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The Stars of the White Nights 2024
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27 June 2023 (Tue), 18:00 World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - Mariinsky II (New Theatre) - Stars of the Stars Conducted by Maestro Gergiev Opera Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov "The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya" (opera in in four acts)

Running time: 4 hours 50 minutes (till 22:50)

The performance has 3 intermissions

Schedule for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov "The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya" (opera in in four acts) 2022

Conductor: Maestro Valery Gergiev

Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Set Designer: Dmitry Chernyakov
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Preparation: Natalia Mordashova
Musical Director: Maestro Valery Gergiev
Lighting Designer: Gleb Filshtinsky
Costume Designer: Olga Lukina
Lighting Designer: Kamil Kutyev

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Opera company: Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera

Opera in 4 acts

Performed in Russian, with synchronised English supertitles

Premiere of this production: 20 January 2001, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia

The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya is frequently called Rimsky-Korsakov's operatic masterpiece; score and libretto combine to make the most emotionally engrossing of his works for the stage. Because of its mystical elements, some have compared it to Mozart's The Magic Flute, Wagner's Parsifal, and Messiaen's St. Francis of Assisi. Vladimir Bielski, the librettist, worked closely with the composer on a number of other operas, including Sadko and The Golden Cockerel. For Legend, Bielski actually combined two medieval Russian legends into one the libretto: the folktale of the City of Kitezh, with its fascinating, yet gruesome clash between Russian and "oriental" cultures, and lore concerning St. Fevroniya. He bound the legends together by scripting a love affair between the maiden Fevroniya and the young prince who leads the army of Kitezh into battle against the invading Tartars. Both sources reach deeply into the mystic Russian imagination and powerfully combine Russian Orthodox Christianity, ecstatic mysticism, contemplative traditions, and pantheism. The latter had particular appeal to the composer, who vacillated between a rationalist agnosticism (veering towards atheism) and pagan nature worship. In Fevronias' universal love of man and nature, one can see a Christianizing of paganism. Her qualities are consonant with ethics espoused by a contemporary of the opera's author's, Tolstoy: pursuit of harmony between mankind and nature, aspiration to regain childhood purity, and non-violent resistance to evil. Stylized use of Russian, forms of Church Slavonic, and phraseology from ancient and archaic ballads only add to the literary accomplishment of Bielski's libretto. Musically the score more than matches the libretto. Not surprisingly for a Russian opera, the chorus plays a prominent role. As it is by Rimsky-Korsakov, one is also not surprised that the orchestra also plays an important part, and the orchestration is typically colorful. A factor that sets it apart from other contemporary Russian operas, even by this composer, is the exceptional balance between symphonic invention and vocal expression. Certain Wagnerian elements inform the score, especially the use of leitmotifs and the through-composed form (despite the occasional seemingly closed number). The composer's predilection for deriving many motifs from one theme (for example, the bells theme, from which are derived motifs associated with both the threat to and salvation of Kitezh) is on display here, along with what some commentators have termed "leit-tonalities" -- a precise use of key to connote various dramatic ideas. Harmonically, the opera is more diatonic and simple than Rimsky-Korsakov's other operas of the period, but there is still sufficient use of his beloved artificial modes (though the whole-tone scale appears infrequently), particularly in connection with the Tartars. The premiere, on February 7, 1907, at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre, was a great success. The forces needed to mount the opera were not only collectively sympathetic, but also sufficiently skilled and prepared. Libretto and score found an affinity with the audience. In fact, contemporary commentators saw the opera as a significant cultural event, even perceptively comparing it to the works of Tolstoy.

Libretto: Vladimir Belsky, after a Russian legend



A hermitage, Mid-summer. Birds are singing, a cuckoo is crying.

Eventide. Maiden Fevronia has lived in a hermitage in a thick forest since childhood. Birds and beasts-a Crane, a Bear and an Aurochs (the extinct wild cow)-come up when they hear her voice.

