|2020 | Saturday||
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov "The Tale Of Tsar Saltan"(Opera in four acts with a prologue)
Performed in Russian, with syncronized English supertitles
Premiere of this production: 26 Sep 2019
The performance has 2 intermissions
Libretto by Vladimir Belsky after Alexander Pushkin`s tale of the same name
The Tale of Tsar Saltan is an opera in four acts with a prologue (a total of seven scenes) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by Vladimir Belsky, and is based on the poem of the same name by Aleksandr Pushkin. The opera was composed in 1899–1900 to coincide with Pushkin's centenary, and was first performed in 1900 in Moscow, Russia.
The lengthy full title of both the opera and the poem is The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of his Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan.
The plot of the opera generally follows that of Pushkin's fairy-tale poem, with the addition of some characters, some expansion (particularly for Act 1), and some compression (mostly by reducing Gvidon's three separate trips to one). The libretto by Belsky borrows many lines from and largely emulates the style of Pushkin's poem, which is written in couplets of trochaic tetrameter. The music is composed in the manner of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas after Snowmaiden, i.e., having a more or less continuous musical texture throughout a tableau system, broken up here and there by song-like passages.
The première was held in Moscow on 3 November (O.S. 21 October) 1900 at the Solodovnikov Theatre conducted by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov with scenic design by Mikhail Vrubel.
The St. Petersburg premiere took place in 1902 at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, conducted by Zelyonïy.
Other notable performances included those in 1906 at the Zimin Opera, Moscow, conducted by Ippolitov-Ivanov; 1913 at the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow, conducted by Emil Cooper, with scenic design by Konstantin Korovin; and 1915 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, conducted by Albert Coates, with scenic design by Korovin and Aleksandr Golovin.
On September 14 [O.S. September 1] 1911, while he was attending a performance of the opera at the Kiev Opera House in the presence of the Tsar and his family, the Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the chest, dying two days later; his assassin, Dmitri Bogrov, was both a leftist radical and an agent of the Okhrana.
The UK premiere took place in London on 11 October 1933 at Sadler's Wells Theatre and the US premiere was presented on 27 December 1937 under the title of The Bumble-Bee Prince.
On a winter evening, two girls are dreaming of meeting a rich groom. While they are making plans, the care for their beauty lies on the shoulders of their younger sister, Militrisa. She is not treated well in the family: ‘Why shouldn’t we order that silly girl around?’ The witch Old mother Babarikha is watching the scene.
The elder sisters, encouraged by Old mother Babarikha, praise themselves and dream about what each of them would do if she suddenly became a Tsar's wife.
Tsar Saltan is listening to the conversation of the sisters. The eldest promises to arrange a feast for the whole world, the middle one promises to weave canvases, and Militrisa promises 'to bear a bogatyr for our father the Tsar'. The Tsar leaves his shelter and tells everyone to follow him to the palace. Militrisa is to become the Tsaritsa, and her sisters are to be the Cook and the Weaver. The sisters are annoyed and ask Babarikha to help them take revenge on Militrisa. Babarikha proposes a plan: when the Tsar leaves for war, and the Tsaritsa gives birth to a son, they will send a letter to the Tsar instead of joyful news: ‘Last night the Tsaritsa gave birth to something neither quite male nor female, to something neither quite mouse nor frog, but a creature unknown to man’. The sisters apprehend their victory.
The scene pictures the tsar's courtyard by the seashore in Tmutarakan. Courtiers and common people are celebrating the wedding of Saltan and Militrisa. The happiness of the newlyweds does not last long though: Saltan changes his wedding suit to armor and goes to war.
Militrisa is sad in the palace, alone among strangers. Nannies are rocking her newborn son Guidon to sleep. The sisters send the Jester to the Tsaritsa to wake the baby with loud singing.
The baby wakes up. Nannies play patty-cake with him. The courtyard is filled with people. Everyone admires the Tsarevich. The choir sings toasts to him and the Tsaritsa. Pushing the crowd away, the drunken Messenger bursts in with a letter from the Tsar. He complains to the Tsaritsa about how poorly he was received by Tsar Saltan, and talks about a hospitable grandmother who fed him well and got him drunk. The scribes read the royal letter: ‘The Tsar orders his boyars without any further ado, to cast away the Tsaritsa and her offspring in a barrel into the watery deep’. Everyone is astonished. In despair Militrisa submits to the will of the Tsar and asks to bring Guidon, who has already grown noticeably.
To the lamentations of the people, the Tsaritsa and her son are put into a barrel. The cry of the crowd merges with the noise of oncoming waves.
