Houston Grand Opera to Present THE QUEEN OF SPADES, 4/16-5/1

Houston Grand Opera to Present THE QUEEN OF SPADES, 4/16-5/1

A haunting tale of obsession, the internationally acclaimed Richard Jones production of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades opens Houston Grand Opera's (HGO) 2010 spring repertory.
Performances run April 16 - May 1, 2010 in the Brown Theater of the Wortham Theater Center.

Opera News calls Richard Jones's production of The Queen of Spades, originally created for Welsh National Opera "telling theatricality." London's Observer wrote "Once every few seasons, a production gets pretty much everything right. This is one ... dramatically spine-chilling, visually spare and coherent; it was the kind of theatrical experience which changes the way you look at life."

Russian tenor Vladimir Galouzine (Canio in HGO's production of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci
2008), considered to be one of the world's leading tenors and the finest interpreter of the role of
Hermann, returns to HGO to sing the role of the tormented gambler. Russian soprano Tatiana
Monogarova whom the London Financial Times calls "definitely a young singer to watch," makes her HGO debut as Lisa. Legendary Canadian mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, recently seen as Mrs. Grose in Britten's The Turn of the Screw, sings the role of the Countess, who possesses the gambling secret for which Hermann risks everything to discover. Also making his HGO debut, Icelandic baritone Tómas Tómasson sings the role of Count Tomsky. Soprano and HGO Studio alumna Maria Markina, who was last seen at HGO in the role of Maddalena in Verdi's Rigoletto (2009), returns to sing Pauline/Daphnis and Russian baritone Vasily Ladyuk makes his HGO debut as Prince Yeletsky.

Carlo Rizzi, former Music Director of Welsh National Opera and frequent guest conductor at the
Theatre alla Scala, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin and The
Metropolitan Opera, will conduct the HGO Orchestra and Chorus. Director Roy Rallo revives Richard Jones's original direction. The production also incorporates puppets by the Green Ginger puppeteers, who make their HGO debut with this production. Set and costume design by John MacFarlane.

The Queen of Spades opens on Friday, April 16, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. in the Brown Theater at the
Wortham Theater Center. Additional performances continue through May 1, 2010 with curtain time at 7:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. for Sunday matinees. The Queen of Spades will be performed in Russian with English supertitles.

About the opera:
The Queen of Spades, Op. 68 (Pikovaya dama) is an opera in 3 acts (7 scenes) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to a libretto by the composer's brother Modest Tchaikovsky based on a short story of the same name by Alexander Pushkin. The world premiere took place in 1890 in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Mariinsky Theater. Its New York premiere took place 20 years later on March 5, 1910, conducted by Gustav Mahler The Queen of Spades tells the story of one man's obsession with gambling which propels him, and those around him to heartbreaking tragedy. The original tale by Pushkin is cruel and cynical with elements of the grotesque. However Tchaikovsky made fundamental changes to the story for his opera, the most significant being the transformation of its central character, Hermann, from cold-blooded opportunist to that of highly disturbed hero.
Tchaikovsky also elevated the basic relationship between Hermann and Lisa into a true romance, paving the way for the opera's tragic outcome.

The Production
This award-winning production, originally directed by Richard Jones for Welsh National Opera, has been seenin Bologna, Oslo, Brussels, and San Francisco. Set in an unspecific time period, the production's sets are designed by the Scottish artist and designer, John MacFarlane. Jones and Macfarlane have created an empty, heartless world for the characters to inhabit, the opera's supernatural element depicted by the imaginative use of puppetry. The driving force in this searing production is the relationship between the five main characters. Both
principals and chorus are specifically choreographed to underline, enforce, and create a counterpoint, focusing on relationships, and the unfolding drama.

About the Artists:
Carlo Rizzi (Conductor) made his Houston Grand Opera debut conducting Verdi's Aida in 2007, and returns this spring to conduct Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. Former music director of Welsh National Opera, he has conducted an extensive repertoire there, including Beethoven's Fidelio, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, Britten's Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw, Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, R. Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier and Salome and Janacek's Katya Kabanová. Maestro Rizzi's international opera credits include Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Turandot at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Verdi's La traviata at the Teatro Regio in Parma and Un ballo in maschera in Turin, among others. He has conducted numerous productions at the Metropolitan Opera, including Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor; Verdi's Aida, La traviata, Nabucco and Il trovatore; Bellini's Norma; Puccini's Madame Butterfly, La bohème and Turandot; Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and
Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Engagements this season include Verdi's Don Carlos at Paris Opera, Puccini's La Fanciulla del West and Halévy's La Juive at Netherlands Opera, Verdi's Simon Boccanegra and Puccini's La bohème and Madama Butterfly in Zurich. Last summer, he conducted the critically-acclaimed production of Aida at the Bregenz Festival. Rizzi's complete performances of Rossini's La Cenerentola and Verdi's La Traviata, Rigoletto, Faust and Un ballo in maschera, as well as Respighi's Tone Poems and Bizet's L'Arlésienne, are available on CD from Teldec. His 2006 recording of La traviata for Deutsche Grammophon was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of "Best Opera Recording."

