St Petersburg, Mariinsky II

The Queen of Spades


ballet set to music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky – Yuri Krasavin

Performance by the Bolshoi Theatre

Performers

Herman: Dmitry Smilevsky
Liza: Eva Sergeenkova
The Countess: Vyacheslav Lopatin
Count Tomsky: Egor Gerashchenko
Polina: Olga Marchenkova
Prince Eletsky: Mark Chino
The Countess in Her Youth: Alyona Kovalyova
Saint-Germain: Alexander Vodopetov

Opera Singer (Countertenor): Artem Krutko

The Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
Conductor: Pavel Klinichev

Premiere of the production: 14 December, 2023, The Bolshoi Theatre


Running time: 2 hours
The performance has one interval

Age category 16+

Credits

Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky – Yuri Krasavin
Libretto by Valery Pecheykin after Alexander Pushkin's short story
Choreographer: Yuri Posokhov
Conductor: Pavel Klinichev
Set and Costume Designer: Polina Bakhtina
Lighting Designer: Gleb Filshtinsky

Video: Show Consulting Studio

SYNOPSIS

ACT 1

Prologue
Herman is contemplating his doubles, as if peering into his own desires and fears.

Tableau 1
Gamblers have gathered at army officer Chekalinsky’s house. Herman, a modest and thrifty young man, is among them, watching others play the game of Faro. Herman is trying to understand the principle of the game itself. Why did officer Yeletsky lose and Tomsky win? If life is a game, then by understanding the essence of the game, you can find out the essence of life, can’t you? Chekalinsky invites Herman to try his fate, but Herman refuses: he is not ready yet.
The lucky Tomsky tells his friends a story about his grandmother, an eighty-seven-year-old Countess Anna Fedotovna. People say she knows the secret of the three cards that can secure a win.

Tableau 2
Tomsky tells an anecdote from his grandmother’s youth. The story takes the listeners back in time to Versailles in France. Here we find the young Countess Anna Fedotovna, nicknamed the Venus of Moscow for her incredible beauty, at the gambling table. The Countess attracts the attention of the socialites, including the Count Saint Germain, a famous alchemist and occultist. He hears the Countess, having lost a large sum of money, say that she dreams of winning back. To do this, she only needs to know the three cards that will bring good luck. Taking advantage of a moment of solitude, Saint Germain invites the Countess to a date. In exchange he offers to tell her the secret cards. The Countess responds with a sharp refusal, but… a day later she appears at the gambling table again. Yes, she became the Count’s mistress! And by betting the secret cards one after another, she is able to win back all the money.
Time has passed. One day the Countess named three cards to her husband, later – to her young lover. That same night, an ominous ghost appeared before her and announced: ‘You will receive a fatal blow from the third one, who will come, burning with ardent love, to force the secret of the three cards from you!’
Herman is overwhelmed by this story. Who is that third one, the one to learn the secret of the three cards? Could it be Herman himself?

Tableau 3
Herman is once again haunted by his obsessive thoughts embodied in his doubles. He runs through a snowstorm among passers-by.
Freezing, he sees the images of Saint Germain and the young Countess. Recovering, Herman continues his journey and sees a house with a light in one window. There, he can make out a female shape. It is Lisa. Herman and Lisa see each other for the first time.

Tableau 4
A large and gloomy room at the Countess’s house. Anna Fedotovna is surrounded by her servants, with her ward Lisa by her side.
The countess is receiving visitors: Lisa’s friend Polina, Anna Fedotovna’s grandson Tomsky and his friend Yeletsky, whom he introduces to his grandmother. Yeletsky watches Lisa with interest. How submissively, with her eyes downcast, she endures the Countess’s absurd character! Yeletsky speaks to Lisa. She is embarrassed by Yeletsky’s attention and by the gaze of the stranger who is still standing outside under her window – Herman’s gaze.
Tomsky talks with Polina, Yeletsky with Lisa. Together they sit down for tea. Herman continues to wait for Lisa, standing on the street. But what he sees is the old Countess approaching the window.

Tableau 5
Once again, Herman is walking along the street of Saint Petersburg. He is happy because he is in love with a beautiful stranger. He wants to see her again. Herman follows Lisa to a ball.

Tableau 6
A ball in an aristocratic house. All the high society is gathered here, including Yeletsky, Tomsky and Polina. Bright young people dance a solemn polonaise. The Countess Anna Fedotovna appears, accompanied by Lisa. Everyone greets the Countess – she is the most important figure at the ball. The Countess sits down with Chekalinsky, who tells her about the guests. One of them keeps to himself – it is Herman. Lisa catches his loving gaze, and feels she can reciprocate. Lisa manages to sneak a note to Herman: she will be waiting for him in her room this very night.
The Countess glances at Herman and leaves. The ball ends with a dance of the entire party.

