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234th Season

Main Stage

22 November
2016 | Tuesday
Opera evening: Iolanta. Aleko
Artists Credits
Literary Consultant
Piotr Gruszczynski
Opera company
Magdalena Musial, Costume Designer
Marc Heinz, Lighting Designer
Maestro Valery Gergiev, Musical Director
Marina Mishuk, Musical Preparation
Andrei Petrenko, Principal Chorus Master
Boris Kudlichka, Set Designer
Mariusz Trelinski, Stage Director

Running time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Iolanta – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's last opera – was written two years before the composer’s death. In 1884 Tchaikovsky read the one-act play King Rene’s Daughter by the Danish dramatist Henrik Hertz. The poetic story of Iolanta who has been blind from birth and is cured of her ailment through love inspired Tchaikovsky, who was looking for a subject for a short, lyrical opera.
The eternal gloom in which Iolanta lives peacefully becomes a symbol of spiritual blindness and the source of deep pain for those close to her. Love ignites her heart’s desire to see the world and inspires her courage to undergo the pain that will enable her to see.
At the request of the composer, his brother Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote an operatic libretto after the plot of King Rene’s Daughter. The opera was written between July and December 1891, and the premiere took place at the Mariinsky Theatre on 6 December 1892.
It is believed that the composer’s philosophical intentions are reflected in the plot of the opera, as he had a keen interest in the philosophy of Spinoza. Whether that is the case or not Iolanta stands apart from Tchaikovsky’s other works because of its unusual "otherworldly" plot and the touching, light and serene music.

Aleko, composed in 1892, was Rachmaninoff's graduation work for the Moscow Conservatoire. The complex conditions for writing the opera (the pre-prepared libretto was by Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko after Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin's poem The Gypsy; nothing could be altered and there was a time limit – just one month could be spent on the score) did not prevent the young composer from becoming truly engaged in the subject. As Rachmaninoff later recalled, his opera drew Tchaikovsky's attention and Tchaikovsky's influence in Russia's music circles was so great that at his advice the young composer´s opera was accepted for production by the Bolshoi Theatre. The premiere took place on 27 April 1893. After the stunning success of the opera, Tchaikovsky asked Rachmaninoff if he would agree to a combined production of Iolanta and Aleko at the Bolshoi Theatre in autumn the same year. Tchaikovsky's unexpected death prevented this plan from coming to fruition…

one act opera
Music by Sergei Rakhmaninov
Libretto by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenkoafter the poem by Alexander Pushkin

one act opera
Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky after the play Kong Renes datter by Henrik Hertz

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Director: Mariusz Trelinski
Production Designer: Boris Kudlicka
Costume Designer: Magdalena Musial
Lighting Designer: Marc Heinz
Cinematographer: Wojciech Pus
Choreographer: Tomasz Wygoda
Animators: Michaі Jankowski and Tomasz Popakul
Literary Consultant: Piotr Gruszczynski
Musical Preparation: Marina Mishuk
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko

Co-production of the Festspielhaus Baden Baden

The Performance has one intermission

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky´s Iolanta and Sergei Vasilievich Rakhmaninov´s Aleko are, arguably, two of the most widely-loved Russian chamber operas. There performance together in one evening is first and foremost a tribute to these two great composers as well as an observance of the composer´s own wishes.

Iolanta was Tchaikovsky´s last opera, one of the most vivid and unusual works he wrote. The bibretto was created by the composer´s brother Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky after the drama King René´s Daughter by Danish playwright Henrik Hertz. At the composer´s own admission, he was seeking a subject “not of this world”, of purely lyrical quality and specifically for a chamber opera. He found all of this in Iolanta, which reflects Tchaikovsky´s moral and philosophical searches from the closing years of his life. The opera was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre on 6 December 1892.

Aleko, also composed in 1892, was Rakhmaninov´s graduation work for the Moscow Conservatoire. The complex conditions for writing the opera (the pre-prepared libretto was by Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko after Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin´s poem The Gupsy; nothing could be altered and there was a time limit – just one month could be spent on the score) did not prevent the young composer from becoming truly engaged in the subject. As Rakhmaninov later recalled, his opera drew Tchaikovsky´s attention and Tchaikovsky´s influence in Russia´s music circles was so great that at his advice the young composer´s opera was accepted for production by the Bolshoi Theatre. The premiere took place on 27 April 1893. After the stunning success of the opera, Tchaikovsky asked Rakhmaninov if he would agree to a combined production of Iolanta and Aleko at the Bolshoi Theatre in autumn the same year. Tchaikovsky´s unexpected death prevented this plan from coming to fruition…

Vladimir Goryachikh



Opera in two acts by Peter Tchaikovsky

Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky based on Heinrich Hertz’s dramatic poem Koenig Renes Tochter

Premiere:  18 December, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Performed in Russian with English supertitles.


