The Tsar's Bride

opera in three acts

music by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

3 hours 20 minutes
for viewers over 12 years old
performed in Russian

Premiere of the production at the Mikhailovsky Theatre: 25 January 2014

Act 1

The tsar’s oprichnik Grigory Gryaznoy is in love with Marfa, daughter of the merchant Sobakin. He can’t solve the problem using violence as he used to (kidnapping the girl, making her his lover), however, he can’t work it out peacefully — Gryaznoy tried to propose to her, but he was rejected. Marfa is already betrothed to the young boyar, Ivan Lykov, whom she is in love with. Gryaznoy doesn’t want this wedding to happen. He invites guests to his place to feast. The guests include the head of the oprichniks Malyuta Skuratov, Ivan Lykov, who has just returned from abroad, and the tsar’s physi¬cian Yelisey Bomelius.

Guests start arriving. Lykov tells of the life abroad: there is work and order, women are not kept locked at home, arts and sciences flourish. The guests drink the health of the tsar, singers sing Magnificat to the orthodox tsar. Lykov adds that abroad the Russian tsar is rumored to be terrible. Skuratov reproaches Lykov, praises the tsar and sings „goy-da!“ together with the oprichniks. Skuratov asks Gryaznoy, where Lyubasha, Gryaznoy’s lover, is. The sleepy and sad Lyubasha arrives. On Skuratov’s request Lyubasha sings a song about a girl who is forced to give up her loved one and marry an old man.

The guests thank Gryaznoy for the feast and leave for the morning prayer. Gryaznoy asks Bomelius to stay — he needs a love potion. Bomelius promises to make one. Lyubasha listens to their conversation. She wants Gryaznoy’s love back.

Marfa awaits her fiancé, Ivan Lykov. She tells her friend, Dunyasha, of her love to Vanya, with who she’s been in love since childhood. They grew up together in Novgorod and have always been inseparable. Suddenly Ivan the Terrible arrives. Disguised as a commoner, he makes his round. Ivan the Terrible notices Marfa, who doesn’t recognize the tsar — she has a presentiment of disaster. The tsar disappears. Sobakin and Lykov arrive — the Sobakins throw a feast. Lyubasha comes to have a look at her rival. Dunyasha is struck by Marfa’s beau¬ty and decides to ruin her. She asks Bomelius for a potion that will ruin Marfa’s beauty. Bomelius gives Lyubasha the poison but asks for Lyubasha’s love. She agrees.

Act 2

Ivan Lykov hurries Sobakin with the wedding — but they have to wait: the tsar has announced the bride-show. Of all the two thousand of the girls, collected from all over Russia, only twelve are presented to Ivan the Terrible, Dunyasha and Marfa are among them.

Lykov is worried, he says that he loves Marfa more than life and asks for advice. Gryaznoy answers that everything is God’s will: he was also in love with Marfa, but if he’s rejected — there’s nothing left to do, he’ll become a druzhka (the best man) at Lykov’s wedding and will wish them all the luck. The girls return from the bride-show. Domna Saburova, Dunyasha’s mother, tells how it all went: the tsar kindly spoke with Dunyasha and only cast a glance towards Marfa. Sobakin decides to celebrate Marfa’s betrothal with Lykov. Gryaznoy doesn’t know that Lyubasha has already substituted poison for the love potion and he pours it to Marfa’s goblet. Marfa drinks the poison. The guests praise the young couple. Suddenly the boyars led by Malyuta Skuratov arrive to announce the tsar’s will: Marfa was chosen to be the tsar’s bride.

Act 3

Vasily Sobakin grieves over Marfa’s sudden illness that can’t be cured. Gryaznoy thinks that her illness has something to do with the love potion and wants to have a look at the girl. The oprichnik arrives to bring greetings from the tsar and asks Marfa about her health. She says she is well. Gryaznoy announces that Marfa’s poisoner has been detected: it’s Ivan Lykov. And on tsar’s request Grayznoy has killed Lykov — stabbed a knife into his heart. Sobakin can’t believe that Lykov could have hurt Marfa. Marfa has a seizure, in her delirium she takes Gryaznoy for Lykov. Shaken by Marfa’s words, Gryaznoy admits that he had slandered Lykov and that he, him¬self, had given Marfa the love potion. He wants to revenge Bomelius. Lyubasha tells that she has substituted poison for the love potion. Gryaznoy kills Lyubasha. Then Gryaznoy bids farewell to Marfa, asks for her forgiveness and promises to ask for the tortures for himself. Marfa says goodbye to Gryaznoy but asks him to come back in the morning — she still thinks that Gyaznoy is her beloved Ivan Lykov.

Musical Director of the production: Mikhail Tatarnikov
Stage Director: Andrey Moguchy
Stage Designer, Costume Designer: Maxim Isaev
Lighting Designer: Alexander Kibitkin
Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Chorus: Vladimir Stolpovskikh
Chorus Masters: Sergey Tsyplenkov, Alexey Dmitriyev
Choreographer: Maria Bolshakova
Assistant Conductor: Alexey Nyaga
Assistants to Stage Director: Margarita Kunitsyna‑Tankevich, Vyacheslav Kalyuzhny
Musical Consultant: Vladimir Goryachikh
Curator/Project Coordinator: Antonina Dzotsenidze

The performance features the Children’s Choir of St Petersburg TV and Radio
Principal Chorus Master: Igor Gribkov
Chorus Master: Irina Zaytseva

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