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Richard Lawrence
Gramophone, June 2014

TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Iolanta / STRAVINSKY, I.: Persephone (Teatro Real, 2012) (NTSC) TR97011DVD
TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Iolanta / STRAVINSKY, I.: Persephone (Teatro Real, 2012) (Blu-ray, HD) TR97010BD

The Specialist’s Guide To…Operas in one act # 3

Iolanta…is about a princess kept in ignorance of her blindness. Her only chance—rejected by her father—of gaining her sight is if she learns of her condition and agrees to treatment by a Moorish physician. She falls in love with a stranger, who tries to explain light and colour. All ends happily. Peter Sellars’s direction is as striking as ever, with beautiful lighting effects. © 2014 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, May 2013

TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Iolanta / STRAVINSKY, I.: Persephone (Teatro Real, 2012) (NTSC) TR97011DVD
TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Iolanta / STRAVINSKY, I.: Persephone (Teatro Real, 2012) (Blu-ray, HD) TR97010BD

…the production [of the Iolanta] is visually impressive, and leaves the singers at the center—and they will melt your heart. Ekaterina Scherbachenk…has a luminous voice…she captures Iolanta’s emotional trajectory with magnetic force. As her lover, Pavel Černoch…[has] got a winning tone and the dexterity to sing his high notes without forcing them. Dmitry Ulianov is appropriately steady as Iolanta’s clueless father…he manages to convey the paradoxes of the part well…Willard White, sings the pivotal part of the doctor…with tremendous authority; and the supporting cast is impressive…Throughout, the more conversational passages have an impressive degree of naturalness.

Perséphone[’s]…production is excellent…matching Iolanta in its colors and its use of the stage, and employing dancers from the Amrita Performing Arts of Cambodia to excellent effect. Dominique Blanc manages to read André Gide’s lines without falling into histrionic excess (no easy feat)…Currentzis manages to bring out the score’s variety and imagination, giving a good sense of its textures and providing a dance impetus it doesn’t always have. Sight and sound are first-rate. All in all…well worth your attention. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

David Shengold
Opera News, April 2013

Currentzis’s sensitive work with the fine Madrid players and chorus suits both pieces. The opera…deserves wider recognition. Madrid’s version is strongly cast with largely russophone forces, with Ekaterina Scherbachenko (Iolanta), Pavel Cernoch (Vaudémont) and Alexei Markov (Robert) as the central trio. Markov is vocally ideal; the others perform very well…Willard White…acts the Mauritanian doctor Ibn-Hakia superbly and sings with generally commendable steadiness. With her excellent, expressive mezzo and pointed diction, Ekaterina Semenchuk makes the princess’s nurse, Marta, into a leading figure…this is an intelligent and moving Iolanta.

…[in] Perséphone…Four highly expressive Cambodian classical dancers reenact the action…the excellent actress Dominique Blanc declaims excitingly. Dressed as a blind prophet…Paul Groves also delivers the goods, offering strong French style and a wide dynamic palette. This is a pairing worth investigating. © 2013 Opera News Read complete review

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, February 2013

Iolanta and Perséphone are amongst their composers’ best works but both have been comparatively neglected. It is good to have them linked here. It does make for a long evening but the sheer richness and variety of invention in both works makes it very worthwhile. Iolanta is particularly noteworthy for the subtlety of its scoring…The singing in the present performance is admirable throughout, with idiomatic Russian singing…Match this with full-blooded playing from the Teatro Real orchestra.

Perséphone…is a work of transparent beauty and delicacy. Musically this is well realised, with Teodor Currentzis again showing his ability to inspire subtle phrasing and balance from the orchestra. A separate group of dancers representing the main characters is added, all from Cambodia and using the traditional Cambodian style of dance …Its subtlety and stylised manner suits this work very well…

This is a generous coupling of two masterpieces…I…enjoyed and was moved by this performance [of Iolanta]; even more so by that of Perséphone. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Richard Lawrence
Gramophone, January 2013

TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Iolanta / STRAVINSKY, I.: Persephone (Teatro Real, 2012) (NTSC) TR97011DVD
TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Iolanta / STRAVINSKY, I.: Persephone (Teatro Real, 2012) (Blu-ray, HD) TR97010BD

Like many other operas, Iolanta is concerned with the transition from darkness to light…Its chromaticism, which sets the scene, is offset by beautiful diatonic writing for an onstage string quartet. The setting is simple…The cast is led by Ekaterina Scherbachenko as a touching Iolanta, with Pavel Černoch as her ardent suitor. Dmitry Ulianov, Willard White and Alexej Markov deliver their set pieces admirably…

Perséphone, also about light and dark, is staged with the same set. Sam Sathya and her fellow artists from Cambodia…are models of grace…Paul Groves sings cleanly and heroically as Eumolpe. Teodor Currentzis conducts both pieces impeccably: don’t miss. © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Robert Benson, January 2013

This superb new DVD offers productions of both Iolanta and Perséphone by Peter Sellars, the same basic scenery for each consisting of four large “door frames” lighted to convey varied scenes and emotions. Iolanta’s cast is first-rate, with beautiful Ekaterina Scherbachenko a sensitive heroine, vocally secure and totally convincing as the blind princess. Pavel Cernoch is a handsome, ardent suitor; the entire cast could not be bettered. The superb chorus impresses throughout, particularly in the magical scene in which Iolanta regains her vision. The same sets are used for Perséphone, Stravinsky’s melodrama for speaker, singers, chorus and orchestra…The stark sets and changing lights convey the story of Perséphone’s abduction, underworld life, and rebirth. Again, all performers are perfect and the vivid video and state-of-the-art audio brilliantly convey both operas. In a brief “bonus,” director Peter Sellers discusses his concept of both operas. This is a quality issue in every way! Mention should also be made of the dynamic young Greek conductor Teopdor Currentzis, who is as adept in the lush Tchaikovsikan music as he is in the spiky Stravinsky ballet. © 2013 Read complete review

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