By HOLLY BERETTO
Grand opera unfolds at its best with HGO’s Queen of Spades (through May 1 at the Wortham Center). Tchaikovsky’s intricate retelling of Pushkin’s story of obsession and deceit is dark and driving, brooding, seductive, sublime.
It’s the story of the tormented Russian gambler Hermann, pursuing riches to woo the heart of the lovely Lisa, betrothed to Price Yeletsky. His obsession leads him to Lisa’s grandmother, the Countess, who possesses the secret of which three cards guarantee a winning hand. Across a sweeping psychological drama emerges a music so rich and layered, it jerks the audience along to the final, inevitable conclusion.
Russian tenor Vladimir Galouzine sings Hermann with tenacity, his voice luminous with Hermann’s increasing pain and obsession. Russian soprano Tatiana Monogarova brings clear, emotional tones to her role debut as Lisa. Judith Frost, the mezzo-soprano recently seen on HGO’s stage as Mrs. Grose in “The Turn of the Screw” is mesmerizing in her portrayal of the Countess, her voice rich and deep, her performance captivating. Carlo Rizzi conducts with power and grace. And John Macfarlane’s sets and costumes add superlative, starkly rendered touches, evoking a grey Russian existence. The added incorporation of puppets from Green Ginger puppeteers gives a surreal touch to the story.
Queen of Spades is big and bold, a absolute maelstrom of music and tragedy. Plunging as it does into the depths of the human soul and its capacity to single-mindedly chase after what it wants to the detriment of all around it, this is opera to leave you breathless.
Photo be Felix Sanchez: Tatiana Monogarova