Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (born Kamsko-Votkinsk, 7 May 1840; died St Petersburg, 6 November 1893)
Drama The Oprichniks (c1845, published 1867) by Ivan Lazhechnikov.
First performance: St Petersburg (Mariinsky Theatre), 24 April 1874.
First UK performance: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 20 August 1992 (concert).
First performance in Scotland: As above.
Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.
Tchaikovsky’s third opera is a historical piece of very uneven quality. It contains much impressive music and uses a number of folk melodies. It also reuses music from his first opera The Voyevoda. The plot concerns the activities of the Oprichniks, the personal bodyguard of Ivan the Terrible in the late sixteenth century.
Prince Zhemchuzhny (bass)
Natalya, his daughter (soprano)
Fedor Basmanov, an Oprichnik (mezzo-soprano)
Boyarina Morozova, an aristocratic widow (mezzo-soprano)
Andrey Morozov, her son (tenor)
Prince Vyazminsky (baritone)
Andrey’s father, a Boyar, is now dead, having been dispossessed from his estates by the activities of Zhemchuzhny. The prince’s daughter Natalya, against her father’s wishes, loves Andrey, and wishes to marry him rather than her father’s preferred candidate, the elderly Molchan Mitkov. Andrey is determined to get revenge for his family’s misfortunes, and believes that the best way to do this is to join the Oprichniks. His friend Basmanov is already a member, but Andrey’s mother is apprehensive about this involvement. Prince Vyazminsky was also an enemy of Andrey’s father and is still determined to harm his surviving family. He is unhappy that the Tsar has agreed to let Andrey join the guard, but he is also the one who administers the oath of membership, so is aware that Andrey is now forced to renounce both Natalya and his mother, which he was reluctant to do. His mother is repulsed in her attempt to persuade Zhemchuzhny to allow the marriage between Natalya and Andrey. She is horrified to discover that her son has joined the Oprichniks and she curses him. Urged by Basmanov, Andrey now requests that the Tsar let him withdraw from the Oprichniks in order to marry Natalya. The Tsar agrees to this, but demands that the girl come and see him first. Andrey objects to this and is summarily condemned to death. His mother, forced by Vyazminsky to watch her son’s execution, drops dead from shock.
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