Tchaikovsky’s eerie thriller of imperial Russia was first performed in St Petersburg in 1890.
Metropolitan Opera Season
Sunday 12 January 2020 at 6pm on RNZ Concert
TCHAIKOVSKY: The Queen of Spades
Lise Davidsen (Lisa), Elena Maximova (Pauline), Larissa Diadkova (The Countess), Yusif Eyvazov, (Hermann), Igor Golovatenko (Prince Yeletsky), Alexey Markov (Count Tomsky), Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko
The gripping plot is set against the vast elegance and macabre allure of St. Petersburg, which functions almost as a character itself. Tchaikovsky’s lyric mastery is equally apparent throughout the whole of this remarkable score, which moves deftly from the most elegant to the most harrowing situations.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) enjoyed tremendous fame during his lifetime as a composer of symphonic music and ballets. Today, his operas also enjoy growing popularity. The composer’s brother Modest (1850–1916) adapted the libretto for The Queen of Spades, with many passages created by Tchaikovsky himself, from a short story by esteemed Russian writer Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837).
The story unfolds in the czarist capital of Russia, St. Petersburg, during the later years of the Empress Catherine the Great, who reigned from 1762 to1796. In The Queen of Spades, the beautiful city of rivers and canals is both a mystical place where elements of fantasy can burst forth at any moment and a very real, modern city that provides an opportunity to satirize contemporary society.
Tchaikovsky’s skills as a great symphonist and undisputed master of the ballet are apparent in the many superb orchestral touches throughout this opera’s score. The opera’s great vocal solos, most of them considered concert standards in Russia, are excellent surprises for American audiences, and notable for their diversity. Ensembles punctuate the work at key moments of interaction—most notably in the first scene’s quintet, in which each of the drama’s lead characters expresses fear of another character.