Queen of Spades

November 6, 2013


St Petersburg, late 18th century. In the Summer Park, Surin and Tchekalinsky discuss the strange behaviour of their fellow officer Herman. He seems obsessed with gambling, watching all night, though he never plays himself. Herman appears with Count Tomsky, who has noted that his friend seems distracted. Herman admits that he is in love with a girl whose name he doesn’t know. When Prince Yeletsky enters, followed by his fiancée, Lisa, and her grandmother, the old Countess, Herman is shocked to realise that Lisa is his unknown girl. After Yeletsky and the women have left, Tomsky tells the others the story of the Countess. Decades ago in Paris, when she was known as the “Venus of Moscow”, she won a fortune at the gambling table with the help of “the three cards,” a winning combination she learned from the Count of Saint-Germain. She only ever shared this secret with two other people, one of them her husband, and there is a prophecy that she will die at the hands of a third person who will force the secret from her. The men laugh at the story except for Herman, who is deeply affected by it and decides to learn the Countess’s secret.

Lisa and her friends pass the time singing. When she is left alone, she thinks about her ambivalent feelings for her fiancé and the impression Herman has made on her. To her shock, he suddenly appears on the balcony. He claims that he will kill himself if she marries another man and begs her to have pity on him. Lisa gives in to her feelings and confesses that she loves him.


Yeletsky has noticed a change in Lisa’s behaviour toward him. During a ball in one of St Petersburg’s palaces, he assures her of his love. Herman has received a note from Lisa, asking him to meet her. Surin and Tchekalinsky tease Herman with remarks about the “three cards,” telling him that he will be the third person to learn the secret. Lisa slips Herman the key to a secret door that will lead him to her room through the Countess’s bedroom. She says the old lady will not be there the next day, but Herman insists on coming that very night.

In the Countess’s bedroom, Herman is fascinated by a portrait of her as a young woman. He senses that their fates are linked: one of them will cause the other’s death. He hides as the old lady returns from the ball, and, reminiscing about her youth, falls asleep in an armchair. She awakens when Herman suddenly steps before her and demands to know the secret of the cards. The Countess refuses to talk, and when Herman, growing desperate, threatens her with a pistol, she dies of fright. Lisa rushes in. Horrified at the sight of her dead grandmother, she realises that Herman’s only interest was the Countess’s secret.


Herman is descending into obsession. In his quarters, he reads a letter from Lisa asking him to meet her at midnight. He recalls the Countess’s funeral and suddenly her ghost appears, telling him that he must save Lisa and marry her. The ghost says that his lucky cards will be three, seven and the ace.

Lisa waits for Herman by a canal, wondering if he still loves her. When he at last appears, she says they should leave the city together. Herman refuses, replying that he has learned the secret of the cards and is on his way to the gambling house. Lisa realises that she has lost him and kills herself.

The officers are playing cards, joined by Yeletsky, who has broken off his engagement to Lisa. Herman enters, distracted, and immediately bets 40,000 roubles. He wins on his first two cards, a three and a seven. For the final round, he bets on the ace but loses when his card is revealed as the Queen of Spades. Horrified, Herman kills himself.

What will the show look like? Watch a video.