It's already a tremendous package, however. With some star singing, imaginative choreography, creative lighting and unashamedly splendid costumes, a well-told story is given terrific spin, not only by the director Rodula Gaitanou, but by the company as a whole. In a world where innovation is often at the expense of clarity, this production isn't afraid to let the sorry tale of ambitious Herman unfold, disastrous step by disastrous step.
Singing Herman, the man obsessed both with the legend of a winning formula at cards, and with the granddaughter of the ageing Countess who holds that secret, is the tenor Peter Wedd, whose emot-ometer goes straight to Tormented, but whose surprisingly middle-aged look makes him a less ideal match for Lisa than the Prince to whom she is reluctantly betrothed.
Natalia Romaniw as Lisa, continuing a run of tremendous performances that has recently included the same composer's Tatyana in Garsington's Eugene Onegin, has less to do here, but is heartbreakingly lovely in her Act Three lament with its plaintive Russian folk undertow. As Prince Yeletsky, Grant Doyle's offer of unconditional love, with its nods at Onegin's Gremin, if a little strained, was still powerful. And there is a fantastic turn by Richard Burkhard as Count Tomsky, who compellingly explains the back story in song.
Staggering on two unequal sticks, the monstrous spider-like Countess of Rosalind Plowright gives a devastating impersonation of decrepit old age, her bedtime scene after the masked ball a sorry picture of a person deconstructed, ornament by ornament, until only a skeletal husk remains.
This masked ball, with its essence of Goya, is lavishly dressed by designer Cornelia Chisholm, whose luscious oyster, cream, silver and sage opening scene evokes the rustling elegance of Tissot, with swags of velvet and explosions of satin.
Tchaikovsky is a wonderful story-teller, in opera and ballet, but a brilliant symphonist too, and there are echoes of those great works sounding throughout this magnificent piece, played by the City of London Sinfonia under Peter Robinson, with particularly colourful and characterful woodwind playing.
But as so often at Opera Holland Park, the star of the show is the chorus, moving superbly on the house's sometimes tricky stage, thanks to really deft and thoughtful choreography by Jamie Neale, and conjuring up the bracing air of St Petersburg. The men in the dizzying last act gambling scene, with the assistance of some very eye-catching minor characters, roared into a frenzy of impetuosity and recklessness.
A really attractive feature of the production is its characters' enjoyment of music. They sing around the on-stage piano, dance a little rustic dance, and revel, as we do, in Tchaikovsky's affectionate pastiche of a Mozartian entertainment of the shepherds-and-shepherdess variety, This Queen of Spades, the last production in this Opera Holland Park season, is itself a grand finale to more than two months of arresting music-making, not all of it peacock-assisted.
|The Queen of Spades review, Opera Holland Park
|Opera Holland Park, Stable Yard, Holland Park, London , W8 6LU | MAP
|High Street Kensington (underground)
02 Aug 16 – 13 Aug 16, 2, 4, 6 ,9, 11, 13 Aug, 7:30PM
|£17 - £70
|Click here for further information and booking