“Two obsessions can no more exist in the same mind than two bodies in the same space”, wrote Pushkin in his short story The Queen of Spades in 1834. The young Hermann, eager for social advancement, sacrifices his love for Lisa over his obsession for a magical formula in the possession of an old Countess which will enable him to win at cards. Having provoked the latter’s death, Hermann will die, deceived by the ghost of his victim. Tchaikovsky’s 1890 opera adaptation paints a scathing portrait of a generation in the fading years of Czarist Russia, hidden beneath the guise of an energetic portrail of the reign of Catherine II. The streets, riverbanks and balls of Saint Petersburg emerge from a score which intentionally seeks to recreate the musical forms of the 18th century, while never sacrificing the fervent lyricism that sets Tchaikovsky’s compositions apart.
For his latest collaboration with the Paris Opera, the Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov continues his exploration of the great repertoire of his native country with an operatic masterpiece from Russia’s most European composer.