The Queen of Spades
Opera in three acts,
Music - Piotr Tchaikovsky
Libretto - Piotr Tchaikovsky after the novel by Alexander Pushkin
Stage director - Alexander Galibin
Set designer - Alexander Orlov
Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, like his Sixth (Pathetique)
Symphony,is the culmination of the master’s oeuvre and as such brings together many of the
composer’s philosophical thoughts. Although the interwining of drama and poetry has
always been one of the most striking features of Russian music, The Queen of
Spadesshows a complete mastery in projecting and changing dramatic and psychological situations,
fusing and bright cheerful music.
Written more than a century ago, in 1890, Tchaikovsky’s opera remains to this day one of
the most enigmatic, mystical and portentous works in Russian musical history. The Queen
ofSpades is like a riddle that every successive generation has attempted to solve.
The libretto of The Queen of Spades was written by the composer’s brother,
Modest, after the novel of the same by Alexander Pushkin, Modest Tchaikivsky had
starteddrawing from it a libretto for a young Moscow composer, Nikolai Klenovsky, before Piotr
Tchaikovsky himself was attracted to it. Tchaikivsky began composing music to the
librettoand got so carried away that he actually completed the piano score in a record 44 days.
The Queen of Spades was first staged at the Mariinsky Theatre on 19 December 1890.
The premiere was conducted by Eduard Napravnik, with Nikolai and Medeia Figner performing
the parts of Herman and Liza. The Queen of Spades was produced in Kiev only
twelvedays after St. Petersburg premiere, and then in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theatre on
16November 1891. It received a favourable critical reaction and in 1892 was mounted at
theNational Theatre in Prague.
The previous (sixth) production of The Queen of Spades at the Mariinsky Theatre
waspremiered on 25 December 1984 (conductor and stage director Yury Temirkanov, set
designerIgor Ivanov). This version remained in the Kirov repertoire for fifteen years and was one
of the most memorable productions in the theatre’s repertoire in recent decades.
For over a century, Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece of clarity and conciseness has captured
the imagination of successive Russian audiences. Now, in the 1998/99 season, the
MariinskyOpera (conductor Valery Gergiev, stage director Alexander Galibin, set designer Alexander
Orlov, chorus director Valery Borisov) is making its seventh attempt to solve the secret
of the winning formula of the three cards.