Music by
Pjotr (Peter) Iljitsch Tschaikowsky

Musical arrangement by
David Seaman

Poem by
Modest Iljitisch Tschaikowsky

Based on a novella by
Alexander Puschkin

Unbekanntes Sibirien


  • Musical direction David Seaman / Evgenij Wax
  • Artistic direction Peter Beat Wyrsch
  • Dramaturgy André Meyer
  • Scenery and Costumes Dmitrij Grebenkin
  • Light design Sergej Mednyj (Russ.)
    Britta Mayer
  • Video design Andrej Andrejev, Nataliya Lochreeva
  • Camera Alexander Belov
  • Hermann / Tenor Konstantin Golubiatnikov
  • Graf Tosmky / Baritone Vjatscheslav Schtyps
  • Fürst Jeletzky / Baritone Oeg Malikov
  • Gräfin Mezzosoprano Janette Tarajahn
  • Lisa / Soprano Elina Alexandrova
  • Pauline / Alto Elena Semikova
  • Puschkin, the poet Aleksandr Mokrousov (Russ.)
    Carlos Gundermann (Ger.)



Aleksendra Polejaeva (piano), Olga Prasolova (organ), Svetlana Eks (cello), Jekaterina Kildjascheva (viola), Eduard Kusschanov (flute), Sergej Zaitsev (oboe), Vladislav Bondarev (clarinet), Vladimir Luctenkov (horn), Giorgj Tschebotarev (bassoon)

POC in Russland

Pocket Opera steht seit vergangenem Jahr als Zeichen für Neues Musiktheater in der sibirischen Stadt Kemerovo und wird unter diesem Signet das Publikum auf eine neue Ästhetik auf der Opernbühne einstimmen. Eine Filiale der deutschen Pocket Opera Company soll für die Umsetzung dieser Idee sorgen. Die Neugierde in Sibirien ist groß und der Start mit Pique Dame in Sibirien war ein voller Erfolg. Tschaikowskys Oper wird in der Region Kuzbass weitergespielt.

The Queen of Spades in Siberia

Pique Dame in SibirienThe author Alexander Puschkin wrote the novella "Pique Dame" about the young parvenu Hermann. Hermann driven by his greed for good fortune and money disdains love for the young and beautiful Lisa and drives the mysterious countess to her death with a card game.

A coproduction between Pocket Opera Company in Nuremberg - Germany and the State Musical Theatre Kuzbass in Kemerovo - Siberia.

"Pique Dame in Siberia" is a West-East-coproduction, it is an adventure and chance for both partners involved in this production. A western artistic team working in Siberia with young Russian singers performing the work of a Russian composer arranged by a western musician.

The meeting of different cultures throws new light on the performance of the work and is experienced by the audiences of both cultures: the action is related to present day life. The scenic realisation increases this feeling using video clips showing the city of Kemerovo, the inhabitants and the history of the region as well as the countryside of Kuzbass.

Puschkin’s figures become contemporaries. Their problems, worries and wishes are similar to those of modern day Russians. The video clips offer the western audiences in addition, the possibility to learn something about the surroundings in which this production was made and how they influenced the production.

Siberian First Night: July 12th, 2001
German First Night: December 8th, 2001

Further information about the performances in Siberia is available on the website of Mary Kushnikova (in Russian language).

The Queen of Spades in Siberia - Content

Pique Dame in SibirienThe meeting of different cultures can be seen in the two authors of “Pique Dame”. Both the composer Tschaikowsky and the author Alexander Puschkin were deeply rooted in their native culture, but they also took up many western influences in their work. Tschaikowsky decided in 1889 to set Puschkin’s novella to music using the dramatisation of his brother Modest. The libretto follows the novella in most points, but has two additional figures created by Modest Tschaikowsky; Prince Jeletzky, who is engaged to Lisa and the figure of Pauline. There is as well the awful fate of the countess, who faces death from a third person, who will force her to reveal the secret of the three cards.

The differences between the novella and the opera are also analysed in this version of the work, which the Pocket Opera Company and the opera house in Kemerovo developed. Besides the six main characters in the opera – Hermann, Lisa, the Countess, Tomsky, Jeletzky and Pauline – there is an additional person, an actor, who takes the role of a poet, who can only be partly associated with Puschkin. The slightly revised texts of the poem, which are spoken in the opera performance come from the novella “Pique Dame” or from other poems by Pushkin. Repeatedly the actor compares the poem with the action in the opera. By trying to influence the figures to follow the conception of the novella, he tries to persuade them that feelings do not count and are not the foundation for happiness, but that only the search for money and higher social status count. He conducts a cynical experiment with Hermann and Lisa to prove his point.

Pique Dame in SibirienHermann’s search for happiness is the centre of the story, whereby the opera distinguishes between two versions of what “happiness” could mean. Lisa, completely immersed in her feelings, is looking for her personal fulfilment that she hopes to find with Hermann far from all social conventions. Hermann is hunting for a sort of public acclaim, by seeking wealth and high social status. Money and possessions are a synonym for happiness to him. Hermann does not build on his own qualities such as his love for Lisa, with whose help he could have built up a successful future, but hopes with a special run of luck to change his fate and win a lot of money. He betrays his own life, because he loses all his self-esteem and money.
Hermann sets all his money on one card and loses, thereby destroying Lisa and himself. Hermann realises his error only at the moment of his death and finds his way back to his real objectives.

