Based on the L.Mei’s drama of the same name
The Mei’s drama is based on the historical (though not well-known) episode of the tsar Ivan the Terrible’s third marriage. That is how the story runs according to the Karamzin’s “History of the Russian State”: “Feeling bored for widowerhood though not innocent Ivan the Terrible’s for looking for a third wife… From all the cities two thousand brides, both noble and ignoble were brought to be introduced to him specially. Firstly he chose 24, then 12... he compared their beauty, agreeability, wit; finally he preferred Marfa Vasilevna Sobakina, the Novgorod merchant’s daughter. But the tsar’s bride got ill, grew thin. They said she was poisoned by evil people, those who envied Ivan’s family happiness. Malicious slanderer, doctor Yelisei Bomeliy suggested tsar killing evil persons by means of poison and created such a mixture that the poisoned person died in exact time, indicated by the tsar. That is how Ivan executed one of his favorites, Grigoriy Gryaznyi, prince Ivan Gvozdev-Rostovskiy and many others, considered participants of the tsar bride poisoning.
Meanwhile the tsar married sick Marfa (28 of October, 1572), hoping that she would recover thanks to his love and trust in God; in 6 days he gave his son in marriage with Yevdokia Saburova, but the wedding feast turned into funerals: Marfa died on the 13 of November, being either the victim of the people’s rage or the originator of the execution of the innocent”.
The Mei’s subject was mainly kept in the opera and the whole drama was emphasized by the genius music.
Music director and conductor — honoured artist of Russia Vladimir Kovalenko
Production director — honoured artist of Russia Georgiy Miller (Chelyabinsk)
Art director — Stanislav Fesko (Yekaterinburg)
Costumer — Svetlana Ponomarenko Choirmaster — honoured artist of Russia Valeria Navrotskaya
Conductors: distinguished artist of Russia Boris Benkogenov, Evgeny Khokhlov
Director — Marina Shapkina Designer — Natalia Khokhlova Choreographer — honoured artist of Russia Nadezhda Malygina
Oprichnik Grigory has fallen passionately in love with Marfa, daughter of the merchant Sobakin, but Marfa is betrothed to the young boyar Ivan Lykov. In order to put his love out of his mind, Grigory called some guests to a drinking-party. The guests arrive, led by Malyuta Skuratov. Lykov who just returned to Russia, tells the company of the life abroad. At Malyuta’s request, Lyubasha, Grigory’s mistress, sings a song. The carousal comes to an end and the guests depart. Gryaznoy detains Bomelius, the Tsar’s foreign physician. Lyubasha hides and listens to their conversation. Gryaznoy asks Bomelius for a love potion. After Bomelius has gone, Lyubasha accuses Grigory of having fallen out of love with her but Grigory won’t listen and leaves when the bells sound for the morning service. Lyubasha is left alone with her despair.
At the porch of her house, Marfa stands talking to her friend Dunyasha of her betrothed, Ivan Lykov. A group of Oprichniks appears through the monastery gates. Marfa doesn’t recognize Ivan the Terrible who is leading the group, but the stranger’s gaze frightens her. Sobakin invites Lykov into the house and the girls follow them in. Lyubasha. steals up to the porch: she wants to have a look at her rival. Struck by Marfa’s beauty, Lyubasha rushes to Bomelius’s house and begs him to sell her a poison. Bomelius demands Lyubasha’s love in return. Indignant, Lyubasha wants to leave, but Bomelius threatens to tell Gryaznoy. The sound of Marfa’s laughter coming from the Sobakins house, makes Lyubasha agree to Bomelius’s terms. Sobakin tells Lykov and Gryaznoy that Marfa and Dunyasha have been summoned to the palace along with other girls as the Tsar intends to choose himself a bride. This alarms both men. Gryaznoy offers to be Lykov’s best man at his wedding. Domna Saburova, Duniasha’s mother, appears. She describes the ceremony: the Tsar hardly glanced in Marfa’s direction, but he paid Dunyasha a lot of attention. Lykov sighs with relief. Following the betrothal ceremony rules, Gryaznoy fills two goblets for the bride and bridegroom. Unnoticed, he pours the love potion powder that Bomelius has given him into Marfa’s goblet, congratulates the couple and makes them drink. Malyuta appears and proclaims the Tsar’s will: Marfa is to be his wife.
The Tsar’s chamber where Marfa, the Tsar’s bride, is now living before her wedding. But she has fallen gravely ill. Gryaznoy appears, and Marfa comes out of her room, pretending to be well. Gryaznoy tells Marfa that Lykov had confessed to giving Marfa a poison, and that he, Gryaznoy, with his own hands had carried out the Tsar’s sentence. Marfa falls unconscious. When she recovers, she recognizes no one. Mistaking Gryaznoy for Lykov, she converses tenderly with him. Shaken by Marfa’s words, Gryaznoy admits that he had slandered Lykov and that he was the one who gave Marfa the love potion. But Marfa doesn’t hear him at all. Gryaznoy is desperate with guilt. But before going to his trial, he wants to have his revenge on Bomelius. Lyubasha who has appeared in the palace, tells Grigory how she had substituted poison for the love potion Bomelius had given him, and which Grigory had then given to Marfa. Grigory kills Lyubasha. But Marfa sees and hears nothing. All her thoughts are in the past, with Lykov.
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908). The libretto is by Rimsky-Korsakov and I. Tiumenev