Opera Scotland

Golden Cockerel Zolotoi petushok; Le Coq D'Or

Music
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (born Tikhvin, 18 March 1844; died Lyubensk, 21 June 1908)

Text
Vladimir Ivanovich Bel’sky.

Source
Satirical Fairytale (1834) by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837).

Premières
First performance: Moscow (Solodovnikov Theatre), 7 October 1909.
First UK performance: London (Drury Lane), 15 June 1914.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal) 15 October 1918
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 10 December 1975

Background
Rimsky-Korsakov composed a total of fourteen operas, of which Golden Cockerel is the last, not performed until after his death. For most of the twentieth century, his operatic work was largely ignored in the west. His contribution to opera was valued almost entirely for the work he did in editing the two great works of his friend Musorgsky, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina. These two works are now accepted by audiences in versions closer to the original, which has allowed attention to be paid to Rimsky’s own output. He produced some pieces with historical settings, but most of his operas are derived from the rich legacy of Russian folk tales. Particularly in his late works, his orchestration sounds quite exotic, and was a strong influence on Stravinsky, who was his most notable student. The Golden Cockerel was initially a controversial piece because of its supposedly anti-tsarist plot, though the satire is hardly fierce.

Characters
The Astrologer (high tenor)
King Dodon (bass)
Prince Guidon and Prince Afron, his sons (tenor and baritone)
Voice of the Golden Cockerel (soprano)
Amelfa, Dodon’s old nurse (contralto)
General Polkan (bass)
Queen of Shemakha (soprano)

Plot Summary
In a brief prologue, the Astrologer announces that he is the director of the story that follows, a moral tale, though imaginary. King Dodon is old and tired. His kingdom is under threat, but his sons have not inherited the talent for warfare he had as a young man. The Astrologer brings in a Cockerel, whose cries will warn of imminent attack. The King offers in return to grant him a wish, which the Astrologer decides to consider at leisure. Dodon’s rest is soon disturbed by crowing, and his sons are sent to battle. Dodon follows them, and finds them slain, their army defeated. At dawn, he is greeted by the beautiful Queen of Shemakha. She seduces him and he leads her home as his new consort. But the Astrologer now appears to demand his wish, which is the Queen herself. In a fury, Dodon kills the Astrologer, and the Cockerel then pecks Dodon to death. The Queen and Cockerel both disappear, leaving chaos behind. The Astrologer now returns in an epilogue to explain that all the characters were imaginary, except for himself and the Queen.

The Cast

Amelfa
 Dodon's nurse
Astrologer
 
Dancer
 
First Boyar
 
General Polkan
 head of Dodon's army
Golden Cockerel
 
King Dodon
 
Parrot
 
Prince Afron
 son of Dodon
Prince Guidon
 son of Dodon
Queen of Shemakha
 
Second Boyar
 
Voice of the Cockerel
 

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