The Gambler - Prokofiev / Staatskapelle Berlin
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Based on Dostoyevsky's novel of the same name, The Gambler is a dark study of human failings and the corruptive power of money. In this work, everyone gambles: the hero Alexei, the General and even the wealthy aunt Babulenka gamble with money; Blanche, the Marquis and Polina who loves Alexei gamble with their fellow human beings. The Staatskapelle Berlin under the baton of world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim provides the orchestral sound to the full, lustrous voices of Misha Didyk, Kristine Opolais, Vladimir Ognovenko and Stefania Toczyska.
Directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov
' a stroke of genius like Prokofiev's opera itself'
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Alexei Misha Didyk
Polina Kristine Opolais
General Vladimir Ognovenko
Babulenka Stefania Toczyska
Marquis Stephan Rügamer
Blanche Sylvia De La Muela
Mr. Astley Viktor Rud
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Stage Director, Stage Design, Costume Design: Dmitri Tcherniakov
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Top customer reviews
Tchernikov’s production is transposed to modern times, which creates some awkward moments with the lyrics, but doesn’t take away anything from the plot or the essence of the opera. The best aspect of this production is the singers. On top of the vocal performances, their acting is so convincing that at times you believe you are watching a movie instead of a staged opera. The orchestra, directed by Barenboim, is also up to the task. In fact, the only real melodies come from the orchestra, which Prokofiev, even in his twenties, orchestrated beautifully.
I purchased the DVD version sold in the US, which is Stereo only. It appears that there exists a Blu-Ray version outside the US. The video recording is satisfactory but not exceptional.
For once, the time transposition works for me. I think it really enhances the drama, which, in this opera, is of more importance than the musical score.
But it gets worse.You would be hard pressed to find a memorable melody anywhere here. And Prokofiev is one of the supreme melodists later on - think Romeo or War and Peace.
The Gambler is pure music drama where the music serves the words. Without the meaning of the words one is quite at a loss. So first of all deduct two stars for stupidity. Unless you know Russian or have a libretto avoid this purchase unless like me you have a real love of early Prokofiev. It is a challenge to watch this even with a libretto. The story moves at a feverish clip and gazing from libretto to screen is tyring.
The production is typically Euro trash although not severe enough to spoil the performance. Until the last scene where we switch to the gambling room the action all takes place in what could be an airport waiting room or the ante chamber to a restaurant. I guess it could also count as the sitting room at a casino. At a number of points we have people sitting behind the singers and doing whatever. Obviously it is a distraction and thank goodness the director seems to lose interest after a while and the people as furniture move more into the background.
The reason I give this two stars is the performance. The cast is filled with good singing actors or in this case more acting singers. The Gambler, true to its subject, is propelled by addiction throughout. Prokofiev has never been this neurotic before or since. The score almost never lets up. The excitement and terror of gambling are wonderfully put forth by the composer. If it had subtitles it would definitely deserve 4 stars. As it is: buyer beware.
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