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Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades
Opera Holland Park, 25 July 2006

Hermann Viktor Lutsyuk
Prince Yeletski Mark Stone
Count Tomski Matthew Hargreaves
Lisa Orla Boylan
The Countess Carole Wilson
Chekalinski Aled Hall
Surin Omar Ebrahim
Polina Antonia Sotgiu
Chaplitski/ Master of ceremonies Rob Burt
Masha Stephanie Bodsworth
Narumov Mark Saberton

City of London Sinfonia/Stuart Stratford
Director Martin Lloyd-Evans
Set Designer Jamie Vartan
Costume Designer Donatella Barbiere
Lighting designer Colin Grenfell
Choreographer Isabel Mortimer

One of the most notable rescue operations in the operatic annals, this production reached new heights last night with the introduction of Viktor Lutsyuk, a formidable Ukrainian tenor who was made available to OHP earlier that day, as James Clutton, having "consulted Valery Gergiev, as one does...", explained before curtain up (there's no curtain...) !

Lutsyuk's was one of the most exciting pieces of heroic tenor singing we've heard in years, and you'd never have guessed he was so new to the production as to have had no rehearsal, just a "walk through" the production.

Martin Lloyd-Evans' production is one of the more interesting of recent Queens of Spades, an international favourite which has invited endless different directorial approaches. Those at Stuttgart and from Welsh National Opera came to our minds.

Lloyd-Evans brought in numerous directorial glosses, some of which worked well, others falling flat, e.g. the cumbersome projection of the Countess' younger self in her death scene. She sang magnificently and embodied her role rivetingly, if lacking the menace and unforgettable frisson of Edith Coates in my earlier times.

Jamie Vartan's set was effective in facilitating quick and smooth scene changes and the lower orders had a constant presence watching the deplorable behaviour of the aristocracy and soldiery. Political overtones were never far away (see Tim Ashley on Lloyd-Evans' "Brechtian paraphernalia").

The orchestra was in the safest of hands under Stuart Stratford, whose conducting we have always enjoyed in core opera, and too in experimental fringe events and community opera. The casting was from strength down to the smallest parts, everyone seizing their opportunities, and the surtitles kept us all on course. OHP's insistence on performing works in their original language has paid off this time if they were doing it in English there would have been no hope of getting a Russian to step in. [It was a serendipitous opportunity for Musical Pointers to hear one of today's great Russian singers, having been denied press invitation to review the London Bolshoi season.]

A memorable conclusion to the season; Holland Park's tent has become a venue no enthusiast (or opera buff touring UK in the summer) can afford to pass by.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Gergiev lends a helping hand to OHP

Press release 25th July 2006

Valery Gergiev, Artistic and General director of the world famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, has extended a helping hand to Opera Holland Park after illness struck down our leading man in Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades. After hearing of the plight of Pawel Wunder, Maestro Gergiev has offered us the services of one of the Mariinksy's principal tenors, Viktor Lutsyuk, who will take over the role of Hermann in four performances starting Tuesday 25 July, and if necessary, for the remainder of the run.

The story began after opening night when Pawel Wunder was clearly suffering the effects of illness. James Clutton, producer of Opera Holland Park, was thus charged with finding a tenor immediately able to step into one of the hardest roles in the repertoire - and that is where the Mariinsky came in. Currently visiting London for a sell out run at the Coliseum, James contacted the company and managed to secure a meeting with Maestro Gergiev himself - during the interval of a performance. - - Having met Maestro Gergiev during the interval, James was invited back at the end of the performance - - when Maestro Gergiev explained that Viktor had agreed to step in. It was a remarkable gesture of support from arguably the world's greatest conductor and his performer - -

Queen of Spades 25, 27, 29, 31 July, 2, 4 August

[Musical Pointers hopes to add a further response after the performance and pre-performance talk 29 July]

Picture credit: Carole Wilson: Fritz Curzon (and for most OHP productions)

© Peter Grahame Woolf