Music: N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov
Libretto: N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, I. F. Tyumenev after the drama of the same name by Lev Mey
Music Director, Conductor: Dmitri Jurowski
Author of Artistic Concept, Stage Director: Vyacheslav Starodubtsev
Set Designer: Vyacheslav Okunev
Costume Designer: Petr Okunev
Lighting Designer: Irina Vtornikova
Stage Movement: Sergei Zakharin
Video Content Maker: Vadim Dulenko
Chief Chorus Master: Vyacheslav Podyelsky
Chorus Master: Sergei Tenitilov
Conductor: Eldar Nagiev
Assistants to Stage Director: Igor Bondarenko, Nikolai Natsybulin
3 hours 30 minutes
Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride (1899) is the composer’s ninth creation; it is rightfully considered one of the most dramatic Russian operas.
The composer had an idea of making an opera after Lev Mey’s drama of the same name back in his early days, but he only got down to it thirty years later. The plot is based on true historic events – a wedding of Ivan the Terrible and Marfa Vasilievna Sobakina, who died unexpectedly two weeks after. Lev Mey’s work is not trying to be an authentic documentary source, however it shapes vivid, lifelike characters surrounded by intense dramatic circumstances. A deep and tragic story of a fair bride, empyrean love, acute jealousy and irreconcilable rivalry is intensified by Rimsky-Korsakov’s genius music and his keen sense of Russian soul. The score comprises plenty of various tunes, which renders the musical landscape intelligible for everyone, while keeping the overall style authentic and highly original.
The first night became a huge success on 22 October 1899 at Mamontov's Private Russian Opera in Moscow. Since then, The Tsar’s Bride has been a popular entry in the Russian opera repertoire, running at best venues of the world. The composer highly valued The Tsar’s Bride and distinguished it upsides with The Snow Maiden from the rest of his creations.
Vasily Stepanovich Sobakin, Novgorodian merchant
Marfa, his daughter
Grigory Grigorievich Gryaznoy, an oprichnik
Grigory Lukianovich Malyuta Skuratov, an oprichnik
Ivan Sergeyevich Lykov, a boyar
Lyubasha, Gryaznoy’s lover
Yelisey Bomeliy, the Tsar's physician
Domna Ivanovna Saburova, the merchant’s wife
Dunyasha, her daughter, Marfa’s friend
Petrovna, the Sobakins’ housekeeper
The Tsar’s stoker
A young lad
Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich
A chamber at Gryaznoy’s house. Grigory is puzzled: he is in love with Marfa, Sobakin’s daughter, but she is already proposed as wife to a young boyar Ivan Lykov. Gryaznoy decides to throw a party and invites the Tsar’s physician to discuss critically important matters. The guests arrive: the oprichniks led by Gryaznoy’s friend Malyuta Skuratov, Ivan Lykov and Yelisey Bomeliy. Lykov speaks of distant land he has recently travelled. People are praising the Tsar, having fun and enjoying themselves. Malyuta thinks of Lyubasha, Gryaznoy’s lover. Grigory calls for Lyubasha. By Malyuta’s request she sings a song about a tragic fate of a girl, who is forced to marry a man she doesn’t love. The guests leave and Grigory asks Bomeliy to stay. Lyubasha eavesdrops on them. Grigory asks the physician for a love potion to mesmerize a girl. Bomeliy promises to help.
After Bomeliy leaves Lyubasha chides Grigory for not loving her anymore. Gryaznoy doesn’t seem to care. The morning service is announced, Grigory leaves. Lyubasha swears to find the romance wrecker and “disenchant” her.
A street in Alexandrovskaya village. Marfa tells her friend about her new groom Ivan Lykov. The oprichniks arrive. Marfa doesn’t recognize Ivan the Terrible in their leader, however his stare frightens her. She calms down when she sees her father and her fiancé. Sobakin invites Lykov in, the girls follow them. Lyubasha appears near the Sobakins’ residence. She wants to see her rival and so she looks inside the window. Lyubasha is stunned by Marfa’s pure beauty. Desperate, she addresses to Bomeliy and asks for a potion that could perish beauty. Bomeliy agrees to help the girl in exchange for her love.
Outraged with such audacious offer, Lyubasha wants to leaves, but the physician threatens to tell Gryaznoy about her request. Overhearing Marfa’s laugh at the Sobakins’ residence Lyubasha realizes she will accept the physician’s terms.
The best man
Vasily Sobakin is having guests, Ivan Lykov and Grigory Gryaznoy. The latter has successfully solicited his way to the bridesman. They are waiting for the girls, who are about to be back from the bride-show, accompanied by Dunyasha Saburova’s mother. Domna Saburova enters the room and speaks of the bride-show. The tsar has barely looked at Marfa, but acted quite affectionate with Dunyasha. Lykov is relieved. Grigory fills two cups to celebrate the bride and the groom adding the love potion to Marfa’s cup. As soon as Marfa enters the chamber, Grigory congratulates the benempt and provides the cups. According to the ancient tradition, Marfa empties her cup. Saburova starts a song of praise.
Accompanied by boyars, Malyuta appears with glory to announce the tsar’s will – Marfa is chosen to wed Ivan the Terrible.
At the tsar’s tower. Sobakin is devastated by his daughter’s unexpected illness. Gryaznoy arrives bearing the tsar’s words. He tells Marfa that Lykov confessed his intention to waste Marfa with a potion, so the tsar ordered his execution, which was carried out by Gryaznoy. Overwhelmed by the news, Marfa passes out. Upon regaining her consciousness, Marfa confuses Gryaznoy for Lykov, speaks to him with love recollecting the time they spent together. Staggered, Gryaznoy confesses he defamed Lykov and tricked Marfa by giving her the potion. He is desperate to be judged, but prior to that he wants to settle accounts with Bomeliy, who has betrayed him. “First deal with me” – says Lyubasha. She tells that she switched the love potion with a poison, which was used on Marfa. Grigory stabs Lyubasha with a knife. Marfa is looking through all of this. She is reliving her best time with Ivan Lykov.