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The Tale of the Pope and of His Workman Balda

opera for children in two acts
music by Boris Kravchenko


Libretto by Boris Kravchenko after the fairy tale of the same name by Alexander Pushkin and Russian fairy tales
Conductor: Alexander Bol’shakov
Stage Director: Margarita Sulimova
Stage Director of the revival: Stepan Vakh
Designer of the revival: Valdimir Rumyantsev after the sketches by Albin Morozov
Chorus Master of the children's chorus: Alla Kim

1 hour 30 minutes

one interval

performed in Russian

Revival of the production: 28 December 2004

Act I

What a market! You can find anything you want! All the goods are good, choose, dont hurry.
Youll find everything!

Was a pope, who is dead.
He went out a-shopping one day
To look for some wares on the way;
And he came on Balda, who was there,
Who was going he knew not where,
And who said, " Why so early abroad, old sire?
And what dost require?"
He replied, For a workman I look,
To be stableman, carpenter, cook;
But where to procure
Such a servant?  a cheap one, be sure!
Says Balda, I will come as thy servant,
Ill be splendid, and punctual, and fervent;
And my pay for the year is  three raps on thy head;
Only, give me boiled wheat, when Im fed.
Then he pondered, that pope;
Scratched his poll, put his hope
In his luck, in the Russian Perhaps.
There are raps, he bethought him, and raps.
And he said to Balda, Let it be so;
There is profit for thee and for me so;
Go and live in my yard,
And see that thou work for me nimbly and hard.
And he lives with the pope, does Balda,
And he sleeps on straw pallet; but ah!
He gobbles like four men,
Yet he labours like seven or more men.

Balda made friends with Alyonushka.

The sun is not up, but the work simply races;
The strip is all ploughed, and the nag in the traces;
All is bought and prepared, and the stove is well heated;
And Balda bakes the egg and he shells it  they eat it. <...>

Everybody is dancing in the popes house. And Alyonushka sorrows: shell have to pay back her debt to the pope. Together with her old grandfather she goes to the pope: he might be kinder after he has had his lunch. The pope is ready to wait till the autumn, but they will have to pay twice as much.

Act II

The popes daughter is dreaming about wedding. She wants to marry Balda. And suddenly, a big bear comes to the yard and starts roaring. Everybody is scared. Balda goes to the yard and raps the bear on the forehead.

But only the pope never blesses
Balda with his love and caresses,
For he thinks all the while of the reckoning;
Time flies, and the hour of repayment is beckoning!
And scarce can he eat, drink, or sleep, for, alack,
Already he feels on his forehead the crack.
So he makes a clean breast to the popess
And he asks where the last rag of hope is?
Now the woman is keen and quick-witted
And for any old trickery fitted, And she says,
I have found us, my master, A way to escape the disaster:
Some impossible job to Balda now allot,
And command it be done to the very last jot;
So thy forehead will never be punished, I say,
And thou never wilt pay him, but send him away.
Then the heart of the pope is more cheerful
And his looks at Balda are less fearful,
And he calls him: Come here to me, do,
Balda., my good workman and true!
Now listen: some devils have said
They will pay me a rent every year till Im dead.
The income is all of the best; but arrears
Have been due from those devils for three mortal years.
So, when thou hast stuffed thyself full with the wheat,
Collect from those devils my quit-rent, complete.
It is idle to jar with the pope; so he,
Balda, goes out and sits by the sea. <...>
Then the devils, no help for it, rose and went
In a ring, and collected the whole of the rent,
And they loaded a sack
On Balda, who made off with a kind of a quack.
And the pope when he sees him
Just skips up and flees him
And hides in the rear of his wife
And straddles, in fear of his life.
But Balda hunts him out on the spot, and see!
Hands over the rent, and demands his fee.
Then the pope, poor old chap,
Put his pate up.
At Rap Number one, up he flew
To the ceiling. At Rap number Two
The pope, the poor wretch,
Lost his tongue and his speech.
And at Rap number Three he was battered
And the old fellows wits, they were shattered.
But Balda, giving judgment, reproached him: Too keen
Upon cheapness, my pope, thou hast been!

Balda is cunning, Balda is clever, Balda is strong!
He punished the pope  he showed that one should never be greedy!

English translation by Oliver Elton of the Tale of the Pope and of His Workman Balda was used