Opera Scotland

Gambler The Gambler; Igrok

Music
Sergey Prokofiev (born Sontsovka, Ukraine, 23 April 1891; died Moscow, 5 March 1953)

Text
The composer.

Source
Novella (1866) by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-81).

Premières
First performance: Brussels (Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie), 29 April 1929.
First UK performance: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 28 August 1962.
First performance in Scotland: As above.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Prokofiev had The Gambler ready for rehearsal in 1917, but political events meant that the intended Mariinsky premiere could not take place. He made a number of changes before the Brussels performances, although the original version is also now available. The opera was a great rarity, but has recently shown distinct signs of increasing popularity. It is a fast moving drama, almost a black comedy on the perils of obsession in general, and gambling in particular, that being a vice with which Dostoevsky himself had a severe problem. The musical style is appropriately frenetic.

Main Characters
Alexei, tutor to the General’s children (tenor)
Pauline, the General’s stepdaughter (mezzo-soprano)
Blanche, a demi-mondaine (mezzo-soprano)
The Marquis (tenor)
The General, a retired officer (bass)
Mr Astley, a wealthy Englishman (baritone)
Grandmother (mezzo-soprano)
Potapych, the Grandmother’s steward (baritone)
Prince Nilsky (tenor)

Plot Summary
The action is confined to a German spa town around 1865. Pauline gives Alexei some money to gamble on her behalf, but he loses it all. Mounting debts, worsened by his gambling, increased borrowing and his love for Blanche, trouble Pauline’s stepfather, the General. His only chance of financial survival is the anticipated death of an elderly relation from whom he stands to inherit a substantial fortune. Alexei is besotted with Pauline, but dismissive of his social superiors, and of the General in particular. He finds it difficult to hide his contempt and is in constant danger of dismissal himself. The elderly female relation who was so confidently expected to die suddenly turns up in person, and proceeds to gamble away the General’s inheritance. She returns home having thoroughly enjoyed herself, leaving the General deeper in the financial mire. Blanche moves on to pastures new. Pauline reveals that her gambling had been in the hope of paying off a debt she herself owed to the Marquis, but when he decides to leave he cancels the debt. In a final flutter with Pauline’s money, Alexei breaks the bank, but Pauline still rejects him. She recognises that the gambling bug has bitten him.

The Cast

Alexei
 tutor to the General's children
Babulenka (Grandmother)
 the General's elderly relation
Blanche
 a demi-mondaine
General
 a retired officer
Marquis
 
Mr Astley
 a wealthy Englishman
Pauline
 the General's step-daughter
Prince Nilsky
 

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