The action takes place in XV century. Iolanta, the blind daughter of the King of Provence, is whiling away the time in the gar­den of the castle. As the curtain rises she is talk­ing to her nurse, Marta. She tells Marta that she has never ever felt so depressed, Iolanta’s friends, Brigitte and Laura, try to cheer her up by singing songs and bringing her posies of flowers. Marta also tries to comfort Iolanta by singing her favourite lullaby. This sends Iolanta to sleep. The sleeping Iolanta is carried into the castle. There is a fanfare of trumpets and Almerik, King Rene’s sword-bearer, appears. He informs the castle doorman, Bertrand, that very soon the King will be arriving with a famous Physician who, it is hoped, will cure Iolanta of her blindness. The trumpets sound again, announcing the arrival of the King. King Rene enters accompanied by the Moorish Physician, Ibn-Hakia. King Rene tells Ibn-Hakia that Iolanta has been betrothed from infancy to Robert, Duke of Burgundy, and is soon to marry him, but the Duke does not know that his future wife is blind and, indeed, Iolanta herself is totally unaware of her misfortune, Iolanta had been brought up by her father in this remote cas­tle and he had surrounded her with loyal retain­ers whom he had ordered on pain of death not to tell her the truth. Ibn-Hakia says that the only cure for Iolanta is to inform her of her disability and then, so long as she passionately wishes to recover her sight, she will do so. King Rene, full of anxieties for his daughter, retires in indecision to the castle together with the Physician.

Robert, Duke of Burgundy, and his friend the Knight, Count Vaudemont, appear on the scene. They are impressed to find a beautiful garden in such a wild, remote spot. The notice over the entrance to the garden which threatens with death anyone entering it without permission, puz­zles them. Robert is downhearted for he is soon to be united in matrimony with Iolanta whom he has never met and his heart already belongs to another, Iolanta appears on the castle terrace. Vaudemont is struck by her beauty. Hearing voic­es, she does not recognize, Iolanta suggests to the strangers that they rest under the shade of the trees and she hurries off to fetch them some wine. Left alone with his friend, the Duke, who has a sceptical attitude to the world, voices his apprehensions and decides to leave; Vaudemont, who is quite enchanted by Iolanta’s beauty, stays behind. When Iolanta returns he tells her of the great impression she has made on him and asks her to pick him a red rose in mem­ory of their meeting, Iolanta plucks him a rose, but it is a white one. Vaudemont repeats his request and again he is handed a white rose. The Count begins to suspect something is wrong. He picks a bunch of roses and asks Iolanta to tell him how many flowers there are in the bunch, Iolanta asks him to give her the roses so that she may count them. Vaudemont now realizes that Iolanta is blind. And he tells her so. He tries, in so far as is possible, to comfort Iolanta but, getting somewhat carried away, he starts to describe to her the beauties of God’s world which she is destined never to see.

Voices are heard: the King enters, followed by Physician Ibn-Hakia and servants. Rene is horrified when he learns that Vaudemont has told Iolanta of her disability; he does not know what to do to help his daughter and eventually suggests that she should try Physician Ibn-Hakia’s course of treatment, Iolanta is not enthusiastic about this and says she is quite happy as she is which makes the Physician lose all hope that his treatment will be effective. Noticing that Iolanta is very much taken by Vaudemont, King Rene tells the Knight that he will be executed unless his daughter recov­ers her sight, Iolanta, out of her mind with love for Vaudemont, begs the Physician to cure her and goes with him into the castle.

A fanfare of trumpets announces the arrival of the Duke of Burgundy who, with a group of armed knights, is hurrying to the rescue of his friend. Robert is amazed to see King Rene. Vaudemont confesses to Robert that he is in love with Iolanta, the latter’s betrothed, and asks him to tell the King that he, Robert, has given his heart to someone else. Rene consents to the marriage of Iolanta and Count Vaudemont. Shouts of joy are heard, Iolanta, who has recov­ered her sight, appears at the castle door. Overjoyed, King Rene hurries to embrace his daughter and then leads Vaudemont up to her. Falling on her knees, Iolanta gives passionate thanks to God for her recovery.



Opera in one act by Sergey Rakhmaninov

Aleko is the first of three completed operas by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The Russian libretto was written by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and is an adaptation of the poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin. The opera was written in 1892 as a graduation work at the Moscow Conservatory, and it won the highest prizes from the conservatory judges that year. It was first performed in Moscow in 1893.

Premiere: 9 May, 1893 at the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow, Russia.

Sung in Russian.


Weary of his boring upper-class life, Aleko runs off with a band of Gypsies. He moves in with Zemfira, a young gypsy, and she bears him a child. The Old Gypsy, Zemfira's father, warns Aleko not to become too possessive of Zemfira. However, Aleko kills both Zemfira and the man he thinks is her lover. The Gypsies cast him out and disown him.

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