Thanks to his brother Modest's libretto, based on a free adaptation of a tale by Pushkin, P. I. Tchaikovsky was able to respond in just 44 days to a commission from the Russian Imperial Theatres and Pikovaya Dama was born.
For the young Herman, paradise consists of rising in society and gambling. He accordingly sacrifices his love for Lisa to his obsession with finding a magic formula for winning at cards which is in the possession of an old countess. After driving Lisa to suicide, Herman himself dies, deceived by the Countess's ghost.
The tragedy of this complex Romantic hero, haunted by his passion for gambling and driven by fate to the loss of his lover and to crime and death, is counterpointed by elements from the world of dreams and the supernatural.
Gilbert Deflo's opulent production transports us to a far-off age and underscores the composer's own scathing portrait of society, for beneath the amiable appearance of the Russia of Catherine the Great, a lost generation lies hidden. Tchaikovsky's score evokes the court, streets and river banks of Saint Petersburg through the deliberate recreation of 18th century musical forms and allusions to popular and religious music but never sacrifices his characteristically fervent lyricism. The Queen of Spades ranks alongside Eugene Onegin as his greatest contribution to the world of opera.