The Gambler (Royal Opera House) 25 February

***

For a long time, I thought this was going to be a kind of Makropoulos Affair without the ascent into real opera at the end.  The plot, concerning various Russian and other parasites losing money they hadn’t earned in the German resort of Rouletteburg (or Roulettenbourg in the Frenchified version adopted here) unrolled with them all being suitably grotesque but without the feeling of people living on the edge of the abyss that is the other side of Dostoevsky’s novella.

My companion suggested that you couldn’t really make an opera from a novel, and was unimpressed with my rejoinder of  From the House of the Dead and Manon/Manon Lescaut.

But after the interval Grandma and Polina actually had something legato (and affecting) to sing, the climactic scene in the casino came off with brilliant effect, and Polina’s declaration that Aleksei Ivanovich couldn’t expect to buy the Marquis’s discarded mistress for 50,000 francs more-or-less explained what she was about.

And it was all exceptionally well done–John Tomlinson as the General was in extremely sprightly voice, not at all like a man who has sung a few too many Wotans rather too loudly, while Susan Bickley (Grandma) and Angela Denoke (Polina) had the most prepossessing parts and made the most of them.

The orchestral playing under Antonio Pappano was brilliant, too.

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