Opera Scotland

Fiery Angel The Fiery Angel; Ognennyi Angel

Music

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

Text

The Composer

Source

Novel (1908) by Valery Bryusov.

 

Premières

First Performance: Paris (Théâtre des Champs-Elysées), 25 November 1954 (concert).

First Performance: Venice (La Fenice), 15 September 1955 (staged).

First Performance in UK: London (Sadler's Wells Theatre), 27 July 1965.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 24 August 1970.

Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (City Halls), 3 December 2017 (concert).

 

Background

This is a powerful piece of expressionist drama depicting the sexual obsessions of the leading character, Renata. It is therefore distinctly different from Prokofiev's other operas, particularly its predecessor The Love for Three Oranges.  Prokofiev composed the opera over four years from 1919, but did not work on the orchestration until there was a production in prospect, in Berlin in 1926. That fell through, and the work was not performed in his lifetime.

The production that was brought to Edinburgh from Frankfurt in 1970 was much criticized by experts as the scenes with Faust and Mephistopheles were cut, with Ruprecht simply dying of his wounds. German theatrical organizations have always found Gounod's adaptation of Goethe's Faust hard to accept, and The Fiery Angel was treated with the same lack of respect.

 

Main Characters

Renata (soprano)

Ruprecht, a young knight (baritone)

Jakob Glock, a bookseller (tenor)

Agrippa of Nettesheim, a philosopher (tenor)

Mathias Wissmann, Ruprecht's friend (baritone)

Mephistopheles (tenor)

Johann Faust (bass)

 

Plot Summary

The drama takes place in one of the German states in the sixteenth century. Renata has, for most of her life, been obsessed with Madiel, an imaginary creature she considers to be her guardian angel. but whose identity she seems to confuse with a former lover, Heinrich, who had abandoned her. Because of her frequently hysterical behaviour, most people suspect her of witchcraft.

At an inn, she tells all this to Ruprecht, who becomes fascinated by her. He takes her to Cologne, where she continues her search for Heinrich and obtains all the books on magic she can. The bookseller takes Ruprecht to meet the philosopher Agrippa, who refuses to help the knight. Renata, having tracked down Heinrich to his home decides that he is not, after all, her angel, and she asks Ruprecht to kill him. Ruprecht then enters Heinrich's house. Heinrich can be seen at  a window, clearly Renata's 'fiery angel' in appearance. On seeing him, Renata changes her mind again, persuading Ruprecht not to kill Heinrich. Ruprecht is instead himself wounded, and Renata nurses him. A doctor brought by Mathias pronounces that he will live.

Renata and Ruprecht live together in Cologne, but she is not satisfied as she still has visions and is determined to take the veil. He tries to dissuade her without success, and while he is alone he is joined by Faust and Mephistopheles, who have been looking on.

Some time later, in the convent, Renata is questioned by the abbess, because since she arrived the routine of the nuns has been highly disturbed. Mephistopheles and Faust bring Ruprecht to observe events. Renata's  conduct is examined by the Inquisitor, and when the level of hysteria among the other nuns reaches an intolerable level, he pronounces a sentence of death on her.

The Cast

Abbess
 
Agrippa von Nettesheim
 a philosopher and magician
Count Heinrich von Otterheim
 
Doctor
 
First Nun
 
Fortune Teller
 
Innkeeper
 
Inquisitor
 
Jakob Glock
 a bookseller
Johann Faust
 Doctor of Philosophy and Medecine
Mathias Wissmann
 Ruprecht's old university friend
Mephistopheles
 
Potboy
 
Renata
 
Ruprecht
 a knight
Second Nun
 
Servant
 to Count Heinrich

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