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Opera Iolanta
World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - established 1783

Schedule for Iolanta 2022

Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Director: Maestro Valery Gergiev
Musical Preparation: Marina Mishuk
Stage Director: Mariusz Treliсski
Set Designer: Boris Kudlichka
Costume Designer: Magdalena Musial
Lighting Designer: Marc Heinz
Video Artist: Wojciech Pus
Literary Consultant: Piotr Gruszczynski

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra

World premiere: 18 December, 1892, Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

Iolanta – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's last opera – was written two years before the composer’s death. In 1884 Tchaikovsky read the one-act play King Rene’s Daughter by the Danish dramatist Henrik Hertz. The poetic story of Iolanta who has been blind from birth and is cured of her ailment through love inspired Tchaikovsky, who was looking for a subject for a short, lyrical opera.
The eternal gloom in which Iolanta lives peacefully becomes a symbol of spiritual blindness and the source of deep pain for those close to her. Love ignites her heart’s desire to see the world and inspires her courage to undergo the pain that will enable her to see.
At the request of the composer, his brother Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote an operatic libretto after the plot of King Rene’s Daughter. The opera was written between July and December 1891, and the premiere took place at the Mariinsky Theatre on 6 December 1892.
It is believed that the composer’s philosophical intentions are reflected in the plot of the opera, as he had a keen interest in the philosophy of Spinoza. Whether that is the case or not Iolanta stands apart from Tchaikovsky’s other works because of its unusual "otherworldly" plot and the touching, light and serene music.

Performed in Russian with English supertitles.

The magical sounds of Netrebko's soprano voice make one's soul blossom: at the start of the opera in the arioso that resembles an emerging flower bud, as if she were blindly reaching out for an emotion, while later - in Iolanta's duet with her knight – we see the whole gamut of the emotions of a human being who has just discovered he has his entire life before him: the intonations grow from inside, with ease they soar above the music, striving towards the horizon.
This magnificent opera was brilliantly performed. It was hard to believe that it was Netrebko's debut in this role – such was her confidence throughout the entire opera.
Jцrg Kцnigsdorf, Tagesspiegel, 21.07.09

Anna Netrebko conveys the touching naivety of the young blind girl surrounded by the anxious care of her maids. With increasing and greater power, the singer senses the unease that overwhelms Iolanta when she begins to guess that the world contains much more than just her own woodland paradise. And when love comes into her life it seems as if the entire noble sound and magnificence of Anna's voice open up in full. To hear her singing is a pleasure.

Monique Cantrй, Reutlinger General-Anzeiger, 21.07.09

At the centre of all this action [Iolanta] was Anna Netrebko, the uncrowned Empress of all the Russias. The role was written as if specially for her, beginning with the tender lyrical passages of the innocent young girl to the pathos-laden of the rousing, sighted and loving woman. Coupled together with Valery Gergiev's orchestra, this created deeply affecting moments.
Kristina Maidt-Zinke, Sьddeutsche Zeitung, 20.07.09

Iolanta is embodied on stage by Anna Netrebko with her marble-cool soprano, which yet still meets all Tchaikovsky's expectations in terms of its expressiveness. Her voice has clearly grown, it has become much richer than previously and it is moving towards Tosca and Sieglinde; at the same time, the well-known timbre remains, dazzling with its thousands of colours.
Heinz W. Koch, Badische Zeitung, 20.07.09

Iolanta (Opera)

Opera in two acts by Peter Tchaikovsky

Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky based on Heinrich Hertz’s dramatic poem "Koenig Renes Tochter"


