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Review: The Queen of Spades at Newcastle Theatre Royal

OPERA North treated us to just one performance of its new production of Tchaikovsky's opera, directed by Neil Bartlett and conducted by Richard Farnes.

OPERA North treated us to just one performance of its new production of Tchaikovsky's opera, directed by Neil Bartlett and conducted by Richard Farnes.

Based on a novel by Pushkin, it tells a sordid but compelling tale of love, greed and betrayal.

A poor soldier, Herman, has fallen for a young woman he can’t have, Lisa, who has become engaged to a wealthy prince.

The young woman’s grandmother, however, is rumoured to be the possessor of a three-card trick that guarantees riches in the casino.

Herman pricks up his ears at this. However, the secret comes with a deadly catch.

Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts gave an impassioned performance as the ill-fated soldier who wins the love of Lisa (Orla Boylan) only to squander it through greed.

But the septuagenarian Dame Josephine Barstow as the Countess – Lisa’s imperious grandmother – stole the show with a performance of dark and graceful elegance.

In a terrific scene at the heart of the opera, with the strings of the orchestra riffing in a stirring crescendo, Herman gains access to the Countess’s boudoir, determined to acquire her secret by hook or by crook.

There was humour in the piece – a terrific slow-motion rude drinking song to warm the cockles of the heart and counter the gloom – but it ends, of course, in tears.

It would be nice to think the production will return one day at the heart of the repertoire.

David Whetstone

 
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