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Tchaikovsky’s last opera is a flawed piece capable of reaching realms of longing romanticism others cannot. It has an atmosphere all its own, and though not a great deal happens the heroine is treasurable and there is much gorgeous writing. Anna Netrebko is on a crusade to make it better known in the West and the result is this record of a concert tour made with Emmanuel Villaume and the Slovenian Philharmonic. It starts well, the rather constipated wind intro melting into Schubertian strings that fix the score’s sweet yearning. Netrebko starts beautifully too, low down with the softest grain to the voice, and this intimate mode works well. As the score grows more passionate the performance begins to falter, with even Anna sounding strained at times. The other singers are pretty good – the lyrical Vitalij Kowalyow as René, Lucas Meachem a velvety Ibn Hakia, Sergey Skorokhodov’s beautifully smooth, masculine tenor Vaudémont full of romantic ardour – but the ensemble tends to get soupy and Villaume cannot heat up his orchestra enough for the passions this work needs.

Robin Thicknesse Read the full review on Agora Classica

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