Will Lacey and I went to the opening of HGO's Queen of Spades last night. Will had seen the production before - it was originally done in Wales by Richard Jones: I'd never even seen the opera. One of those increasingly rare moments when I get to encounter a classic piece that I don't know at all (it's about twenty-five years since that happened with my last Shakespeare!). I know Onegin very well, having worked on and written about the Glyndebourne production - and there were times when this evoked memories of that.... Tchaikovsky clearly had a thing about old nurses putting young girls to bed. But generally this piece is much more nihilistic, fatalistic and altogether strange than the earlier opera.
This makes it an ideal piece for a Richard Jones production - and, as he often does, he's set it in an early 20th century grubby world, with more than a nod to Freud's Vienna and Berg's Wozzeck. There are some stunning theatrical moments - the old Countess dying like Marat in a bath; her ghost returning as a huge skeleton; Herman's nightmare being viewed from above, with the bed vertical on a painted perspective back-cloth. And the tenor, Vladimir Galouzine, is extraordinary. After the first scene, Will whispered "That has got to be the loudest voice in the world". Not only that, but he is also an incredibly intense actor, and, in spite of singing more than everybody else put together, he doesn't sound remotely tired at the end. Wow.
It was also great to see the HGO Chorus doing a different show. They are every bit as good in this as they are in our Xerxes.