Review: Tchaikovsky: The Queen of Spades *****

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Grand Theatre, Leeds

Making his major debut in the world of opera, Neil Bartlett’s new staging of Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades is the most impressive production we have seen in recent times from Opera North.

Filling the stage with beautiful costumes in the era of Catherine the Great, Bartlett has obtained the type of detailed acting from soloists and chorus you seldom see on the opera stage.

The story of the young man, Herman, seeking the fortune that will permit him to marry the wealthy young Lisa, leads to his apparent murder of her grandmother when he tries to extract her secret of gambling with cards.

Visually the casting is not always ideal: Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, a very robust Herman, sang through an early huskiness, while Orla Boylan’s Lisa comes from a soprano destined for the Wagnerian stage.

However, it is score built around a large cast of cameo roles. These include William Dazeley making a superb Prince Yeltsky; Jonathan Summers perfectly characterising Tomsky, with Josephine Barstow portraying a chilling grandmother.

It is a long time ago since we heard Opera North’s chorus in such outstanding form.

The children are truly excellent, and though the fantastic orchestra, conducted by Richard Farnes, at times swamped the singers, their playing was bright, enthralling and packed full of vivid colours.

A further performance tonight, then on tour.