Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky based on the play King René’s Daughter by Henrik Hertz
Conductor: Evgeny Volynsky
Stage Director: Mikhail Pandzhavidze
Stage Designer: Igor Grinevich
Lighting Designer: Sergey Shevchenko
Principal Chorus Master: Vyacheslav Podyelsky
Conductors: Alexander Bolshakov, Alexander Novikov
Stage Director’s Assistants: Tatiana Grigorieva, Alexander Lebedev
Video: Alexander Martyanov, Pavel Suvorov
Chorus Master: Sergey Tenitilov
Principal Pianists: Tatiana Epishina, Ekaterina Misyura, Irina Nemova
Director’s Assistants: Irina Angakieva, Nina Andryushchenko, Oksana Zhegulskaya, Elena Kochetova
1 hour 50 minutes
performed in Russian
Première of the production: 14 November 2010
Iolanta at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre
- The opera was first staged at the theatre on 22 November 1953 (conductor: Josef Aizikovich, stage director: Lev Mikhaylov, stage designer: Albin Morozov)
- In November 1992, to celebrate the centenary of its première, Iolanta received a concert performance (conducted by Alexey Lyudmilin)
“Iolanta” is one of the most cheerful and optimistic works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Moving storyline is based on a Dutch legend about a blind young girl who got cured by love. New production by Mikhail Pandzhavidze sets the action at the present day but the story about overwhelming power of love will not lose its beauty and sincerity.
King René and the Duke of Burgundy were at war for a long time and at last made peace. They also agreed that their children, a 9-year-old Robert and a newborn Iolanta would get married, when they turned 16. After the agreement was concluded t a fire took place in King René’s palace. The little Iolanta was saved being thrown out of the window to the pillows; the child was not hurt visibly, but later it was found out that the shock took its toll: Iolanta lost her eyesight.
King René is worried that his former enemy, the Duke of Burgundy, would think that he knew about the defect of his daughter before concluding the marital contract and would break the contract. He decides to hide his daughter’s defect even from Iolanta.
With this purpose the King has built a luxurious palace with a beautiful garden in a lonely place and lodged his daughter there, surrounded by tutors, servants and an escort of young girlfriends.
All of them are prohibited under pain of death to give Iolanta a clue of her defect.
The day of her coming of age is approaching, it means that soon she is to get married.
The Princess lives surrounded by her friends, under the patronage of her nanny Marta and her husband, Bertrand. Iolanta feels that she is different from the other people but don’t understand why, as nobody dares to mention daylight and eyesight.
King René has tried every treatment for his daughter and has to take the extreme measure: he has brought Ibn-Hakia, the renowned physician from Mauritania. Iolanta’s friends lull her to sleep so that the physician could examine her.
After examining the sleeping Iolanta, Ibn-Hakia concludes: in order to be cured, Iolanta must know about her defect and must wish to see the daylight. René is confused. He understands that without this the physician won’t agree to operate on her, but he knows how horrified she will be and doesn’t dare to reveal her the secret.
Meanwhile, Gottfried Vaudémont, the young Count of Burgundy, sees Iolanta sitting alone on the terrace. He accompanies his friend, Duke Robert, who is heading to King René’s estate to meet his fiancée. They lost their way and found themselves in the garden surrounding Iolanta’s palace.
Vaudémont is enchanted by the beautiful girl. But Robert is indifferent to Iolanta’s beauty: he is madly in love with Mathilde, the Countess of Lorraine, who “has sparkles in her black eyes”. His love is marred by the fact that it’s time to marry King René’s daughter, who he has never seen.
Robert can’t imagine his life without Mathilde. “The King will agree to break the engagement, — Vaudémont consoles him. — He is said to be kind and wise!”
Iolanta wakes up and hears unfamiliar voices. She asks the strangers who they are and where they are from, but Vaudémont answers ambiguously: “We have lost our way after our journey through the mountains and the woods...” Iolanta offers some wine to the knights, but Robert suspects that being a trap and leaves. Vaudémont stays tête-à-tête with Iolanta and, enchanted by her beauty, confesses his admiration to her: “You appeared to me as a vision of heavenly beauty.”
King René’s daughter is embarrassed, she is listening to the knight and cutting roses. Vaudémont asks her to give him a red rose to remind of their meeting. Iolanta cuts a white rose. “I asked for a red one” — “What does that mean? I don’t know” — Iolanta touches a bush of white roses again. “Yet again? You have cut a white rose again,” — Vaudémont exclaims. The embarrassed Iolanta cuts white roses again and again. “What does it mean, a red one?..”
“Oh Lord, she’s blind. Poor girl!” — Vaudémont is stricken by the terrible guess. He enthusiastically tells the girl about the beauty of nature, about the daylight — a source of knowledge. But Iolanta still doesn’t want to see: “Can I wish for something that I understand only vaguely?”
The King and the physician find Iolanta in Vaudémont’s company. King René is horror-stricken that the secret is revealed, but Ibn-Hakia remind that there is only one condition left for Iolanta to be cured.
The King wants Iolanta to wish to see and has to take the extreme measure: he threatens the Count with death penalty: “You’ll die, if the physician’s treatment fails!” Iolanta, who has fallen in love with Vaudémont, fears for his life and passionately wishes to see: “I’ll see and he’ll live.” Now Ibn-Hakia believes in the success of the operation.
Meanwhile, Robert and his escort come back to save Vaudémont. Robert is embarrassed to meet King René and Vaudémont begs his friend to disclose his love to Mathilde. “Now my fate is in your hands: if you order, I’ll walk down the aisle with your daughter, but in my heart I’ll be faithful to Mathilde!” Robert addresses the King. “You’re free from your promise”, René says.
Bertrand arrives to bring the news about the miracle: Iolanta can see! The happy René blesses Iolanta’s marriage with Vaudémont. Everybody glorifies the Lord.