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This (Pushkin's tale is a kind of Russian Edgar Alan Poe, sometimes given a neat anachronistic Soviet twist in production) would make terrifying theatre or film noir; and in its operatic engendering here -- especially in the explosively-built finale -- emerges as a human tragedy of Lear proportions. The RNCM does big chorus scenes well (witness their seething Pilgrim's Progress), and its rather too Onegin-like jollities to some extent paved the way for the starkness of Hermann's encounters -- with Tomsky, with Liza (whom with nihilistic casualness he uses and jilts) and with the secretive old crone.

Roland Davitt (Prince Yaletsky) and Sally Johnson (Liza) in the 2002 RNCM production of 'The Queen of Spades'

Hubert Francis's Hermann made a rather bleaty sound, though not one wholly inappropriate for his emotionally ring-fenced, increasingly deluded character. As a performance, his Hermann stood up very well indeed. He can manage high notes (although too often with an ungainly sudden surge), and his words were nicely clear. So too were Count Tomsky's (Anthony Cleverton), for the crucial three cards aria, mimicked by superb balalaika-like violins. Richard Wiegold's Surin was a splendid discovery : he has since made a similar hit as Music Theatre Wales's comic Green Knight. Roland Davitt's Yeletsky sounded ropier, especially in duet.

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Copyright © 19 April 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK




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