
obscurity for more than an hundred years. I was privileged to hear Gergiev
and the Kirov with a live concert performance of Mazeppa in 1999 in Glasgow,
which was an artistic and critical triumph. I also heard the Welsh National
Opera performance in Llandudno in July 2006, a very different take, but equally
successful. In contrast to the above views of The Enchantress and The Maid, the quality of the
music certainly in Mazeppa
reaches its highest level at the end, a most understated and convincing conclusion.
The expressionistic extremes push it at times towards melodrama, but then
with the understanding of the artists, it takes on a sublime and elevated
aspect, such as in the execution scene at the end of Act II.
I wonder if the same things might be true of The Enchantress. I remember
hearing the 1998 Gergiev live concert performance (BBC Radio 3) mentioned
by Shenda Gu as a non-commercial recording and I was impressed consistently
throughout the opera. When I heard the Samosud recording I was disappointed
by the last act. This makes me think performance may be the problem rather
than the composer’s inspiration.
For years I took for granted Tchaikovsky scholar David Brown’s opinion
when he said Iolanta was ‘insipid’
and didn’t bother getting to know it. Then I heard a concert performance directed
by Alexander Lazarev with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and was astonished
to discover a great opera. So two words of warning might be necessary with
T’s lesser regarded works: Don’t necessarily believe the scholars or critics
and seek out further performances; the rewards of discovering more great Tchaikovsky
when you thought you knew it all are immense.
I was astonished to learn that David Brown finds "IOLANTA" "insipid".
Why then this important work of the mighty genius is his third most widely
performed opera after "Eugene" and "Queen"?
Surely the "IOLANTA" score is not a match to "masterpieces" produced by
pop, rock and other noise-making industries.
The libretto, skilfully crafted by Modest Tchaikovsky, is based on a
play by Henrick Hertz about a blind princess and her miraculous recovery.
I invite real Tchaikovsky scholars and lovers of his music to judge for
Two "IOLANTA" recordings are available on the Internet.
One is a DVD recording of a 1982 live performance by the Bolshoi in Moscow. The singing is outstanding. This is one of the Bolshoi's
successes. The DVD is made by FGL in France and has no subtitles or
booklet with the libretto.
The technical quality of video and audio signals is very high.
The second recording is an audio CD. Produced in 1995 by Mariinsky
Theatre in Saint Petersburg, conducted by V. Gergiev. This recording is also
a delight for a real Tchaikovsky enthusiast. Complemented by a booklet,
containing a history of composition and the full
libretto with transliteration and translation in English.
Both recordings are advertised by
Amazon.com and by
Note also that Твое молчанье непонятно ("Tboyo molchanye neponyatno,"
in case the Cyrillic doesn't come through correctly), from Iolanta, is one of the
highlights of the Anna Netrebko / Rolando Villazón "Duets" album.
Once I had a conversation with a woodwind player, who told me that when
his orchestra played "The Enchantress", all his fellow musicians noticed
that the musical structure of the overture is in a style of FOXTROT.
I have not been able as yet to get hold of either the score or
recordings of "The Enchantress".
I would appreciate your comments .
The postings in this forum would be so much more useful if they were
date-stamped. I'll help out a bit by saying that this message was posted
shortly before 12 December became 13 December 2008.
CHARODEIKA (The Enchantress) was given a single staged performance
during the summer of 2005 in Baden-Baden. The Kirov forces--complete with
a fully Russian cast of singers--made this an "enchanted evening". The
performance unfortunately was not broadcast. Because everyone in the cast
was Russian, I find it to have been superior to the London effort, which
actually sounded from time to time to show Gergiev a bit tentative
compared with the way he tore into the score seven years later. I think
1998 was probably about the time he himself was performing this for the
first time. The Kirov did not have it in their production repertoire until
a few years later. I think they did take it on the road to Lisbon before
it came to Baden-Baden. Only an in-house recording exists to record this
I agree that the Samosud recording is quite dull. I remember listening
to it, and to another recording, in preparation for seeing the Baden-Baden
performance. The one think I recall from these outings was how long the
opera was. A single intermission in Baden-Baden was going to make for some
long sits, I thought.