Roy Rallo (Revival Director) makes his Houston Grand Opera debut this season directing Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades-he directed a revival of the same production at San Francisco Opera in 2004. He began his career in opera as artistic administrator at Southern California's innovative Long Beach Opera, where he produced over twenty new productions between 1988 and 1994. He made his directorial debut there in 1991 with Mozart's Lucio Silla, followed by Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, and Strauss's Elektra. Rallo's directorial credits include Don Pasquale in Weimar; Dido and Aeneas and The Seven Deadly Sins for The Crucible School for Fire Arts in Oakland, CA; and co-directing Busoni's Doktor Faust with Nicholas Brieger at Munich's Bavarian State Opera. He has also direcTed Rossini's The Barber of Seville at San Francisco Opear. Rallo has collaborated with director Christopher Alden on Gluck's L'Île de Merlin for the Spoleto Festival USA, Verdi's Aida at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Gounod's Faust for Welsh National Opera, Verdi's Il Trovatore for Antwerp's Flemish Opera, and Carmen for the national theater in Mannheim, Germany. He has also directed revivals of Mozart's Idomeneo in Barcelona and Hamburg, Handel's Alcina in Lyon, and Puccini's Turandot in New Zealand. His Danish National Opera production of Der Rosenkavalier was nominated for the Reumert Prize, Denmark's most prestigious theater award.

Richard Jones (Original Director) is the original director for this spring's production of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. Since its premiere at Welsh National Opera, it has been seen at San Francisco Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Canadian Opera Company, and at the opera houses of Ferrara, Modena and Bologna. The London native has directed award-winning productions for opera and theater, including the Broadway production of Titanic, which garnered five Tony Awards. His opera credits include Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and an Evening Standard Award-winning production of Wagner's Ring cycle for Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges, Schubert's Der Zwerg, and Martin?'s
Juliette at Paris Opera; Verdi's Un ballo in maschera and Puccini's La bohème at the Bregenz Festival; and Wagner's The Flying Dutchman and Janá?ek's Jenüfa for Netherlands Opera. He also designed Welsh National Opera productions of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel and Berg's Wozzeck; English National Opera productions of Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges, J. Strauss's Die Fledermaus, Sawyer's From Morning to Midnight, Berg's Lulu, and Berlioz's The Trojans; and Jonathan Dove's Flight and Tchaikovsky's Euryanthe at Glyndebourne. His Munich production of Handel's Julius Caesar was named "Production of the Year" by Germany's Opernwelt magazine. His work on The Trojans and Hansel and Gretel won him Laurence Olivier
Awards and his Wozzeck received both a TMA Award and a Royal Philharmonic Society Opera Award.

Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades marks designer John MacFarlane's (Set and Costume Design) Houston Grand Opera debut. He is the original set and costume designer for this production. The Scotland native worked for fifteen years designing dance productions before turning his attention to opera. In addition to Richard Jones, he collaborates frequently with directors Willy Decker, Francesca Zambello, and David McVicar. Before The Queen of Spades, which won a Royal Philharmonic Award, MacFarlane worked with Jones on Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Welsh National Opera-that production earned them a Laurence Olivier Award and was
recently revived at the Metropolitan Opera. Among his other notable opera credits are Berlioz's The Trojans at English National Opera; Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and Ravel's L'heure Espagnol for Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District at Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Teatro alla Scala; and Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels. This season will also see the premiere of his designs for Britten's Peter Grimes, produced in collaboration with director Willy Decker at the
Teatro Regio in Turin.

Jennifer Tipton (Lighting Designer) returns to Houston Grand Opera to light Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades this spring-she is the original lighting designer for this production. She made her HGO debut in 1986, designing lighting for Glass and Moran's Juniper Tree, and returned for Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thomson (1996), and Wagner's Lohengrin (1991) and Parsifal (1992). She has lit productions both on and off Broadway, and for major theater, dance and opera companies throughout the US and Europe. Ms. Tipton's opera credits include Levy's Mourning Becomes Electra at Seattle Opera and New York City Opera, Janá?ek's Osud at Bard College's Fisher Performing Arts Center, and Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Théâtre de la Monnaie. She
has designed lighting for R. Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and Verdi's Falstaff at Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Prokofiev's War and Peace at English National Opera; Hansel and Gretel at Welsh National Opera; and Puccini's Manon Lescaut, Mozart's Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni and Weber's Euryanthe at Glyndebourne. Among her many awards and honors are the 2003 Jerome Robbins Prize; the 2001 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; an Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement and a Drama Desk Award. Her lighting for In the Upper Room earned her two Tony Awards and a Laurence Olivier Award. Born in Ohio, she studiEd English at Cornell University and dance in New York City. She teaches lighting at the Yale School of Priscilla Nathan Murphy has choreographed and danced in numerous productions at Houston Grand Opera since 1994, and has led movement classes for the artists of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. This spring she
serves as Choreographer for Handel's Xerxes and Movement Advisor for Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades at HGO this spring. Director of the Creative Dance program at the Ben Stevenson Academy of the Houston Ballet, she has taught creative movement, ballet, and modern dance in the school's pre-professional and professional divisions since 1985. She has choreographed more than thirty pieces for companies and festivals including the Houston Ballet II, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, Sandra Organ Dance Company, Chrysalis Repertory Dance Company, New Dance Group, Pink Ribbons, DiverseWorks, Houston Dance Coalition, Houston International Festival, Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth and the International Quilters Festival with Houston Community College. A native of Singapore, Ms. Nathan Murphy has enjoyed an active career as a dancer,
appearing on the stages of major dance and opera companies in the U.S. and Singapore. Her dance credits include performing with Ann Carlson/White, Bill Evans Dance Company at the Bill Evans Summer Institute, Corpus Christi Opera, Dance Umbrella Series, and the Houston International Festival.