A Winning Hand

“Game of cards played with flawless control” (The Australian)

Congratulation to Irina Tchistjakova and Andrei Bondarenko who sang Yeletsky and Countess in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades with the Sydney Symphony on Saturday evening at the Sydney Opera House. 

Critics have celebrated both artists enormously in the Australian press

“As Prince Yeletsky, fellow baritone Andrei Bondarenko’s subtly shaded Act II aria was one of the evening’s highlights.”

“in stark contrast to mezzosoprano Irina Tchistjakova’s hard-edged, imposingly sung Countess.”

Murray Black for The Australian 

“Andrei Bondarenko singing the spurned Mr Perfect with firm substance and clear expressive shape.”

“Irina Tchistjakova portrayed the old Countess as one clinging to life with implacable force against failing flesh.”

Peter McCallum for Sydney Morning Herald 

“Andrei Bondarenko’s Yeletski lent himself another baritone counterweight to Skelton with a quite strong, youthful, lyrical voice, more nasal, and sang the famous beautiful aria in Act II Scene 1 “ß âàñ ëþáëþ, ëþáëþ áåçìåðíî…” (“I love you, I love you to madness…”) which as a last plea to Liza has a strong pull of missing, and a tinge of jealousy.”

The third character, whom Hermann seems to want to make his nemesis, is of course the Countess, who ends up wreaking vengeance on him. Irina Tchistjakova had even more dramatic presence in walking on and off stage and standing or sitting, as in the fatal penultimate encounter in Act II, than Skelton. There was more than a bit of Carabosse to her Countess, which did much for the urban legend, if not making it myth then real fairy tale. Her voice lived up to this physical presence, with a kaleidoscope of deep, dark but unmuddied colors, and sounded almost masculine at times, which gives an interesting interpretation given how Hermann feels threatened enough by her to call her names and to pull a pistol — a convincing and frightening confrontation between the two even without a literal pistol. Yet even as she is a scary force as she chides Liza for “dancing Russian” in Act I, she had a very human fear of her own for her ward, even before her song in the chair after the ball “Àõ, ïîñòûë ìíå ýòîò ñâåò!…” (“Ach, I hate this world!…”) and in the following confrontation with Hermann won much sympathy.” 

Andrew Miller for The Berkshire Review

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