Tableau 7
The Countess’s bedroom at night. Herman sneaks in through a secret door. The room looks old and gloomy. Herman hides at the sound of footsteps.
A train of hangers-on and maids follows the Countess to her room. ‘Oh, how I hate this life!’, she exclaims. The Countess is changed into a sleeping blouse. She indulges in recollections of her youth and meeting with Saint Germain, then she abruptly shoos everyone away – she is tired and wants to sleep.
The Countess is dozing in a chair. Silence. Herman comes out of his hiding place. He approaches the Countess, who raises her head and looks at him in surprise. Kneeling down, Herman begs the Countess to tell him the secret of the three cards. In exchange he is ready to do whatever she wants: bear her sin for her, become her lover, anything! Herman is trying to captivate the Countess, to return her to the times of her youth, when she met Saint Germain. Lisa appears in the room. She cannot believe her eyes: Herman did not come to her, but to Anna Fedotovna herself, «an eighty-year-old hag». Herman, angry at the Countess’s silence, takes out his pistol: ‘You old witch! I’ll make you answer…’
The Countess drops dead. Herman recoils in horror.
Lisa is witness to the horrible scene. Herman stretches out his hands to her: he is not guilty, his gun was not loaded. But Lisa pushes Herman away: he deceived her, now they are both damned! Lisa runs away, leaving Herman alone. He is desperate and almost loses his mind.

Tableau 8
Herman points the pistol at his own reflection in the mirror of a dressing table. There is a gunshot. Herman’s doubles appear from the shards. They surround him, dragging him into an ominous waltz.

ACT 2

Tableau 9
A church at a convent. The funeral of the deceased Countess Anna Fedotovna is taking place here. Her coffin is barely visible behind the crowd which includes Lisa, Tomsky, Polina, servants, old women and young officers. Yeletsky supports Lisa. Herman appears from the crowd, unnoticed. He comes face to face with Lisa, but she refuses to talk to him. The exequy continues. Herman approaches the Countess’s coffin. For a moment she seems alive to him. Herman takes a sloppy step back, stumbles and falls. Lisa glances at him. The exequy continues still. The coffin with the Countess’s body is taken to the cemetery.

Tableau 10
Herman’s room at the barracks. Night. Herman lies on a bed, the wind howls outside the window. It seems to Herman that there is someone in the room. Covering himself with a blanket, he tries to sleep.
A gust of wind opens the door, filling the room with chill. A ghost of the dead Countess appears at Herman’s bed. There is a struggle between the Countess and Herman, and Herman is about to be defeated. But the ghost lets him go and says: ‘I came to you against my own will, but I was ordered to fulfill your request. Save Lisa, marry her, and the three cards, three cards, three cards will win in a row. Remember! Three! Seven! Ace! Three, seven, ace!’
The ghost disappears. Herman has finally got what he wanted. Now he knows the secret of the three cards.

Tableau 11
In a dream, Herman sees a deck of cards dance.

Tableau 12
Winter Canal. Night. Lisa is waiting for Herman. When Herman finally appears, she is already about to leave – but finally they are together! Their love duet begins, but, seeing his doubles, Herman forgets about Lisa and plunges into madness. Lisa runs to the Canal and desperately looks down. One more step, and she will throw herself into the water. Will Herman care? Alas, he has forgotten about Lisa. And she has no reason to live anymore.
At the last moment, Yeletsky appears. He manages to keep Lisa from taking the fatal step. She is saved. Yeletsky presses Lisa to him: he won’t let her go again.

Tableau 13
Not far away, in the Summer Garden, Tomsky sings a cheerful song to the girls: ‘If only dear girls could fly like birds…’ Tomsky flirts with Polina, but the officers drag him along to the gambling house.

Tableau 14
Chekalinsky’s house. The officers came here to watch the game of Faro. Today Herman and Yeletsky will play against each other. Herman bets forty-seven thousand rubles. That is a lot of money! The officers surround the gambling table. Chekalinsky accepts the bet. Herman shows the card on which he bet his entire fortune – it is the three of hearts. Chekalinsky begins to bank. Herman and Yeletsky freeze in anticipation. Herman dreams: three beautiful girls appear to him…
Chekalinsky reports that Herman’s card has won. The vision disappears. Herman makes a new bet – the seven of clubs. Chekalinsky is banking again. Seven mysterious figures appear in front of Herman…
Chekalinsky reports that the card has won. The officers are in a frenzy: will Herman go on trying his fate? Yes, he wants to put in a third card. One hundred eighty-eight thousand rubles. It’s crazy to play for that kind of money! The officers surround Herman and Yeletsky.
Chekalinsky banks. Herman shows his last card: ‘My ace wins!’ Yeletsky reports that Herman is mistaken. He lost. At this moment, the ghost of the Countess appears. Herman looks at her and the card in his hand in horror. The ace has turned into the queen of spades. Herman retreats and falls. The Countess drags Herman along with her into the darkness of the unknown.

Tableau 15
Obukhovskaya Asylum. A ward with several beds on which patients sit and lie. They are Herman and his doubles. One of them is an officer who sings like a child – this is how Herman remembers his childhood. The ghost of the Countess is watching over everyone: she now owns Herman’s soul.
Lisa appears accompanied by Yeletsky, her husband. Both freeze on the threshold, looking at Herman. Lisa asks Yeletsky for permission to enter the ward. He lets her go, remaining at the door. Lisa comes up to Herman and looks into his face. Herman recognizes Lisa and holds out his hands. Lisa hugs Herman. This gesture, filled with compassion for the patient, moves Yeletsky. Unable to watch someone else’s secret life, he leaves.
Herman and Lisa talk for one last time. Lisa kisses Herman and leaves for good. Herman is left alone. Finally, Herman has a revelation and is transported to another mysterious world.



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