The saga of Nicholas and Alexandra, Russia’s last royal couple, is inherently fecund material for the operatic stage. A Shakespearean quality surrounds their doomed lives, which continue to fascinate us despite the passing of years. In real life, the arc began with a fine romance between two awkward people saddled with dynastic burdens and ended in the worst possible way, with Nicholas, Alexandra, and their five children murdered in the basement of a Siberian “house of special purpose.” And yet it has taken until now, eighty-five years after the Ekaterinburg murders, for a composer to set this story to music, to give voice, literally, to the yearning and the agony of these dispossessed royals. So it seems more than a shame that such a task should fall to the inadequate Deborah Drattell, whose previous, dubious credits include the roundly panned Lilith, which had its premiere at the New York City Opera in 2001, and Festival of...


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