It is a shame that The Maid of Orleans isn't performed very often and almost neglected. Because it has a very powerful story and some of Tchaikovsky's most gorgeous music. Whether it is his best opera is up for debate, for me it's the Queen of Spades with Eugene Onegin my personal favourite(hope that makes sense). This production was great and really interesting, if you want to get acquainted with the opera this is a worthy introduction to it. The production values are designed elaborately and on the whole fit very evocatively to the period, with the dynamic lighting proving not to be a hindrance. Some may find some of the different styles not to their tastes(the chorus for example wouldn't be out of place in a church, peasant garb might have been more suitable), but generally they didn't seem that incongruous to me and there are worse mish-mashes that I can think of. The stage direction is intelligently done, the mix of opera and oratorio an interesting choice that worked well, that for the chorus- more observers of the action rather than participants- is rather too static but other scenes like the final scene are incredibly compelling. The music is gorgeous, enhanced by the magnificent orchestral playing, stirring chorus and clear and authoritative conducting. The production is beautifully photographed and the sound and picture quality are excellent. Nina Rautio's Joan is superb, she is very dramatically engaged in the role especially in the latter parts of the production and her beautiful creamy voice with an exciting middle register and no signs of being taxed makes her a joy to listen to. Mariya Gavrilova's role as Agnes is not as showy, but gives her all and her voice is just as beautifully produced. Oleg Kulko's voice rings out with a distinctive soviet tenor sound too, his high notes rarely sounding strained. He does show an involving presence at least too, maybe rather melodramatic in places but for someone who's seen that acting style in Russian fantasy films lately I'm used to it and don't perceive it as much a problem. Vladimir Redkin is an ardent Lionel with a sonorous baritone and Mikhail Krutikov sings beautifully too and is one of the more restrained actors in the cast which helps give Dunois the sympathetic quality he should have. Vyacheslav Pochapsky occasionally does overact, a lot of it being that he is so engrossed in the drama(positively relishing the juicy moments Thibaut has in the third act), but still cuts a vigorous and sometimes menacing presence and his bass voice has a dark cavernous quality. In conclusion, a great discovery and as an opera and production well worth uncovering. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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