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21.04.2021

The Oprichnik premieres at Mikhailovsky Theatre

On 18 and 20 May, the Mikhailovsky Theatre will host première performances of Tchaikovskys opera The Oprichnik. The Mikhailovsky is turning its attention to this rarely performed work to demonstrate its value as the real Tchaikovsky: a fully fledged, powerful score from Russias master of the craft. Working on the production are director Sergey Novikov and set and costume designer Alexander Kupalian. The musical director will be Alexander Soloviev, Principal Conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theatre.

It was The Oprichnik, Tchaikovskys third opera and his first to see the stage, that won him a reputation as an opera composer. Tchaikovsky felt its two predecessors, The Voyevoda and Undina, were not up to scratch, and destroyed them. He composed the libretto himself, borrowing the subject from a historical drama by Ivan Lazhechnikov. The première took place in April 1874 in St. Petersburg, conducted by Eduard Nápravnik. The opera then became part of the repertoire at the Mariinsky Theatre, where it was performed 14 times in the space of 18 months. Tchaikovsky himself, though, was aware of an unevenness of style and the occasional carelessness in The Oprichnik, and, already an acknowledged genius at the peak of his prowess, resolved to revisit and rework his score. He was ultimately unable to realize his vision, however.

The subject of power on stage is always very sensitive, says director Sergey Novikov. Historical experience shows that extreme permissiveness has destructive consequences for humanity, for our personality and our soul. The oprichnina lasted for only seven years, ending when Ivan the Terrible dissolved it and prohibited people, on pain of death, from even using the word. In spite of this, almost five centuries later the term oprichnina persists in popular memory, associated with a brutal chapter of Russian history. Our challenge is to open up this fascinating opera again for our audience. As Fyodor Chaliapin, who appeared in the role of Prince Vyazminsky, said, The Oprichnik undoubtedly enriched the precious casket of Russian culture.

The Oprichnik may be little known, but it is the forerunner of Tchaikovskys major symphonic and operatic works, says Alexander Soloviev, the productions musical director. Tchaikovsky is looking for ways to exert a profound effect on the human psyche through music. Its fascinating to trace the emergence of the composers style, finding little shoots, thick branches, and sometimes mighty trunks that Tchaikovsky would come back to in the future. The Oprichnik requires a detailed reading, and staging it demands a serious effort of the mind and the soul.

Appearing in the productions lead roles will be Valentina Fedeneva, Olga Cheremnykh, Ivan Gyngazov, Sergey Kuzmin, Ekaterina Egorova, Svetlana Tokareva, Alexander Bezrukov, Alexander Kuznetsov, Sofia Fainberg, and Vadim Volkov.

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