Au contraire. The opera in Gergiev's hands was a revelation, compared
with those two old recordings. It may be right up there as my favorite
Tchaikovsky opera (although there seemed to be a lot of good music in
OPRICHNIK when I heard it in Cagliari about four years ago).
It's still 12 December, but I think I'm through for this evening.
Interesting to surf around and find this P.I. Tchaikovsky forum. You never
know what's out there in cyberspace!
It is December 31, so I wish you all a very happy new year!
I finally got me both "The Enchantress" (the 1998 recording) and "The
Maid of Orleans" (2002). The quality of both isn't comparable to
professionally recorded music at all, but all things considered they are
great. "The Enchantress" has amazing passages in it, I don't understand
why there aren't any newer recordings on CD.
The "Maid of Orleans" is very good too, I had listened to it already
because I have the DVD with Nina Rautio as Joan of Arc. The fact that I am
a copyright respect freak has prevented me from extracting the audio and
putting it into my iPod.
"Iolanta" I bought several years ago in Mexico City, my hometown. It is
the Mstislav Rostropovich directing and Galina Vishnievskaia as Joan. This
is an "Erato" recording and I find it quite good.
As per the recommendation of this forum, I also got the 1970 recording
of "Voevoda" via e-Bay, from Russia. I found this to be a very good
recording, considering it is now almost 40 years old.
Ladies and gentlemen, I already wrote to Deutsche Grammophon asking
them to do a complete set of Tchaikovsky's operas with Anna Netrebko. She
was born to be "Tatiana" in "Eugene Onegin" and "Lisa" in "Pique Dame". It
goes without saying that I didn't get an answer from DG, but maybe if some
of you would agree we would show there's some interest in this. It's not
that I dislike other non-Russian operas, but in my humble opinion Ms.
Netrebko would to an immense service to the world by recording all of
Tchaikovksy's operas. I'm sure that Pyotr Illych would have liked that.
The 1978 Melodiya recording of The Enchantress (Provatorov), which to
my knowledge has only been released on LP (1980), has apparently been
released on CD in Britain (but not the US):
A new DVD of Enchantress by VAI (Video Artists International) was
released in the Summer of 2010.
This is a 1984 live performance by the Nizhegorodsky State Academic
Theatre of Opera and Ballet; Pavel Reznikov, conductor. Sung in Russian;
subtitles in English, French, and Russian, Color, 4:3, 156 min., All
You can also order it from Amazon.com:
This is the first time I have ever seen a performance of this opera,
though I heard a few highlights of the music in the past. I find the
quality of the video and sound not bad but certainly not great. The scale
of the production and theater is quite small and old fashioned. Though I
knew the quality of this opera is not on par with Tchaikovsky's other
master pieces, I still enjoyed the opera from beginning to the end.
Perhaps because I didn't have great expectations. I actually enjoyed all
the many arias, duets and choruses, some of which are quite beautiful and
somehow reminds me of music by Verdi. Now I have seen the opera, I hope
some day there will be a better production I think this opera deserves.
John C. Chou
The dvd of The Enchantress is very poor and doesn’t begin to do justice
to the work. The production is amateurish in the extreme while the singing
and playing is merely passable with the exception of the singer of the
title role. However there is a disastrous cut in the last act which is
very damaging to the drama and reduces the title role to a cipher. I don’t
understand why the Maryinsky production has never been filmed or even
given an audio recording.
There was a brilliant production of this opera at Grange Park in
England (a kind of mini Glyndebourne) a few years ago with Janis Kelly as
The Enchantress. It got terrific critical notices. I saw it and was very
impressed. I also attended the Gergiev performance in the Royal Festival
Hall and a year or so earlier it was staged (the British premiere) more
than adequately at the Brighton Festival. So this wonderful opera seems to
have done better in the UK recently than anywhere else.
Flanders Opera will be performing The Enchantress in Ghent and Antwerp
this October and November (2011) with an excellent cast. I’ve already
booked the 1st night, October 30th, in Ghent.