Tchaikovsky anticipated the 20th century with this surreal masterpiece about obsession and psychosis, qualities given all the more power juxtaposed with the elegant milieu and music of its 18th century setting. Like Eugene Onegin, it is based on a celebrated work by Pushkin, but with a critical difference—Onegin was aptly subtitled “lyrical scenes,” while The Queen of Spades, composed in 44 days of intense inspiration, is an inexorable drama played out in a sweeping 19th century score.
Gherman parlays his love for the young aristocrat Lisa into a life-and-death wager, using their mutual attraction to mask his entrée to her grandmother’s bedchamber. There, he confronts the aged Countess, known as the Queen of Spades, who long ago learned the secret to certain success when gambling at cards. She dies of fright, but her ghost soon conveys the formula to Gherman: “Three, seven, ace!” In his madness, Gherman rejects Lisa, with lethal results, then makes an enormous bet at the gambling table. He wins, first with a three and then a seven, but his final card is the Queen of Spades. The Countess’s ghost appears again and claims her macabre winnings—Gherman’s life.
This brooding, ambitious ghost story is set against the backdrop of imperial Russia and features the return of three beloved artists to DMMO. Tenor Jonathan Burton will sing his first Gherman after successful appearances as Dick Johnson in 2015’s The Girl of the Golden West and Calaf in Turandot in 2017. Following critically acclaimed performances as Marie in Wozzeck in 2019 and the title role of Rusalka in 2018, soprano Sara Gartland sings her first Lisa. When acclaimed mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle returns to sing the role of the Countess in The Queen of Spades, she will be debuting her 140th role and the 50th year of her remarkable and wide-ranging career. The production will be led by Maestro David Neely.