Petr Iljič Čajkovskij () ()
The Queen of Spades
Sung in Russian with Czech and English subtitles.
Length of performance is 3h 15min.
A passion for playing games kills relationships!
Three, seven, ace… three cards that always win. A secret which drives the young tsarist official Hermanto sacrifice his amorous relationship with young Liza and even to murder. His thirst for money and social status destroys the lives of all people around him and drives him to insanity and suicide in the end. Tchaikovsky’s penultimate opera was commissioned by the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg and, as in the case of Eugen Onegin, the composer used the literary legacy of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin. However, Tchaikovsky substantially changed Pushkin’s story and even wrote texts to some of the arias. Although the composer created The Queen of Spades in only 44 days, it is obviously a work of an experienced opera composer and dramatist. He introduced a masterly psychological depiction of the main characters into the, originally romantic, story of a great love with a mystic plot, adding many dramatic as well as lyrical musical scenes. The Queen of Spades truly belongs among the most successful of Tchaikovsky’s operas.
The performance contains stroboscopic effects.
Premiere 17th February 2018, Mahen Theatre
When does desire turn into obsession, destroying everything? The young officer Herman did not have much, but what he wanted was love. Together with this however he feels that within reach is a vision of easily‑won wealth and desire becomes obsession and then insanity, which destroys him and all around. But even in insanity there is no escape from what we have done. Moments before death fragments of pictures appear… completely crooked…
A spring day brings the inhabitants of St. Petersburg out for a walk in the park. A laughing group of officers recall the previous evening spent playing cards, with only Herman looking gloomy. When Tomsky asks him what the problem is he admits that he is in love. Prince Yeletsky arrives, happy having just got engaged and everyone congratulates him. The group is joined by his fiancée Liza with her grandmother, the elderly Countess. To his horror Herman discovers that Yeletsky’s fiancée is the girl that he is secretly in love with.
The engaged couple leave and Tomsky tells the tale of how the Countess, a legendary beauty in her youth and a passionate player of faro, knows the secret of the three cards that always win. But the price is high and the third person she tells of the cards will be the cause of her death. Herman however sees only the part about clear winnings and suddenly can see before him everything he wants – money and a position. The girl he loves can be a means to achieving that end.
Liza’s friend Polina tries to cheer her up. She is engaged and should be glowing with happiness. The merry song of the girls is interrupted by the Governess. Liza is left alone. She should be happy but a strange uncertainty creeps into her soul. Herman bursts into her bedroom from the balcony. Liza is scared, but he declares his love for her. They are interrupted by the Countess, who hears voices, but Liza hides Herman. After the Countess leaves she begs him in vain to leave her be. Herman is as if crazy and Liza in the end succumbs.
St. Petersburg’s aristocracy gather at a ball, including Yeletsky with Liza. His fiancée seems out of sorts and the prince tries to convince her of the depth of his feelings for her. However Liza has already decided that her heart belongs to Herman and she has secretly given him a message inviting him to meet with her. The ball continues with a pastoral intermezzo and the guests gather to join in the entertainment. Herman waits for Liza. She brings him the key to the Countess’ room, from where he can get into her bedroom. He is to come tomorrow but Herman insists that he will come today in the night. Liza agrees. A crowd comes into the hall to welcome the rulers.
With the help of the key from Liza Herman gets into the Countess’ room and hides there. He hopes that the Countess will show him the secret of the three cards. The Countess returns from the ball but does not want to sleep. She is disgusted with today’s society – in her youth it was all different… but now it is not at the same level. She gets rid of her companions and reminisces about the years long before at the court in Paris. Herman interrupts her, appearing with a request for the secret of the three cards. The frightened Countess stays silent and Herman pushes further and further until he pulls out a pistol. Suddenly to his horror he sees that the old lady is dead and her secret has died with her. Liza comes into the room. Her surprise at Herman’s presence quickly changes to horror at what her lover is babbling about – the Countess is dead and he does not know the secret of the three cards. Liza realises that she was just a means to gaining the secret of a certain win at cards and destroyed she throws Herman out.
Herman is haunted by visions of the dead Countess, where it seems as though a voice calls from beyond the grave – three cards, those the secret he wanted to know – a three, a seven and an ace.
Liza cannot accept that she has dedicated herself to a heartless killer and in a letter invites Herman to a meeting. She waits for him on the bank, despairing and full of doubt. Herman comes and for a short moment it seems that Liza’s love has a future. Herman however wants only one thing – to go to the casino, where all the gold awaits him. She vainly begs him to let her rescue him and leave with her. Herman no longer knows her and crushed, Liza can see only one way out…
In the casino things are lively and the play does not stop. To the surprise of everyone Yeletsky arrives, who is not often seen there. He states that he will not be getting married and asks Tomsky if he will be his second. Herman appears and wagers all. His three wins. He bets again and once more wins. Nobody wants to play; only Yeletsky takes up the cards. Herman stakes everything on an ace, but the card he has in his hand is the queen of spades.
The last picture, the journey is at an end… and after that?