THE QUEEN OF SPADES by Peter Tchaikovsky, directed by Annilese Miskimmon, conducted by Richard Bradshaw, with Vadim Zaplechny, Judith Forst, Frédérique Vezina, Igor Morozov and John Fanning. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). October 5 and 11 at 8 pm, October 8 at 7 pm. $20-$138. 416-872-2262. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Herman, the central figure in Tchaikovsky's moody opera The Queen Of Spades, is obsessed to the point of madness with two things -- wresting the winning formula for cards from an elderly countess and winning her granddaughter Lisa. The revelation of Richard Jones's production, here restaged by Annilese Miskimmon, is what comes when we see all the action through Herman's eyes.The Canadian Opera Company's season opener, passionately conducted by Richard Bradshaw, features fine singing. The first night marked the auspicious debut of the dark-toned Frdrique Vezina, stepping into the role of Lisa. Judith Forst, always a fine singing actor, makes the controlling but doddering countess a riveting figure. In contrast, Vadim Zaplechny's Herman leans toward dramatic blandness.
John Macfarlane's design adds to the increasingly surreal quality of the story. Oversized set pieces intentionally skew reality, here set in a bleak 20s Soviet world, with touches of German expressionism thrown into the mix.
The production isn't perfect -- some scenes are weakly staged, the show's intimacy doesn't project to the back of the cavernous house -- but this Queen Of Spades holds a winning hand.