Thursday, December 15, 2016

Queen of Spades

Music director: Mariss Jansons
Director: Stefan Herheim

Misha Didyk - Herman (tenor)
Alexey Markov - Count Tomsky, Plutus (baritone)
Vladimir Stoyanov - Prince Yeletsky (baritone)
Andrei Popov - Chekalinsky (tenor)
Andrii Goniukov - Surin (bass)
Mikhail Makarov - Chaplitsky (tenor)
Anatoli Sivko - Narumov (bass)
Larissa Diadkova - The Countess (mezzo)
Svetlana Aksenova - Liza (soprano)
Anna Goryachova - Polina, Daphnis (contralto)
Olga Savova - The governess (mezzo)

Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades is soon coming to an end on Opera Platform.  For me this opera is called Pique Dame, but I guess nobody else calls it that.  Because Catherine the Great, Empress of all Russia (1762-1796), makes an entrance during Act II, we can safely assume that this opera takes place during her reign.  When we played this opera, the party scene was eliminated.  At the San Francisco Opera it was always a surprise:  will Catherine appear or not?

This production from the Netherlands moves the time to 1890, the time of the opera's premier.  The entire opera takes place in a single set of the Countess's drawing room with her portrait hanging on the wall.  Most of the men, including the chorus, but not including Herman, are made up to look like Tchaikovsky himself.  One of these men is constantly on the stage, occasionally playing a piano.  Yeletsky, I think, is supposed to be Tchaikovsky.  All, including the children in Act I, wear the same outfit.  Instead of Catherine, it is Herman disguised as her who enters in Act II.  Polina is done as a trouser role.

They aren't bothering to make it look like a card game.  Instead of the ace, he draws the queen of spades and loses.  Except the cards look like pages of sheet music.  The Countess who died in Act II returns to shoot him.  Liza returns as an angel with black wings to take Hermann to where?

I love this opera due to having sung in it, but I seem to search in vain for a production that will make it make sense.  Hermann sacrifices all for his card obsession.  This seems like something that might actually happen.  But here it seems it is intended that the opera is about Tchaikovsky.  I can't make this connection.  Prince Yeletsky who is Tchaikovsky begins as Liza's fiance.  So it is a tragedy for him as well.

Misha Didyk is someone to watch out for.  His sound makes Hermann come alive.

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