The dark world of Tchaikovsky’s penultimate operatic masterpiece Queen of Spades hinges on obsession, greed, and a secret in winning at cards… In 2005, the Opéra Bastille mounted a compelling production featuring Vladimir Galouzine as the mad lover Hermann, Hasmik Papian as the doomed Lisa, and Irina Bogatcheva as the mysterious Comtesse.
Though Queen of Spades is now one of Tchaikovsky’s most memorable operatic works, the composer procrastinated for several years before accepting the commission from the Director of the Imperial Theaters Ivan Vsevolozhsky. Interested in stimulating Russian opera after recent setbacks, Vsevolozhsky hoped to commission three operas based on works by Alexander Pushkin, and Tchaikovsky was his preferred pick for Queen of Spades. Finally gripped by the story in January 1890, Tchaikovsky traveled to Italy to work, spending several months there reworking Pushkin’s short novella into an opera with the help of a partially finished libretto by his brother Modeste. The story he tells, which departs considerably from Pushkin’s original work, centers on an army officer Hermann who is in love with Liza, the granddaughter of a Countess who has a mysterious secret at how to win at the card game faro. Hermann becomes obsessed with the countess’s secret, thinking that by winning money gambling he will become worthy of Liza, but his obsession soon tears all of their lives apart…
Photo: © Eric Mahoudeau
Amandine Albisson, Mathieu Ganio, François Alu – Corps de Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris