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Work of the Week – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame

On 25 May 2019, Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame opens with Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf in a staging by director Lydia Steier. The story of Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) is centered on a destitute officer named Hermann, whose obsession with gambling and a secret winning formula of three cards ultimately fails to bring him the success he desires and leads instead to disaster.

The performance material used in the new production is part of Edition Meisterwerke published by the Hermann group, Vienna. The edition consists of each of the opera’s various forms including an initial version taken from Tchaikovsky’s manuscript, the version used in the world premiere in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre, and a further version based on the work’s first publication.

Edition Meisterwerke’s Pique Dame is one of the most popular works in the collection and has been used in recent productions at the Nationale Oper Amsterdam, the Opernhaus Zurich, the Mahen Theatre Brno, and at the Salzburger Festpiele. The inclusion of the opera in its various forms allows for scholars, artists, and opera houses to compare and contrast the opera’s different versions, and the flexibility to arrange their own unique production of the work.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame – Compulsive gambling leads to tragedy


Pique Dame’s libretto was written by Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modest Tchaikovsky based on a novel of the same name by Alexander S. Puschkin. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky alludes to the opera’s setting in the late eighteenth century by combining his own expressive musical language with musical quotations and stylistic idioms of the period.

Either I’m terribly mistaken, or Pique Dame is really the culmination of my life’s work! – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Deutsche Oper am Rhein’s production will be shown eight further times following the performance on 25 May and in September, the opera will be performed at the opera house in Duisburg. Another production of Pique Dame will open on 12 October at the Aalto Theatre in Essen.



Photo: Monika Rittershaus / Opernhaus Zürich