Opera Scotland

Snow Maiden Snegurochka; The Snow Maiden

Music

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

Text

The composer.

Source

Play (1873) by Alexander Nikolay Ostrovsky, derived from a folk-tale.

 

Premieres

First Performance: St Petersburg (Mariinsky Theatre), 10 February 1882.

First Performance in UK: London (Sadler's Wells Theatre), 12 April 1933.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (King's Theatre), 8 April 1957.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

The Snow Maiden was an immediate success, in spite of Tchaikovsky having already completed a suite of incidental music for performance with Ostovsky's play. It is the first of Rimsky's operas to be based on Russian folk tales, and is, in spite of its length, a successful treatment containing some gloriously effective music. This culminates in a wonderful final scene, as Snegurochka melts, Mizgir kills himself and the natural warm climate is restored..

 

Main Characters

Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden (soprano)

King Frost, her father (bass)

Fairy Spring, her mother (mezzo-soprano)

Lel, a shepherdboy (mezzo-soprano)

Woodsprite (tenor)

Kupava, a village girl (soprano)

Mizgir, a rich merchant (baritone)

Tsar Berendey (tenor)

 

Plot Summary

Frost and Spring have a daughter, Snegurochka, whose heart is made of ice. Should she ever fall in love they worry that her heart would melt, causing her death. She has been concealed all her life from the heat of the sun, as a result of which Yarilo, the sun god, is angry, and has altered the seasons, causing cold summers resulting in famine and hunger.

The girl at last demands to be allowed out of the forest to live among mortals. With a final warning that she should keep out of the sun, or she will melt and die, her parents relent, and arrange for her to be spirited away by a Woodsprite to by raised by a peasant couple. The people celebrate the end of winter.

Snegurochka likes Lel, but cannot love him because of her icy heart, and Lel therefore prefers Kupava, a village girl. However she is engaged to Mizgir, a merchant. But Mizgir now falls for Snegurochka, at which Kupava lodges a complaint with the Tsar about Mizgir's betrayal. The Tsar is more worried about the fact that springs are getting colder - the sun god Yarilo must have been somehow offended.

Kupava's complaint is heard, and Mizgir is required to explain his conduct. But when the Tsar sees Snegurochka he understands the reason. He offers a rich reward to anyone who gains her love, though she protests that her icy heart makes it impossible. Mizgir begs to be allowed to try. Lel's singing pleases the Tsar to the point where he invites the shepherd to choose a wife - Lel selects Kupava, at which Snegurochka is upset, and returns to the forest. She is followed there by Mizgir, but he is rejected by her.

Snegurochka asks her mother, Fairy Spring, for help, but as flowers duly emerge the Snow Maiden's heart begins to melt. Mizgir finds her again, and this time she is able to love him. They return to the Tsar, who blesses their marriage. But as the sun god Yarilo can now at last shine his beams on her her fate is sealed. She is content to die, having discovered the meaning of love. As she melts away, Mizgir, unable to live without her, throws himself into the lake. Yarilo is satisfied with these two deaths and the seasons now return to normal, as the people celebrate the end of the famine.

The Cast

Bermyata
 Chamberlain to the Tsar
Bobyl Bakula
 a peasant
Bobylikha
 Bobyl's wife
Carnival Figure
 
First Herald
 
Frost
 King of Winter
Kupava
 a village girl
Lel
 a shepherd boy
Mizgir
 a rich merchant
Page
 
Second Herald
 
Snegurochka
 the Snow Maiden
Spring
 a Fairy
Tsar Berendey
 
Woodsprite
 

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