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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Opera Review: Ozawa flips Queen of Spades at the Met

It's been a little while since I've posted here. I havent been idle--have several compelling operas and concerts to write about. Let's start the backlog, shall we? After all, better late than Neva....

The Metropolitan Opera's much-anticipated revival of The Queen of Spades bowed on November 21. Elijah Moshinsky's lush, surreal production returned to the grand stage intact, complete with haunting color schemes and the thoroughly impressive entrance of Catherine the Great, Empress of all the Russias.

Equally impressive was the performance of Ben Heppner in the role of Ghermann, the opera's protagonist. Heppner was in excellent voice, but lacked intensity as the hard-luck gambler. He took over the opera in its final scene, where he commits suicide at the gaming table.

Maria Guleghina gave a tremendous performance as Lisa, the opera's equally doomed female protagonist. She is a bit robust to be your classic wilting Tchaikovsky heroine but sang with beauty and pathos, both in her opening song and in her final death scene where she throws herself into the Neva, an act which mirrored the composer's own suicide attempt in 1877.

The great Felicity Palmer was a regal Countess, impressive in death and life. The supporting cast included the welcome presence of "Mr. Met", Paul Plishka, who has sang at the big house for over thirty years.

The revival was somewhat let down by the choice of Seiji Ozawa on the podium. Ozawa, who had not conducted at the Met for 15 years, gave a limpid, textured reading of the score. His performance undermined the passions at work in this opera, emphasizing Tchaikovsky's genteel, Mozartean textures over the more stormy passages. These turbulent, emotional pages were given without fire or much energy, and while beautifully played, they failed to compel as drama.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats