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  • Your Reaction: What did you think of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades live in cinemas?

Your Reaction: What did you think of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades live in cinemas?

Stefan Herheim's Royal Opera production was relayed live to cinemas around the world.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

22 January 2019 at 10.24pm | 52 Comments

What did you think of The Queen of Spades live in cinemas?
Share your thoughts via the comments below, or with #ROHqueen via social media.

Encore screenings will take place at select cinemas in the coming weeks. Find your nearest participating cinema.

The next live cinema relay of the 2018/19 Season will by The Royal Opera's La traviata on 30 January 2019. Find your nearest participating cinema.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

22 January 2019 at 10.24pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Stefan Herheim, cinema, Production, The Queen of Spades, your reaction

This article has 52 comments

  1. Peter Rhodes responded on 22 January 2019 at 11:12pm Reply

    Brilliant music and singing
    The on stage Tchaikovsky didn’t work for me.
    The stand-in Gherman was excellent. What is his name?

  2. Paul Hewins responded on 22 January 2019 at 11:28pm Reply

    Just arrived home from seeing the live cinema relay. First time we have seen this opera. Brilliantly sung and fine orchestral playing under Tony Pappano. Certainly a twist on the story and we are pleased we obtained the Programme from the ROH Shop beforehand. Who sang the role of Gherman in place of Antonenko? Congratulations to him for a fine performance at short notice.

  3. Just got back from seeing it at the cinema in Manchester. Musically, there was little to fault from the soloists, the chorus and the orchestra under Pappano. Also want to say congratulations to Sergey Polyakov for stepping into the role at the 11th hour (and I hope Aleksandrs Antonenko gets better).

    As regards the staging, if Herheim wanted to get people thinking and feeling surprised, he certainly achieved his goal with this staging. It really was absolutely nuts, both in the best and worst possible sense. One thing is clear: I don't think the concept was executed perfectly, mostly because it was an idea that was stretched a bit too much (plus I couldn't help but think that Tchaikovsky with his own internalised homophobia would associate more with Gherman, and equate Gherman's realisation that loving gambling more than Liza has damned him with his own guilt of not being able to love a woman). Equally, there were some pretty superfluous, self-indulgent touches; I know Saint Sebastian is an old-school gay icon, but why did those Saint Sebastian cherubs appear? That said, I liked a lot of the individual ideas and elements like Tchaikovsky feeding people lines, as well as the psychedelic, dreamlike set design. And if anything, it got a lot better in the second half.

    Also, little aside: are you telling cinemas not to print cast sheets anymore? I asked the attendants at the cinema if they had one but they said they weren't asked to supply them.

  4. Olivera responded on 22 January 2019 at 11:46pm Reply

    Great opera! Bravo!!!

  5. Joseph Green responded on 23 January 2019 at 12:25am Reply

    Really looking forward to hearing this production again - hearing not seeing - when it relayed by Radio 3

    I sat in a cinema tonight surrounded by an audience who had never seen this opera before and did not have a clue what was going on. This must qualify as the most perverse, tedious, pretentious piece of directorial excess. The opera received its premiere three years before the composer ‘s death so it has no connection with drinking water. The closest the plot comes is the fact that Lisa drowns in the Neva. She does not drink it. Still worth listening to again for its music and the superb conducting and orchestral performance. Not a good advert for the Norway option...

    • Chantal Slaughter responded on 28 January 2019 at 9:34pm

      Totally agree with you .Pretentious, ridiculous and gross. A waste of an evening.
      I left during the interval.
      An insult to Tchaikovsky.

  6. Alessio Arbitrio responded on 23 January 2019 at 3:08am Reply

    So, you want mix up private life of a composer with his (or her) creation? I then suggest the following for your next staging of Tosca....we all know that Puccini smoked like a locomotive, liked hunting, was accused by his wife of having an affair with Doria Manfredi, a maid in the Puccini household....we also know that Puccini died of throat cancer and the likely cause was his predilection of Sigari a stage manager with an inflated idea of his (or her) importance could have Puccini prancing about the stage interfering for no reason with the character of his opera, miming the orchestra conductor, playing silent piano, smoking like a locomotive big Sigari Toscani, shooting blanks in the audience with his hunting rifle... and maybe during the aria "Recondita armonia di bellezze diverse....." you could project on a screen horrible photos of throat cancer... and at an appropriate moment before Tosca plunges the knife in Scarpia, you could stage a simulated sex scene between Puccini and poor Doria, with Doria plunging the knife in Puccini. Maybe you are getting the idea that I did not like much the staging of the "Queen of Spades". I also would like to ask you why on earth...o why...o why... few years ago in a production of Don Giovanni the staging suggested that Donna Anna was cheating on Don Ottavio, when there is nothing in the text or in the music that suggests in any way that that is the case, Don Ottavio is not a moron, otherwise how could he sing his fiery aria " Ditele che I suoi torti a vendicar io vado..che sol di stragi e morti nunzio vogl' io io tornar ". I had enough of stage directors with an inflated ego and an exaggerated idea of their importance. Should you wish to take up my suggestion for a new production of Tosca, please contact me to negotiate an appropriate fee. Considering the apparent inflation of stage managers with an inflated ego, I am sure that many of my suggestion will appear to them perfectly reasonable. Kind regards

  7. John Ginman responded on 23 January 2019 at 8:47am Reply

    A self-indulgent travesty of a production. In any case, the director’s dodgy premise was demolished by the relay’s introduction. I saved a lot of money seeing it in the cinema rather than pay a fortune to see it at the ROH. The handling of the pastorale and the arrival of the Empress were the final straws. I fled at half time. As did a significant number of the audience.

  8. Dagmar Neblung responded on 23 January 2019 at 9:25am Reply

    Who sung Hermann last night?

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 23 January 2019 at 5:15pm

      Hi Dagmar,

      The role was sung by Sergey Polyakov

      Best wishes


  9. Maurice Darier responded on 23 January 2019 at 9:37am Reply

    It is a fatal error to add Tchaikovsky to the cast. Poor Tchaikovsky wanders aimlessly through the stage, scribbles notes, gesticulates, shuffles papers, receives kisses with disgust and performs oral sex on Hermann. Most of the time he has nothing to do, so he plays the piano and conducts the orchestra. Pushkin's plot is pushed into the background and replaced by the commonplace story of a repressed gay man, by far less interesting than the original story. What we see is a Queen of Spades in the making, with Tchaikovsky in his study wondering naively at the characters emerging from his mind, a stereotyped and wrong representation of the creative process. By putting Tchaikovsky's personal story into the foreground, Herheim deprives Pushkin's world class plot from its inner tension and coherence. Even the score becomes irrelevant because it loses its connection with what happens on stage.

    • David Charnock responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:37pm

      The basic love triangle opera is well documented, even ten a penny, but this productions use of Tchaikovsky himself raised it onto another level. Most acts start and/or finish with Tchaikovsky on the floor spark out, showing us that what we see on stage is completely in his head! Yes he is on stage conducting the duets, because he is making it up as he goes along, feeding them lines and music. This is at the end, a ghost story, so why not be all the product of a feavered imagination?

  10. Ursula Bertele de Allendesalazar responded on 23 January 2019 at 11:08am Reply

    Antonio Pappano and Sergei Poliakov made the production memorable

  11. Sue Reynolds responded on 23 January 2019 at 11:22am Reply

    I found the presence of Tchaikovsky on stage irritating in the extreme. Rather than adding to the dramatic tension it proved to be distracting. Orchestra under Pappano magnificent as usual. A challenging production that didn't quite work for me.

  12. Richard O'Brien responded on 23 January 2019 at 12:03pm Reply

    As above, the continuous presence of 'Tchaikovsky', was intensely irritating, such as in the Liza/Paulina duet where Tchaikovsky stands close and waves his arms about, distracting from the music. The libretto has made huge changes from the original Pushkin story, making it incoherent. The multiple Tchaikovskys on stage were baffling, since they also had to double as the young Army officers which in the gambling scenes looked silly, they were far too old. The ceaseless repetition of the cholera water motif was unnecessary. Chorus and orchestra were marvellous of course.

    • Graham Thomas responded on 23 January 2019 at 1:44pm

      I couldn't agree more - my problem in reviewing it was deciding which parts annoyed me the most. A travesty!

  13. Graham Thomas responded on 23 January 2019 at 1:43pm Reply

    I think this was even worse than his Sicilian Vespers - and I never thought that possible. Whilst claiming to make it all about Tchaikovsky - I think the director - as usual - has made it all about himself and his suffocating ideas. Ridiculous concept pushed way past it's sell by date - and another man in drag - how innovative.He can;'y even come up with new rubbish ideas. Music amazing of course - uneven singing.

  14. Roger responded on 23 January 2019 at 1:57pm Reply

    Very disappointed. The inclusion of the composer was disaster, confusing the plot and the viewer. LET THE SINGER'S AND MUSIC TELL THE STORY.

    • Roger Cockrell responded on 24 January 2019 at 3:57pm

      I totally agree with those who thought the presence of the composer on stage almost entirely throughout was a disaster. During the crucial scene when Hermann is in the countess's bedroom trying to force her to reveal the three cards I found Tchaikovsky's presence so irrelevant and irritating I just wanted to scream. Utterly ruined a fantastic opera for me.

  15. Jon Travis responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:07pm Reply

    I agree with the above comments. This production was not Queen of Spades, but a fantasy opera about Tchaikovsky composing Queen of Spades, which is entirely different. Excellent signing of course but production spoiled by added fantasy elements. On the few occasions when 'Tchaikovsky' was off stage I kept hoping he would not return!

  16. Neville Sumpter responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:10pm Reply

    Not s bad as I thought but the Tcahikocskt was a ridiculous idea and totally the lesbian scene between Olga and Lisa also Hermann as Empress Catherine totally unnecessary and distasteful. Why all set with the sane scene? Where was the park in Act ! and the banks of the Neva for Lisa's suicide? Clean it up, take out the Tchaikovksy element and the ridiculous glasses of cholera laden water and it would be more acceptable, The best singing was from Felicity Palmer as the Countess but nobody can erase memories of Edith Coates in this rile!!

  17. Dee Knapp responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:13pm Reply

    Odeon Kettering could not transmit subtitles which simply added to the confusion to the of the opera. Why the director decided to overlay his views about Tchiakovsky on to the libretto was baffling and ruined what c
    should have been a beautifully staged opera. The singing was universally good but oh dear that intensely irritating arm flapping Tchaikovsky throughout was so il lconceived . Come on ROH you can do better than this please. Big disappointment.

  18. mark whelan responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:18pm Reply

    I was completely in awe at the experience.
    I just loved it. Probably the best opera I have ever seen. Love Antonio's views. Can he please write a book giving insight to every opera. That would be amazing... Thank you ROH, hoping I can visit again soon...

  19. Marion Taulbut responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:24pm Reply

    Who was the stand in last night? I missed the announcement.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 23 January 2019 at 5:14pm

      Hi Marion,

      The role was sung by Sergey Polyakov

      Best wishes


  20. Stewart Watson responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:34pm Reply

    It took me a while to cotten on to the fact it was Tchaikovsky interesting thought to put him there but I particularly found his simulated piano playing distracting you don’t play the piano bouncing back and foward and right leg going up and down it was more like a gym exercise.
    I’m a great fan of these transmissions but I think there should be more time with the camera paned out to give more of the audience view. It would differentiate it from a cinema film. The physicality if singing means to me there shouldn’t be long periods of close up which arn’t good visually and probably not fair on the singers ie mix up the camera views please.

    • Joseph Green responded on 24 January 2019 at 12:15am

      Oh, he wasn’t playing the piano _ he was quite obviously humping it, or at least simulating it. Pianophilia was first recognised in the 19th century, which Tchaikovsky was notorious for. Thy had to lock up all the woodwind instruments when he was a guest. He also suffered from Hackneyed Operatic Gesture Syndrome, which afflicted many opera characters and in his case he would meaninglessly throe sheafs of paper in the air, a characteristic he shares with many other modern productions.

  21. Mark responded on 23 January 2019 at 2:48pm Reply

    Loved the music, the visuals but the concept was a bit schoolboy and someone should have reigned the director in, he maybe very musical, but surely the work is strong enough to speak for itself without the half cocked running commentary. It's a bit like reading the notes to novel and the novel taking second place
    It had its moments that worked but I would hate to see the 'concept' used again

  22. Jon Travis responded on 23 January 2019 at 4:50pm Reply

    I agree with the above comments. This production was not Queen of Spades, but a fantasy aout Tchaikovsky composing Queen of Spades, which is entirely different. Excellent signing of course but production spoiled by added fantasy elements. On the few occasions when 'Tchaikovsky' was off stage I kept hoping he would not return!

  23. Karen responded on 23 January 2019 at 6:27pm Reply

    Thank goodness for Pappano's wonderful conducting of the fantastic ROH orchestra, and for Eva- Maria Westbroek 's singing. Like many others my daughter and I didn't have a clue what was going on for most of the first part, despite having seen the opera before in a more 'traditional ' production and watched the insight. I really wish directors wouldn't mess about with new ideas like this. As others have said, tell it like it is and let the glorious music speak for itself.

  24. Patrick responded on 24 January 2019 at 1:59am Reply

    Its becoming increasingly difficult to experience 'works of art' that the ARTISTS created for ones enlightenment. why the need to analyse their creators to explain how the works supposedly originated at their point of conception; and then ceaselessly and unremittingly HAMMER home what is automatically assumed to be great(?) original(?) ideas. That belongs in the realm of biographers, psycho-analysts, academics, bio-pics, etc ., But the actual artwork, if and when allowed to, in my previous experience transcends such prosaic, obvious, simplistic, indulgent connections (Wagner productions seem to be particularly susceptible to these trite associations.) I made a resolution as i staggered out into the snow, after having been mentally bludgeoned. to go and see a production of the actual QoS!!!!!

  25. Alessio Arbitrio responded on 24 January 2019 at 8:55am Reply

    My previous negative comment about the staging does not mean that there is no room for original staging ideas giving a new twist and at the same time respecting the music, the text and the characters in the drama. Years ago at the E.N.O. a staging of Rigoletto had the duke of Mantua as a mafioso boss and Rigoletto as the lowest operative in the gang...and when time came for " La donna e' mobile" we are in an Italian bar in the late fifties, early sixty and the Duke puts 100 liras in a beautiful juke box of that era to select the 45 pm record as if "La donna e' mobile" was coming out of the juke box just like an hit from the winner of the San Remo festival of Italian song

  26. John Willman responded on 24 January 2019 at 7:03pm Reply

    The worst opera I have seen at the Royal Opera EVER! I walked out of the cinema at half-time (first time). The stupid direction even obscured the music. I was hoping that Kasper Holten's departure would end these directors' rewriting of great classics. The cinema was silent, and there was hardly any sound of approval from the Covent Garden auditorium. No more Herheim!!!

  27. Melita responded on 25 January 2019 at 9:08am Reply

    Loved the music and this production! Unconventional, yet exceptional, ambitious and erudite. Herheim studied this opera in detail and it's clear that he put his whole soul in it. Best moments: end of the 2nd scene, 2nd act (breathtaking and rich in meaning...) + the crystal chandelier becoming a smoky church censor in the funeral scene - a perfect touch. A moment to avoid: the beginning, before the music starts - superfluous. Bravo. Thank you!

  28. David Drummond responded on 25 January 2019 at 1:22pm Reply

    Despite fine singing visually I found the production confusing and gloomily displeasing (briefly relieved by the arrival of the birds) The audience actually present were at leas spared the close-ups of appalling wig joins. The creases in Tchaikovsky's wig could at least have been corrected in the interval.
    Hooray for the`splendid Felicity Palmer.
    A disappointment among great pleasure

  29. Lyn responded on 25 January 2019 at 4:37pm Reply

    I'm afraid that I just thought it was weird! Not a good idea to include Tchaikovsky and endless glasses of water. The best bit was near the end of Act 1 when the birds left their cage. I didn't even enjoy the principals singing. Superb conductor and orchestra.

  30. Michael Fontes responded on 25 January 2019 at 6:16pm Reply

    I'm not interested in Mr Herheim's homosexuality, when I go to the Queen of Spades. I want a production which follows the stage directions. This was a tasteless piece of self-indulgence from the man who destroyed Pelléas at Glyndebourne last year. I feel the executives of the ROH should never have allowed this man to inflict this travesty of a production upon us. Wasn't it obvious in Amsterdam how dreadful it is? There's nothing smart or enlightening about distorting the action in this way. The only consolation was that many people around me thought it was execrable, and several people around me left at half time. Perhaps the Royal Opera will pay attention to the degree in which we were disgusted. I stayed but kept my eyes shut. Even the singers are moved to complain about this. Please give us an opera house where we can see opera properly produced: we'd object if you didn't play the notes; please follow the stage directions. It's not much to ask.

  31. Anthony Ehrenzweig responded on 27 January 2019 at 10:14pm Reply

    As usual a producer has tried to ruin an opera with his pseud attempts at a completely new level of "creativity" - this is at the level of extraneous invention - the introduction of Tchaikovsky as a ghost "chorus" attending practically every scene with his unwanted presence waving musical scores around & throwing them to the floor. The singers are forced to interact with him & his mess instead of real characters on stage. The appreciation of the music, acting & singing was blunted & almost destroyed by the stupidity of the production. What I cant understand is why nobody has a quiet word with Stefan Herheim beforehand.

  32. Peter Stephen responded on 29 January 2019 at 12:24am Reply

    The Queen of Spades 28/01/19.
    The music coming from the orchestra was as wonderful as ever. The singing was wonderful too apart from Aleksander Antonenko who seemed to shout through many of the higher notes. The stage sets were rather wonderful too. So all we needed was the light touch of a director to marshal all this wonderful talent. Instead we had to watch a pantomime of movement and gestures, strutting and gallivanting across the stage- a total distraction and an insult to an intelligent audience well able to follow the story line without being spoon fed like children. On 23/01/19 I saw La Traviata which was a triumph in every sense. More from Richard Eyre, less from Stefan Herheim please.

  33. Mark responded on 29 January 2019 at 11:03am Reply

    3 weeks later and I have just about got the maniacal Tchaikovsky out of my mind. Just listening to the superb Jurowski rendition of Pique Dame and reaffirms what a travesty this production was.

  34. David H Spence responded on 29 January 2019 at 8:57pm Reply

    Sounds as though from reading another poster's comments here that Antonenko dropped out (or was it Misha Didyk replaced by Antonenko?). At any rate, the moviecast here in the States advertises Antonenko.

  35. David H Spence responded on 29 January 2019 at 9:05pm Reply

    Sergei Polyakov maybe. Never heard of him.

  36. Steve Champion responded on 31 January 2019 at 8:14pm Reply

    Dreadful production. I watched Richard Eyre's La Traviata yesterday - excellent. It got rid of the irritation of Herheim's Queen of Spades.

  37. CeriM. responded on 31 January 2019 at 9:14pm Reply

    Horrendous, self indulgent, pretentious and confusing production from Stefan Herheim ruined brilliant signing and great music. He needs to watch the current ROH production of La Traviata to see how great opera should be staged. The only positive to take from Herheims staging is to ensure I never attend another.

  38. Catherina responded on 1 February 2019 at 8:56am Reply

    Amazing! Beautiful production about Tchaikovsky.
    But this story is not The Queen of Spades.
    So many viewers will be disappointed.

  39. Janet Warren responded on 1 February 2019 at 12:00pm Reply

    Not keen on this production and everyone looked the same in shades of grey. Some talented performers but not memorable for me. The luminous water was a bit overdone and the constant dropping and throwing of papers was irritating.
    La Traviata on the other hand.....what a masterpiece.

  40. Janet Warren responded on 1 February 2019 at 12:04pm Reply

    Not keen on this production and everyone looked the same in shades of grey. Some talented performers but not memorable for me. The luminous water was a bit overdone and unnecessary and the constant dropping and throwing of papers was irritating.
    La Traviata on the other hand.....what a masterpiece.

  41. JILL ROSENLUND responded on 1 February 2019 at 6:44pm Reply

    This production just didn't work. Very sad because the singing (notably t he chorus) and the orchestra were wonderful. As a previous commentator notes, no more Stefan Herheim please.

  42. david wertheim responded on 3 February 2019 at 11:35pm Reply

    In a word - unappealing

  43. Judy Mackerras responded on 4 February 2019 at 7:37am Reply

    Very disappointed that the management have not taken my comments on board regarding the intrusion of an announcer saying good night at the end. I do not like, in any performance, someone coming on at the end and saying goodnight. They wouldn't send someone on stage at the end to say goodnight, so why OH WHY do they think it is appropriate in the cinema. I want to go home with the music ringing in my ears and with my emotions stirred. I do not want to go home with the spell broken by an announcer telling me the opera is over. On this production in particular, the emotion was drained out of it by an unwarranted "clever" production. Not clever at all. Just wrong! Opera is my soul, I won't be visiting ROH in Cinemas again. Sorry

  44. Roen Steuens responded on 19 February 2019 at 9:45pm Reply

    This was the director's work and vision, not Tchaikovsky's. Pretty dire and pretentious like hell. :-/

  45. Delma Porter responded on 15 March 2019 at 12:05pm Reply

    I saw this production recently at Beverly Hills, suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. I was not familiar with it beforehand and still wonder what on earth it was all about. No info. sheets were available to shed light on it. No idea who was singing or what the story was meant to be about. It was a confusing and weird production. What a waste of time on a lovely, sunny Autumn day in Sydney. I was one of only two in the audience. How did the others who usually attend know? Would have walked out, but that meant leaving an older woman alone in the theatre. Please note: not only will productions like this disappoint those of us who love opera, but they will certainly not attract new audiences. Keep this up and you'll have no one to watch in the years ahead.

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