Pique Dame in SibirienLast, but not least, Tschaikowsky’s “Pique Dame” is a drama about the meeting of two generations, that of the countess, who lives in her memories and can hardly participate in daily life, as opposed to a younger generation that is searching for new goals in life. However, for the new generation to achieve these goals, the experiences of the older generation are necessary. The ways of the old generation force themselves on the new generation, without being really understood, because the reference points to the old sources have been lost. The actual historical experiences are dismissed by the younger generation as horror stories, further use of this knowledge is not considered. Without knowledge of context and developments that lie behind these experiences, blind trust in the old stories, that are only superficially understood, is likely to lead to misunderstanding. Hermann without knowing the background, blindly trusts the old story and fails. Hermann ignores the warning of the countess’s ghost, as basis for success in the card game, to first fulfil his personal happiness and marry Lisa. He places public success over private fulfilment and does not understand the warning, that happiness can only be reached as a whole and that social standing requires private fulfilment.

André Meyer

Press release / Germany

“...In the production by Peter Beat Wyrsch, the artistic director of the POC, the search for happiness, power and money is given special emphasis. This is just not a story of somewhere in far off Siberia, but tells of concrete hopes and fears of the people who live there. The production concept includes two additional narrative levels that give the opera a completely new meaning. ...
...The cast shows that Siberia is a gold mine for undiscovered vocal talents. The tenor Konstantin Golubiatnikov in the role of the gambler Hermann uses his vocal and acting talents to convincingly portray a man torn between love and passion for Lisa and success at the gambling table. The other important roles are cast with enviably well-trained voices having a multitude of colourful and expressive nuances. Foremost is Elina Alexandrova as the youthful and torn by inner conflicts Lisa, as well as Janette Tarajahn in the title role of the aged and eccentric countess.

The conductor, David Seaman has reduced the original symphony orchestra to an eight-man chamber ensemble and eliminated the chorus. The musical impact of the composition remains, thanks to the circumspect arrangement and the engaged performance of the chamber orchestra. Above all Seaman gives the singers time to enfold the drama and tragedy of Russian melancholy and emotional wealth of ideas.”
Stefan Herbert Fuchs, Donaukurier, 11.12.2001

“... “The Pocket Opera, in her unusual partnership with the theatre of the Siberian region of Kuzbass, stripped
the whole project down to the emotional basics and laid the deadly ending story in the social reality of the shaken industrial metropolis Kemerovo ... Konstantin Golubiatnikov and Elina Alexandrova are vocal discoveries, just as Oleg Malikov (Jeletzky) has been for some time with the POC. Beyond the Ural a Dorado of voluminous vocal art must exist...”

Jens Voskamp, Nürnberger Nachrichten, 10.12.2001

“The Pocket Opera arrangement introduces modern Siberia into the action. For this reason, video clips from the region Kuzbass are used. Personal portraits, interesting references are developed, such as the camera visit to an aristocratic old lady, while the opera happenings on stage are dealing with the countess and the secret of the three cards. ...”
Isabel Lauer, Nürnberger Zeitung, 10.12.2001

“ The marvellously variable, cubistic scenery by Dimitrij Grebenkin consists of large elements and platforms that are first blue, then pink, then sunk in layers of fog. They change from horizontal to vertical positions quickly underlining in the opera the suspense of the quick change from gambling casino to the princely suite...”
F. J. Bröder, Fränkischer Tag, 11.12.2001

Press release / Siberia

A minimal stage setting, certain geometrical constructions change to a gambling table then to the bedroom of the Countess. An especially attractive effect is a projection screen at the back of the stage. Video projections accompany all of the scenes, insinuate, underscore, and symbolise the action. Hermann (K. Golubjatnikow), wearing jeans and a pullover, wants to get to the top and makes it. Above the stage is a Video stripe (excellent work of A. Andrejev, A. Belov, N. Lachreeva) that describes scene for scene the happenings: shabby rooming houses, elegant apartments, pictures on the rocks by “Tomskaja pisaniza”... daily routine, life, uselessness, eternity...
Ludmilla Olchowskaja, Nascha Gaseta, July 13, 2001


What is our life? A play?

The premiere: the setting (stage-designer Dmitrij Grebenkin) appears austere, even ascetic.
The geometrical objects assume new forms, change from hall to gambling casino, to a forest. The basic idea of the stage-director (Peter Beat Wyrsch) is pregnant and clear: the eternal story of the young ambitious social climber, who tries in every possible way to get to the top, only to plunge into oblivion.
The opera makes a good impression with its singers: Konstantin Golubjatnikow as Hermann, Wjatscheslaw Schtyps as Tomskij, Oleg Malikow as Elezkij, Elina Alexandrowa as Lisa, Janetta Tarajan – Russia’s honoured actress – as the Countess and Elena Semikowa as Paulina (both are members of the opera theatre in Krasnojarsk) were all perfect in their roles. Although the symphony orchestra was replaced by a chamber orchestra, not one note, not one aria of the score suffered.
The performance is a complete success. What is our life? Yes, it is the lovely play of these two wonderful performances.
Ludmila Denisowa, Kemerovo, July 13, 2001