‘What is life? A game!’ As one of the highlights of the Holland Festival, renowned director Stefan Herheim staged Tchaikovsky’s much-loved opera about a young man who, for the prospect of earthly wealth, gambles away his chance for love and happiness.
The protagonist Hermann stakes everything on gambling, in the belief that there has to be a secret formula that will prevent him from losing at cards. He wants to draw the secret from his girlfriend Lisa’s grandmother, the old Countess: How is it that she is such a successful gambler? Herman confronts her and forces her to reveal her secret, menacing her with a revolver. The Countess dies from the shock. It is her ghost that later appears before the young officer and gives away the fatal sequence of cards: three, seven, ace. Having lost everything, Hermann commits suicide, thus becoming the third victim of his own compulsive gambling behaviour – after the old Countess, who was supposed to know the secret, and Lisa, who was in love with him.
The score of Pique Dame was written by Tchaikovsky within only 44 days, in a period of turmoil about himself and his homosexuality. Herheim, whose stagings are famous for their multi-layered levels of interpretation, attempts to reflect on the composer’s hidden love for men.
Former Music Director Mariss Jansons returns to Amsterdam to conduct Pique Dame at the Dutch National Opera with “his” Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He encounters a noteworthy cast, including star tenor Misha Didyk, a sought after interpreter of the Russian repertoire, who is making his Amsterdam debut in the role of Herman. The critics agree about the production’s quality: “A Pique Dame of extraordinary musical and scenical power” (Avant-Scène Opéra), which it is “absolutely worth seeing!” (Die Welt).