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.