I was at the Met for The Queen of Spades on Monday night, and enjoyed the evening greatly. I had not heard Karita Mattila live – as Lisa her voice was very beautiful, sweet and true, but a little wan in the upper register. Vladimir Galouzine as Hermann was the opposite of wan, powerful throughout as the obsessed gambler to the point of being overbearing at times. There was handsome singing from Alexey Markov and Peter Mattei, but to me the real find was Tamara Mumford as Pauline. She is a lovely young woman, and her voice matched Mattila’s for beauty of timbre in their duet, and with an exceptionally rich lower register. I am sorry I missed her in the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s production of Rape of Lucretia not long ago. Much-touted conductor Andris Nelsons did not strike me as anything special. He was able to bring some shaky ensemble moments under control in the early part of the piece, but I did not get much sense of a point of view about the piece. Perhaps I need to know the work better to appreciate what he did.
It is an odd piece. Hermann’s darkly obsessive character contrasts greatly with the various genre pieces, which, though enjoyable, felt like filler. I agreed with the character of the Countess, portrayed by Dolora Zajick, who seemed to think that the Pastorale in the second act went on too long. What is the relevance of the entry of Catherine the Great at the end of that scene? Galouzine’s Hermann was such a madman that I was reminded of another opera about a tormented soldier – Berg’s Wozzeck, which will be at the Met later this season.
(picture: the Countess comes back to haunt Hermann. No, she is not trying to tell her colleague to sing more quietly.)