5 JUNE 1982, Page 20

The Queen of Spades

Sir: Pushkin's The Queen of Spades does not, as your opera reviewer asserts, treat of mental breakdown (22 May) What it does is suggest ,strongly that where people (like the Countess) obtain immediate, almost miraculous, deliverance from impasses of their own making — albeit at high personal price (hideous longevity) later — their ex- ample is perniciously infectious to others (amongst them, Hermann), and so much so that they willingly incur, for their own future, consequences all too terribly al)- parent in others in the present. Against this the Novelle suggests that those (like Liza) who suffer life, seeking no miraculous deliverance, preserve sanity, integrity and happiness, and fare better in the long rull.

Chaykovsky's mutilation of this master- piece is of the order of painting over La Gioconda to look like Mickey Mouse.

George Bird

Bedales Lodge, Petersfield, Hants