Opera Scotland

Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh; Skazaniye o onevidimom grade Kitezhe


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


Vladimir Ivanovich Bel'sky


Two medieval Russian legends



First Performance: St Petersburg (Mariinsky Theatre), 20 February 1907.

Fiirst Performance in UK: London (Covent Garden), 30 March 1926 (concert)

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Festival Theatre), 18 August 1995.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya is a very late work, and probably Rimsky's most ambitious opera. With its mixture of mysticism and a form of religiosity, it has sometimes been compared to Wagner's Parsifal. Performances were not encouraged during the Soviet era, and it is only in recent years that its full quality has been appreciated.

Until thie revelatory performances in 1995, the only elements of the opera in any way familiar were the attractive orchestral excerpts in the suite, but even that was a rarity in concerts.


Main Characters

Fevroniya, a forest maiden (soprano)

Prince Yuri, ruler of Kitezh (bass)

Prince Vsevolod, his son (tenor)

Grishka Kuterma, a drunk (tenor)

Feodor Poyarok, a courtier (baritone)


Plot Summary

Prince Vsevolod, out hunting in the forest, is injured, and has his wounds dressed by a forest girl, Fevroniya. He decides that he must marry her. Feodor reveals to her the prince's identity and she is astonished at this turn of events. Later, she is conveyed to Kitezh for the wedding, in spite of the dislike of Grishka and his friends. But her wedding hymn is interrupted as she is kidnapped by Tartars who are preparing to attack the city. She prays for Kitezh to become invisible. The Tartars force Grishka to show them a way in to the citadel.

Fyodor has been blinded by the Tartars and believes Fevroniya, not Grishka, to be the traitor. As Prince Yuri prays for the safety of his city, his son leads an army out to fight the Tartars. A golden mist shrouds the city, making it invisible. In the battle, the Tartars are victorious, and Vsevolod is killed. On the far side of the lake the Tartars are angry with Grishka, because they cannot see the city which he says is there. They tie him up. Two of the Tartar leaders fall out over who should have Fevroniya. In a fight, one of them is killed, and the victor joins his colleagues in getting drunk. Fevroniya releases Grishka and they run to the forest. When the Tartars awake they see the reflection of Kitezh in the waters of the lake, but can still see no city. They flee in terror.

Grishka has gone completely mad and runs off, leaving Fevroniya alone. The forest is transformed into a magical garden landscape. A bird of paradise tells Fevroniya she will die, but as Vsevolod's ghost appears, a second bird promises the couple eternal life. At this, they go to the invisible city, which has now become a paradise for all those killed in the war.

The Cast

 a bird of paradise
Beggar Singer
 a Tartar warrior
 a Tartar warrior
 a forest maiden
First Citizen
Fyodor Poyarok
 a follower of Vsevolod
Grishka Kuterma
 a drunkard
Gusli Player
 a minstrel
Man with a Bear
Page Boy
Prince Vsevolod Yurievich
 son of Prince Yuri
Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich
 Prince of Kitezh
Second Citizen
 a bird of paradise

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