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234th Season

Mariinsky II (New Theatre)

20 March
2017 | Monday
The Oprichnik
Opera in 4 acts
Artists Credits
Victor Vysotsky
Opera company
Maestro Valery Gergiev, Musical Director
Irina Soboleva, Musical Preparation
Pavel Teplov, Principal Chorus Master
Performed in Russian, with synchronised English supertitles
World premiere: 12 Apr 1874 Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, St Petersburg, Russia
Premiere of this production: 09 Nov 2015

The performance has 1 intermission
Running time: 3 hours 15 minutes

World premiere: 12 April 1874, St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre 
Premiere of this production: 9 November 2015, Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, St Petersburg

Running time 3 hours 15 minutes 
The performance has one interval



Act I 
Moscow in the 16th century. It is a time of relentless struggle between the noble oprichniks headed by Tsar Ivan the Terrible and the boyars’ domains. Andrei, the son of the boyar Morozov, is stuck between these two irreconcilable forces. Family traditions and the influence of his imperious and stern mother link him strongly to the boyars. Yet there is a force compelling Andrei towards the oprichniks – the thirst for revenge on Prince Zhemchuzhny, who brought the Morozovs to ruin. Andrei has a deep love for the prince’s daughter Natalia, to whom he was engaged when both families were still living in peace and friendship.

The garden of Zhemchuzhny’s home. The prince proposes that his daughter marry the boyar Mitkov: he is pleased that the old man, head over heels in love, demands no dowry. But Natalia is not the kind to let her fate be decided without her own involvement. From childhood betrothed to Andrei Morozov and in love with him with all her heart, she bursts out of her father’s stuffy terem to meet the friend she wishes to see. Her father has cruelly scorned the Morozovs, but Natalia remains true to Andrei. In order seek justice from Zhemchuzhny, avenge his ridiculed father and save Natalia, Andrei has agreed to become an oprichnik, submitting to threats from his friend, the oprichnik Basmanov.

Act II 
Scene 1 
A hut in semidarkness to which Andrei and his mother have come following their ruination. An anxious love for her son, wounded pride and dark malice seethe in the boyarynya Morozova’s heart beneath a veil of humility and obedience to God’s will. Most of all, the elderly boyarynya detests the oprichniks. Andrei returns with money he has been given by Basmanov. Morozova does not wish to accept assistance from an oprichnik. Trying to appease his mother, Andrei must hide from her his intention to go to the tsar and become an oprichnik himself. 
Scene 2 
The Alexandrovskaya Sloboda, the tsar’s chambers. Andrei Morozov is being received into the ranks of the oprichniks. Mustering up all his courage, he gives a terrible oath of loyalty: to reject the boyars, friendship, family and his beloved mother. It is with joy that Prince Vyazminsky who is close to the tsar sees he has doubts; he hates the entire Morozov family and is already planning a trap for Andrei in his mind.

Act III 
A square in Moscow. Natalia, who has fled her father’s home, asks Morozova for shelter and protection from her loathsome fiancé. The old woman refuses to help her. The fugitive is caught by her father who is enraged at her taking such liberties. Prince Zhemchuzhny orders his servants to tie up his daughter. Led by Morozov and Basmanov, the oprichniks arrive in time and free the girl. Only now does Morozova realise that her son has become an oprichnik and she curses him in fury. The shocked Andrei decides to entreat the tsar to allow him to leave the oprichniks.

Act IV 
The Alexandrovskaya Sloboda. The oprichniks are merrily celebrating the wedding of Andrei and Natalia. Natalia’s heart knows little peace. Although the tsar has allowed Andrei to leave the oprichniks, in line with tradition the youth must remain true to his terrible oath until midnight. If only midnight would come sooner! But before it arrives Andrei’s fate is decided. Prince Vyazminsky brings him a decree from the tsar: the tsar demands the beautiful Natalia be sent to him. In vain Basmanov tries to convince Andrei that this is just a test of his loyalty. Andrei refuses to carry out the tsar’s orders and in so doing breaks his solemn oath. On the square, in front of the windows, the executioners erect their scaffolding. The chamber empties. The triumphant Prince Vyazminsky ushers in Morozova and beckons her to the window – to see her son. On seeing Andrei being executed, Morozova drops down dead. The gloomily triumphant chorus of oprichniks praise the terrible tsar.

Tchaikovsky made his Mariinsky debut with The Oprichnik. The opera is in four acts with the libretto written by Tchaikovsky himself. The tragedy The Oprichnik by Ivan Lazhechnikov (1782-1869) was the inspiration for the subject of the opera. Tchaikovsky worked on the opera from February 1870 to March 1872 and includes music from his earlier failed opera The Voyevoda (1869). The Oprichnik was dedicated to Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, the brother of Tsar Alexander II. The opera premiered at the Mariinsky Theater on April 24, 1874 in St. Petersburg. The subject of the opera is about the oprichniki, the personal guards of Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible). These guardsmen were formed during the period of Ivan’s reign know as the Oprichnina. Ivan IV abdicated the throne because of treason from the boyars and the clergy. The boyars were unable to rule in his absence and asked Ivan to return to the throne. He agreed to return on the condition of being granted absolute power, with the means to execute and confiscate the estates of traitors without the interference from the boyar council or the Church. The boyars accepted Ivan IV’s demands. The oprichniki enjoyed social and economic privileges. They owe their allegiance and status to the Tsar and not to heredity and local bonds. The oprichniki were given estates that were confiscated and they were not accountable for their actions. They held complete control over the Russian people. I was always interested how an opera based on this time period would translate on the stage and once again Tchaikovsky proved what a musical genius he was. I was surprised by how much the storyline flowed between the acts. The opera focused more on the love story of the two young characters and the betrayal of a son to his mother then the role of the oprichniki. I was really impressed how they used the stage of the Mariinsky Theater Concert Hall for an opera production. I enjoyed The Oprichnik so much that I have brought another ticket to see it again.

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1 Theatre Square
St. Petersburg
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34 Dekabristov Street
St. Petersburg
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20 Pisareva street
St. Petersburg

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