ANDRÉ TCHAIKOVSKY (1935-1982): The Merchant of Venice.
Catalogue Number: 09Q076
Description: Composed between 1968 and 1982, and finished just before the composer's untimely death, Tchaikowsky's opera had to wait for its premiere until last year, in this production, despite the energetic advocacy of no less a personage than Hans Keller during the 1989s. This performance rights a great wrong, as the opera is first-rate, fully deserving of the stylish staging it receives here. Tchaikowsky's idiom, while eclectic, is far from unapproachable, encompassing many of the major styles of the earlier part of the twentieth century, stopping well short of complete atonality, let alone anything remotely avant garde, and displaying a very considerable gift for natural and eloquent vocal writing. Pre-serial Schoenberg, Bartok and especially Berg share a broad category with the vocabulary, but Tchaikowsky has a remarkably individual voice, and seldom 'sounds like' anybody else (except when deliberately introducing witty pastiche-quoatations from Wagner, the 'original' Tchaikovsky, etc., as little passing jokes). John O'Brien's libretto preserves much of Shakespeare's original language, which arguably suits the drama better than modern language would have done, though this and some of the singers' accents make the English subtitles not a bad idea at times. The production, in early 20th century dress, makes effective use of dramatic, minimal sets and lighting, and is filmed for TV viewing, with close-ups and multiple camera angles, including some that the audience in the opera house would never see. Christopher Ainslie (countertenor), Jason Bridges (tenor), Adrian Eröd (baritone), Verena Gunz (mezzo), Magdalena Anna Hofmann (soprano), Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Erik Nielsen. 16:9 wide-screen. Dolby Digital 5.0 or PCM stereo. NTSC all regions. 160 min (opera), 50 min (documentary).