By Jonathan Blumhofer
Though he’s best known for his ballets, symphonies, and concerti, Tchaikovsky wrote eleven operas. Several are at least on the fringes of the repertoire, though only Eugene Onegin has solidly established itself in opera houses the world over. This week and next, Lowell House Opera (LHO), New England’s oldest continuously-active opera company, brings to Boston a rare performance of one of Tchaikovsky’s less-familiar operatic scores, The Queen of Spades.
Written in 1890 and based on a short story of the same name by Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades follows the tale of Gherman, a man whose fascination with an alluring woman named Liza and her grandmother’s secret strategy for winning a card game called faro leads him to madness, betrayal, and, ultimately, death. Its premiere was one of Tchaikovsky’s great theatrical triumphs and the opera’s score – written in a concentrated 44-day spurt – features some of his darkest, most intense music.
LHO’s cast includes a mix of professional and student singers. Tenors Adam Klein and Mikhail Urusov share the role of Gherman, while Zoya Gramagin and Samantha Schmid split duties as Liza. LHO music director Lidiya Yankovskaya conducts a full orchestra and the stage direction for this production is by Roxana Myhrum. The Queen of Spades will be sung in Russian with English supertitles.
Performances run through April 4 at Lowell House (10 Holyoke Place, Cambridge). For more information, visit.