Tuesday May 14th, 7:30 p.m.

PIQUE DAME (Queen of Spades)

An opera in Three Acts (or seven scenes)

by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

to a libretto by the composer's brother Modest Tchaikovsky
based on a short story by Alexander Pushkin

Premièred at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg on 19 December 1890



Count Tomsky /

Zlatogor (Act 2 divertissement)

Prince Yeletsky





Major Domo



Pauline /

Milovzor (Act 2 divertissement)



Prelepa (Act 2 divertissement)

Pianist (actor)

Misha Didyk, tenor


Alexey Markov, baritone

Vladimir Stoyanov, baritone

Andrei Popov, tenor

Andrii Goniukov, bass

Mikhail Makarov, tenor

Anatoli Sivko, bass

Morschi Franz, tenor

Larissa Diadkova, mezzo-soprano

Svetlana Aksenova, soprano


Anna Goryachova, contralto

Olga Savona, mezzo-soprano

Maria Fiselier, soprano

Pelageya Kurennaya, soprano

Christiaan Kuyvenhoven


A 2016 production from the Dutch National Opera

Direction by Stefan Herheim

Set and Costume Design by Philipp Fürhofer

Lighting Design by Bernd Purkrabek

Choreography by Nadejda L. Loujine

Chorus of the Dutch National Opera

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons

NOTE: In this production, director Stefan Herheim has chosen to introduce the composer Tchaikovsky as a character in his own opera. It will enhance your appreciation of the performance if you first read the sidebar on the right ('How Herheim stages Tchaikovsky').


Act One
Scene 1
Two officers, Tchekalinsky and Surin, meet and discuss their concern for their colleague, Herman. He has a passion for gambling but does not gamble himself, owing to lack of money. They leave as Herman tells his friend Count Tomsky that he is in love with a girl whose name he does not know. As others arrive, he soon finds out that the girl is Liza, the fiancée of Prince Yeletsky. She is accompanied by her grandmother, a countess, who was once a compulsive gambler and is nicknamed the ‘Queen of Spades’.

It is said that the Countess knows the secret of the three cards that always win. She has shared this knowledge with two men in the past and the third to ask her will cause her death. Herman longs to possess the secret, to become rich and marry Liza.

Scene 2
A party of friends are singing and laughing and when they leave, Liza becomes melancholy. She is not sure she will be happy with her fiancée. Herman suddenly appears at the window and declares his love for her.

When the countess enters the room he hides, but as soon as she has gone Liza collapses into his arms.

Act Two
Scene 1
A masked ball is in progress. Prince Yeletsky sings to please Liza, while Herman dreams of the secret of the three cards.

A musical divertissement ‘The Faithful Shepherdess’ is presented in which a shepherdess (Chloë) prefers a simple shepherd (Daphnis) to a rich lord.

Liza secretly passes Herman the key to the countess’s palace and arranges to meet him that night.

Scene 2
Herman waits for the countess in her room. She returns and prepares for the night. She then sleeps in a chair. Herman comes out of his hiding place and begs the old lady to reveal the secret of the cards. In his excitement he draws a pistol. The shock kills her.

In despair that he can never find the secret, he turns to find Liza at the door. She drives him away bitterly accusing him of preferring cards to her love.

Act Three
Scene 1
In his room at the barracks, Herman reads a letter from Liza in which she now forgives him for his behaviour. The ghost of the countess appears to him and commands that he marry Liza and the secret combination will be his: THREE – SEVEN - and then ACE.

Scene 2
Liza and Herman are reconciled, but when he makes as if to leave the gambling house, she tries to restrain him. He pushes her aside and in despair she throws herself into the nearby canal and drowns.

Scene 3
In the gambling house, Herman plays his final hand with Yeletsky. The three and the seven have already won, but instead of the ace, he now turns up the Queen of Spades.

Before Herman’s eyes the picture on the card becomes the grinning ghost of the countess and the young man, now utterly deranged, stabs himself.