The Queen of Spades

Tchaikovsky didn’t shy away from emotional highs and lows, and what he couldn’t quite convey through his orchestral music he poured into his two finest operas, Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades, both tragedies based on Pushkin stories. In The Queen of Spades an army officer, Ghermann, falls in love with Lisa, the granddaughter of a countess who’s an ace gambler in possession of the secret of a winning hand, which he desperately wants to learn. Clearly influenced by Carmen in its lyrical passion and handling of the ironic twists of fate, the opera is uneven, though most of the music is picturesquely charming, especially when it reaches for Mozartean grace. Tchaikovsky strives too hard for Wagnerian grandeur, wallows too much in pathos, and can’t always manage to keep the plot convincing, but the work is still spellbinding in its depiction of gilded elegance and swooning love and in its sense of doom. This is the first time the Lyric has done this opera, and the company has spared no expense lining up a top-notch cast and a designer, Richard Hudson, known for colorful, sumptuous sets and costumes, including those for The Lion King. Ghermann is sung by Russian tenor Vladimir Galouzine, whose voice is said to be robust and sweet. The countess is sung by veteran mezzo-soprano Felicity Palmer, Lisa by creamy-toned Swedish soprano Katarina Dalayman. Her betrothed, Prince Yeletsky, is sung by Danish baritone Bo Skovhus. Graham Vick, a Lyric regular, is the stage director, and Andrew Davis, in his first outing as Lyric’s music director, conducts. Saturday, 6 PM, Wednesday, 7:30 PM, and next Sunday, October 1, 2 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 312-332-2244.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hans van den Boggard–De Nederlandse Opera.