The inhabitants of the underwater world carefully accompany the barrel swinging on the waves to the shore of Buyan Island. Suddenly an evil sorcerer appears in the image of a kite. He tries to sink the barrel, but the Swan, who has come to the rescue, drives the villain away.
The sea calms down and throws the barrel on the deserted shore. Militrisa and the matured Tsarevich come out of it. They celebrate their salvation, but the Tsaritsa is worried: ‘the isle is barren and wild.’ Guidon calms down his mother, and she makes a bow for her son and anxiously lets him go hunting.
Suddenly, a noise of a struggle and a groan is heard: the Kite has returned, accompanied by evil spirits, to take revenge on the Swan and kill it.
Militrisa directs her son’s bow, Guidon takes aim and fires an arrow. The amazed Tsaritsa and Tsarevich see the Swan, who gratefully addresses her savior Guidon, promising to return his fabour, and reveals her secret: ‘For it was not a swan that you saved, but a young maiden whose life you spared. It was not a kite that you slayed, but a sorcerer that you shot down.’
The Swan advises them not to grieve, but to go to sleep. Militrisa and Guidon decide to follow the advice.
Dawn comes. The fabulous city of Ledenets appears from the morning mist. The Tsaritsa and the Tsarevich wake up, admire the vision, and then Guidon realizes: ‘I see my swan is amusing herself!’ Jubilant people emerge from the gates of the city, thanking Guidon for sparing them from the evil sorcerer, and ask him to rule the glorious city of Ledenets.
Joyful people diverge, leaving Guidon alone with sad thoughts about his father. Sailors appear. Guidon asks them to give his regards and a gift to Saltan and to invite him to visit Buyan. The Sailors depart for Tmutarakan. Guidon stares after them with longing. He complains to the Swan that he is bored with all the wonders of the Isle, and that he wants to see his father, but remain invisible. The Swan agrees to fulfill his request and orders the Tsarevich to immerse into the sea three times to turn into a bumblebee. Guidon flies off to catch up with the ship.
The ship is mooring to the seashore of Tmutarakan. Saltan invites the Sailors to his palace to the apparent displeasure of Babarikha and the sisters. The travelers notice how sad the Tsar is and how sad is his household.
In gratitude for the invitation, the guests speak of the miracles they have seen in the world: the transformation of a deserted island into the beautiful city of Ledenets, where there is a squirrel that can gnaw gold nuts and sing songs, and thirty-three bogatyrs. Then they pass Prince Guidon’s regards. The Cook and the Weaver try to make the Tsar drink witchcraft potion and to distract his attention with other stories. The bumblebee is angry at his aunts and stings each in an eyebrow. Tsar Saltan certainly wants to go to the wonderful island.
Then Babarikha starts a story about the most amazing of miracles: about a princess so beautiful that ‘during the day she outshines the daylight, at night she illuminate the earth.’ The bumblebee stings Babarikha in the eye. Complete uproar begins, but it is not possible to catch the bumblebee.
A shore of Buyan. It’s evening. Guidon dreams of a beautiful princess. He calls the Swan, confesses his love for the princess and asks to find her. The Swan does not immediately fulfill his request: she doubts his feeling. But Guidon insists, he is ready to search for his beloved even in the most distant lands. And finally the Swan says: ‘What sense in searching far away? Let me tell you with a deep sigh: know that your destiny is nigh, I am that princess!’ In the thickening darkness, the Swan-Princess appears in all the dazzling brilliance of her beauty.
In the morning, Tsaritsa Militrisa comes to the seashore. Guidon and the Princess ask her to give consent to the marriage. Militrisa blesses them.
Buyan reveals its wonders.
The ship of Tsar Saltan disembarks on the Island. The Tsar is accompanied by the Cook, the Weaver, and Babarikha.
Guidon greets the guest, and at the Tsar’s request demonstrates him the wonders of the island: the squirrel gnawing nuts, the bogatyrs emerging from the sea, and the Swan-Princess shining in all her glory. Everyone is blinded by her beauty. Saltan is thrilled. He asks the Swan to resurrect Tsaritsa Militrisa with her magic. ‘Behold the tower house! The Swan replies. The Tsaritsa appears on the porch.
The king asks about his son. Guidon comes forward: ‘It is I!’
By the will of the Swan-Princess, the evil charms of Babarikha are destroyed. The Cook and the Weaver fall at the feet of Tsar Saltan, begging for forgiveness. In jubilation, the Tsar forgives everyone and arranges a glorious feast.
Alexei Frandetti’s version
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov "The Tale Of Tsar Saltan"(Opera in four acts with a prologue)
on the playbill