The action takes place in XV century. Iolanta, the blind daughter of the King of Provence, is whiling away the time in the gar­den of the castle. As the curtain rises she is talk­ing to her nurse, Marta. She tells Marta that she has never ever felt so depressed, Iolanta’s friends, Brigitte and Laura, try to cheer her up by singing songs and bringing her posies of flowers. Marta also tries to comfort Iolanta by singing her favourite lullaby. This sends Iolanta to sleep. The sleeping Iolanta is carried into the castle. There is a fanfare of trumpets and Almerik, King Rene’s sword-bearer, appears. He informs the castle doorman, Bertrand, that very soon the King will be arriving with a famous Physician who, it is hoped, will cure Iolanta of her blindness. The trumpets sound again, announcing the arrival of the King. King Rene enters accompanied by the Moorish Physician, Ibn-Hakia. King Rene tells Ibn-Hakia that Iolanta has been betrothed from infancy to Robert, Duke of Burgundy, and is soon to marry him, but the Duke does not know that his future wife is blind and, indeed, Iolanta herself is totally unaware of her misfortune, Iolanta had been brought up by her father in this remote cas­tle and he had surrounded her with loyal retain­ers whom he had ordered on pain of death not to tell her the truth. Ibn-Hakia says that the only cure for Iolanta is to inform her of her disability and then, so long as she passionately wishes to recover her sight, she will do so. King Rene, full of anxieties for his daughter, retires in indecision to the castle together with the Physician.

Robert, Duke of Burgundy, and his friend the Knight, Count Vaudemont, appear on the scene. They are impressed to find a beautiful garden in such a wild, remote spot. The notice over the entrance to the garden which threatens with death anyone entering it without permission, puz­zles them. Robert is downhearted for he is soon to be united in matrimony with Iolanta whom he has never met and his heart already belongs to another, Iolanta appears on the castle terrace. Vaudemont is struck by her beauty. Hearing voic­es, she does not recognize, Iolanta suggests to the strangers that they rest under the shade of the trees and she hurries off to fetch them some wine. Left alone with his friend, the Duke, who has a sceptical attitude to the world, voices his apprehensions and decides to leave; Vaudemont, who is quite enchanted by Iolanta’s beauty, stays behind. When Iolanta returns he tells her of the great impression she has made on him and asks her to pick him a red rose in mem­ory of their meeting, Iolanta plucks him a rose, but it is a white one. Vaudemont repeats his request and again he is handed a white rose. The Count begins to suspect something is wrong. He picks a bunch of roses and asks Iolanta to tell him how many flowers there are in the bunch, Iolanta asks him to give her the roses so that she may count them. Vaudemont now realizes that Iolanta is blind. And he tells her so. He tries, in so far as is possible, to comfort Iolanta but, getting somewhat carried away, he starts to describe to her the beauties of God’s world which she is destined never to see.

Voices are heard: the King enters, followed by Physician Ibn-Hakia and servants. Rene is horrified when he learns that Vaudemont has told Iolanta of her disability; he does not know what to do to help his daughter and eventually suggests that she should try Physician Ibn-Hakia’s course of treatment, Iolanta is not enthusiastic about this and says she is quite happy as she is which makes the Physician lose all hope that his treatment will be effective. Noticing that Iolanta is very much taken by Vaudemont, King Rene tells the Knight that he will be executed unless his daughter recov­ers her sight, Iolanta, out of her mind with love for Vaudemont, begs the Physician to cure her and goes with him into the castle.

A fanfare of trumpets announces the arrival of the Duke of Burgundy who, with a group of armed knights, is hurrying to the rescue of his friend. Robert is amazed to see King Rene. Vaudemont confesses to Robert that he is in love with Iolanta, the latter’s betrothed, and asks him to tell the King that he, Robert, has given his heart to someone else. Rene consents to the marriage of Iolanta and Count Vaudemont. Shouts of joy are heard, Iolanta, who has recov­ered her sight, appears at the castle door. Overjoyed, King Rene hurries to embrace his daughter and then leads Vaudemont up to her. Falling on her knees, Iolanta gives passionate thanks to God for her recovery.

Schedule for Iolanta 2022

Anna Netrebko & Rolando Villazon - Iolanta (Tchaikovsky)
About This Video
Extract from the Paris recital, March 2007

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