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Rita Gorr, an unforgetable " Queen of Spades " at the Flanders Opera

De Vlaamse Opera
05/04/1999 -  6, 9, 12, 14* May 1999
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovski : The Queen of Spades
John Horton Murray (Hermann), Anne Williams-King (Lisa), Rita Gorr / Anny Schlemm (The Countess), Wojtek Drabowicz (Tomski), Garry Magee (Eletski), Marie-Ange Todorovitch (Pauline), Guy De Mey (Tchekalinski), Henk van Heijnsbergen (Sourine), Vesselin Ivanov (Tsaplitski/ Master of Ceremonies), Stephen Hindes (Naroumov), Mireille Capelle (Governess), Lori Turner (Mascha)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Flanders Opera , Ivan Törzs (conductor)
Guy Joosten (director), Johannes Leiacker (sets), Jorge Jara (costumes), David Cunningham (lightling)

This new production is uneven, despite a simple but clever and beautiful set, which allows easy scene changes. This set uses mirrors during almost all the performance with different lighting depending on the situation. The problem with the direction of Guy Joosten is that, despite this clever unity of the sets and that there are many individual good ideas, it doesn’t work perfectly together ; it gives not the impression of a coherent vision of the story.

However, some scenes are really impressive, for example : the appearance of the Countess in Hermann’s bedroom (actually a dozen of ghosts particulary frightening) or the death of Lisa, crushed between two walls of mirrors, with no possible escape.

There are a lot of cuts in the score, which isn’t understable and shows little respect of the music. The Pastorale may stop the story a while, but it’s enjoyable music and not negligible on a dramatic point of view.

The cast, as unfortunately often at the Flanders Opera, is not particulary well chosen for the lead roles. John Horton Murray was annouced with a cold, so it may not be fair to judge him on this performance but it was far from ideal. Anne Williams-King is mistcast as Lisa with her harsh voice and perilious top. Marie-Ange Todorovitch is a warm and well singing Pauline and it is luxury casting to have this outstanding singer for such a small part (especially with all the cuts in the music). Wojtek Drabowicz is an excellent Tomsky, lacking however a strong low for his aria and Gary Magee an above average Eletski, despite a non perfect legato in his aria.

But the big " raison d’être " of the production is the unbelievable performance of the 73 years old Rita Gorr, who has a presence full of emotion and sensibility, a perfect diction and vocally is still capable of beautiful sounds. To see her in such a part is a great chance and you can still have the opportunity to hear her in Antwerpen, except on 29/5, 1/6 and 4/6 when the role will be sung by Anny Schlemm. At that time Rita Gorr will be singing the role in the new production of the same opera in Vienna with Domingo and Gorschashkova.

Christophe Vetter



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