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The Tale of Tsar Saltan

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.

Production conductor – Alexander Anisimov,
Production director – Ivan Fadeev (Moscow),
Production designer – Victor Gerasimenko (Moscow).
SYNOPSIS

Prologue

On a wintry evening three sisters are sitting at spinning wheels. As Tsar Saltan overhears from outside the door, the oldest sister boasts that, if she were Tsaritsa (the bride of the Tsar), she would prepare a sumptuous feast; the middle sister would weave a grand linen; the youngest promises to bear, as son for the Tsar, a valiant knight. Saltan enters, chooses the third sister to be his bride and takes her away. The old woman Babarikha devises a revenge for the two jealous older sisters.

Act 1

The Tsar has gone off to war. In his palace in Tmutarakan, the Tsaritsa has given birth to a son. Her sisters and Babarikha are now part of the court: the older sister as Cook, and the middle sister as Weaver. They have secretly replaced the message of the Tsaritsa to her husband with news of her son's birth with another message: it said that she has borne a monster. The young Tsarevich baby, who has been lulled to sleep during this scene, awakens and runs about, accompanied by his nurses, and the people wish God's blessings upon him. Then a messenger stumbles in. His message says scribes: the Tsaritsa and her progeny must be placed in a barrel and thrown into the sea. Reluctantly the people carry out the Tsar's command.
The Tsaritsa and her son Gvidon have landed on the island of Buyan, and broken out of the barrel in which they were trapped. Gvidon, who has grown remarkably rapidly into a young man, is searching for sustenance. While doing this, he rescues the Swan-Bird from being killed by an evil magician in the shape of a kite.
With the dawn a magic city of Ledenets appears before the Tsaritsa and Gvidon. Its inhabitants thank Gvidon for killing their oppressor, the evil magician, and hail Gvidon as their Prince.

Act 2

By the shore of Buyan, the merchant ships have left, and Gvidon laments having being separated from his father. The Swan-Bird will help him by changing him into a bumblebee. He will be able to fly over the sea, as a stowaway on Saltan's ship.
The sailors arrive at Tmutarakan from their visit to Buyan. The sailors tell Tsar Saltan of the wonders of Gvidon's island. The two older sisters are concerned that the Tsar will become interested in visiting the island, and they try to dissuade him. In retaliation the bumble-bee Gvidon stings each of them in the brow. Babarikha then tries to trump the sailors, by speaking of a fabulous Princess on the sea, at which point Gvidon stings her in the eye and blinds her, then flies away.
Back at Buyan, Gvidon longs for a bride. The Swan-Bird appears, and Gvidon tells her of the Princess that he heard about at Tmutarakan. The Swan-Bird transforms herself into that very Princess. The Tsaritsa and a chorus of maidens enter, and bless the prospect of their wedding.
Gvidon, with his mother hidden, awaits the arrival of Saltan. When the ship arrives with the Tsar and his retinue, Gvidon greets him, and questions him as to whether or not he will have a son to carry on his work. The Saltan does not yet know that Gvidon is his son, and expresses regret for his rash treatment of his wife many years earlier. Although Gvidon tries to cheer him up with the three wonders, it becomes clear that only the presence of Militrisa can assuage Saltan's guilt. The Princess-Swan appears and reveals the Tsar's long-lost wife. The older sisters beg forgiveness, which in his happiness Saltan grants. Everyone then joins in a celebration of the upcoming wedding of Gvidon and the Princess-Swan.

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Characters in the play:

Tsar Saltan (Saltán)
Tsaritsa Militrisa
Tkachikha (Weaver), middle sister
Povarikha (Cook), older sister
Babarikha (Old Woman), aunt in-law
Tsarevich Gvidon (Gvidón)
Tsarevna Swan-Bird (Lyebyed)
Old man
Messenger
Skomorokh (Jester)
Three sailors
Boyars, boyarïnyas, courtiers, nurses, clerks, guards, soldiers, sailors, astrologers, runners, singers, servant men and women, male and female dancers, and people, Thirty-three knights of the sea with master Chernomor, Squirrel, Bumblebee.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908). 
Librettist: Vladimir Belsky, based on the fairy-tale by Alexander Pushkin.
Premiere: 3 November 1900, Solodovnikov Theatre, Moscow.

Next operas

  1. 1
    31 march 2019,
    12:00
    Buy / Book ticket
  2. 2
    31 march 2019,
    18:30
    Buy / Book ticket
Genre: Opera
Title: The Tale of Tsar Saltan
Duration: 2 часа
Acts count: 2
Premiere date: 21 June 2013
Age restriction: 6+



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