Born in Florence, Italy, Medea Mei sang both mezzo-soprano and soprano roles. Medea and her husband Nikolai Figner were the darlings of Russian Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg, always performing together. Tchaikovsky wrote leading roles for the Figners in the Queen of Spades and Iolanta
Writing to his brother Modest, Pique Dame librettist, Tchaikovsky describes a moment when he burst into tears at the death of Herman character. Because he was so fond of Nikolai Figner, the lead tenor, he always saw Herman in "the form" of Figner. This realization was unsettling.
Writing to his brother Modest, Pyotr was pleased with him as a librettist and how the Queen of Spades death scene was arranged. While he demanded fewer scenes, he worried that Act III may end up dull without women actors. The fate of Lisa's character was written into Act III.
Tchaikovsky wrote the role of Herman in the Queen of Spades for Nikolai Figner, lead tenor at the Mariinsky Theatre. Writing to his brother Modest the librettist, Pyotr asked to make the part a bit lighter for "poor Figner" and rethink having him sing seven scenes without intermission.
Early in 1890, Tchaikovsky simply needed to get away. Writing to Glazunov, he admits he can't figure out what the "devil" is wrong with him. He experiences both "life-weariness" and at the same time a "passionate desire to create." Staying in Florence he composed much of Pique Dame.
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