The Oprichnik

opera in four acts

music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky

2 hours 30 minutes
1 act
60 min
interval 30 min
2 act
60 min
for viewers over 12 years old
performed in Russian

Tchaikovsky made his name as an opera composer with The Oprichnik. The operas plot takes audiences back to the time of Ivan the Terrible. At the centre of the dramatic narrative is young boyar Andrey Morozov, who is determined to restore his familys honour and get his beloved back. He makes the difficult choice to join the ranks of the oprichnina  the tsars personal guard  and finds himself sitting next to his beautiful bride at his wedding feast... However, the oath he has made to the tsar requires his complete obedience to the will of the monarch, who has plans of his own for Andreys young wife.

Tchaikovsky finished work on the score for The Oprichnik in the spring of 1872, but the world premiere took place in St. Petersburg only two years later, on 12 April 1874. The performance, conducted by Eduard Napravnik, was well received not only by the press, but also by the audience. The opera ran for three seasons, but Tchaikovskys opinion of his work remained unchanged despite this success: he was dissatisfied with The Oprichnik and forbade publication of the score until he had reworked it. Tchaikovsky worked on updating the opera in the last year of his life, sometimes erasing entire pages from the first version of the score, but he ran out of time to bring his plan to fruition. Using Tchaikovskys edits and notes, the creators behind the Mikhailovsky Theatre production have slimmed the score down, removing redundant repetitions and dramatically reimagining certain parts of the opera.

Moscow. Second half of the 16th century. Ivan the Terrible sees traitors everywhere, and his oprichniks receive special powers to fight them. They look for traitors and execute then without trial. A thirst for revenge for his ruined family pushes the young Boyar Andrey Morozov to join the ranks of these imperial guards. But this act leads to unimaginable consequences.

Scene 1

Prince Zhemchuzhnys garden that used to belong to Boyar Morozov. The Prince promises his daughter Natalia in marriage to the old Boyar Molchan Mitkov. Natalia was promised to Andrey Morozov but Prince Zhemchuzhny has changed his mind: after Andreys father fell in battle, Zhemchuzhny defraud his house and kicked Andrey and his mother out of it. Natalia is desperate as she is still in love with Andrey.

Andrey Morozov arrives with oprichnik Basmanov, the Tsars favourite. He wants to see Natalia before his visit to the Tsar: Andrey hopes that the Tsar will serve justice upon Zhemchuzhny. On Basmanovs advice, Andrey decides to become an oprichnik in order to take revenge on Zhemchuzhny. When they leave, Natalia returns and mourns her fate, unconsoled by the singing and dancing of her maids.

Scene 2

Andreys mother, the Boyarynya Morozova, laments on her misfortunes and worries about Andrey. Andrey comes to ask her permission to leave for Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda. Andrey does not dare to tell her of his plans to join oprichniks. Morozova gives him her blessing. She craves for vengeance no less then her son but her heart is heavy.

Scene 3

Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda. Sentenced traitors pray for their souls. Oprichniks led by Vyazminsky beat up the prisoners.

The Tsar has decided to enroll Andrey to oprichnina. In an agony of doubt, Andrey takes his oath. Vyazminsky makes Andrey kill a young prisoner to prove his loyalty.

Scene 4

Cathedral in Moscow. People pray for the Tsars return to the capital. Morozova prays for her son. Boys taunt her as oprichniks mother. Natalia runs into Morozovas arms for protection from the pursuing Zhemchuzhny and her old groom. Zhemchuzhny tells his servants to seize his disobedient daughter. Suddenly oprichniks, led by Basmanov and

Andrey, appear. Zhemchuzhny is defeated and Natalia is free. Andrey exults in his victory, but Morozova condemns her son for joining oprichniks.
Andrey is stunned at this turn of events. Basmanov suggests that the Tsar might consent to release him from his oath.

Scene 5

Wedding of Natalia and Andrey. Andrey is to be released from his oath at midnight. Oprichniks congratulate the newly-weds but they cannot hide their contempt for noble boyars, relatives of Natalia and Andrey. Oprichniks taunt Zhemchuzhny, but Andrey stands up for his father-in-law.

Before midnight, Prince Vyazminsky interrupts the festivities with news that the Tsar has sent for Natalia: he wants to meet her in private. Despite Vyazminskys insistence that this is only a test of Andreys loyalty, Andrey breaks his oath by refusing to let her go. Executioners erect their scaffolding. The triumphant Prince Vyazminsky makes Morozova watch Andreys execution.

The Tsar arrives from his chambers. He casually witnesses execution, sets Zhemchuzhny free and consoles Natalia. The chorus of oprichniks praise the tsar.

Premiere of the production: 18 May 2021

Libretto by Pyotr Tchaikovsky after the tragedy by Ivan Lazhechnikov

  • Musical Director of the productionAlexander Soloviev
  • Stage DirectorSergey Novikov
  • Stage and Costume DesignAlexander Kupalian
  • Video DesignerDmitry Kostyaev
  • Lighting DesignerAlexander Kibitkin

Drawings by Apollinary Vasnetsov are used for the video content


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