Prince Vsevolod, son of Prince Yury Vsevolodovich, the ruler of Greater Kitezh, is lost during a hunting trip. He is amazed by a vision of Fevronia talking to beasts and wonders if he is having a dream.

Fevronia thinks that the young stranger is the princes' huntsman, and tells him that he must hurry because it is getting dark and his arm, which has been injured by a bear, is bleeding. Fevronia carefully washes the wound and applies forest herbs to it. The young prince is struck by his miraculous healing and asks Fevronia about her solitary life in the forest. She describes her simple and poor life, and mentions her hardships during a cold winter. She tells about the long-awaited coming of spring when nature blossoms and the voices of birds evoke charming dreams in her. She has a vision of the transformation of nature into God's church-a prophecy that is destined to come true.

At first Vsevolod doubts her unusual story, but gradually Fevronia's animated description of divine joy fascinate him. The delighted prince offers his hand and heart in marriage. On hearing huntsmen's voices the prince says goodbye to Fevronia. She is confused-if she follows Vsevolod to Greater Kitezh, she will have to leave her hermitage in the forest. The huntsmen, led by Feodor Poyarok, are looking for the prince. When they arrive Fevronia learns from them who her guest was.

Lesser Kitezh

Crowds of people are in the marketplace. Beggars are asking for alms, boys are scurrying about. The drunkard Grishka Kuterma amuses the crowd. The people of the city have heard that Fevronia, the young bride of the prince, will pass through the city. An old man prophesies a terrible disaster that will befall their land. The affluent people of Kitezh watch the crowd with indignation-they feel that Vsevolod insulted them by choosing a bride of humble origin. They give money to Grishka and tell him to insult Fevronia. For a price he is happy to deride anyone. When Fevronia arrives accompanied by Feodor Poyarok the crowd greets her. Grishka tries to push his way through the crowd to Fevronia, but the people will not let him through. He insults her, mocking her low birth. Showing compassion, she answers him sincerely and meekly. Grishka is perplexed, but getting angry he cries loudly saying that misery and humiliation await Fevronia. Poyarok suggests to the crowd that they sing a song of praise in Fevronia's honor, but the song is broken abruptly. The old man's prophecy comes true: the hordes of Batu Khan led by Bedyay and Burunday burst into the city The Tartars kill the horror-stricken people, capture Fevronia and blind Feodor. No one will show them the way to Greater Kitezh. Only Grishka, who is terrified of being tortured, agrees to act as the Tartars' guide. Fevronia prays to God and asks him to make the city invisible.

Greater Kitezh

At midnight all the inhabitants of Greater Kitezh gather to learn of their destiny. They cluster around Feodor who has reached the city together with the young prince. His account of the terrible disaster-the capture of Lesser Kitezh by the Tartars without any resistance-horrifies them. No less shocking is the rumor that the prince' bride, Fevronia herself, is guiding the Tartars to Greater Kitezh. The people are discouraged. The elderly Prince Yury is mounful. The prayers of the inhabitants of Greater Kitezh alternate with omens. A young boy sees a burning city and rivers of blood flowing from its gates. This vision is replaced by a picture of the devastated Kitezh and then the young boy has a vision of the empty bank of Lake Svetly Yar shrouded by mist-the city disappears from the earth. The people of Kitezh are preparing to die. Prince Vsevolod calls on the men to fight the enemy. The prince departs to meet a certain death. Only women and children remain in the city. Suddenly church bells begin to toll of their own accord and a mist obscures the city, covering it with a dense shroud. On the threshold of death or a new life, the sorrowful mood of the people of Kitezh is replaced by a feeling of joy.

The battle at the Kerzhenets River

Prince Vsevold's army is defeated in a bloody battle against the Tartars. Vsevolod, who has received forty wounds, dies.

Bank of Lake Svetly Yar

Pitch-dark night. The opposite bank, where Greater Kitezh stands, is shrouded in mist. Grishka guides the Tartars to the lake. Bedyay and Burunday suspect that Kuterma is deliberately misleading them and threaten to punish him unless they see the city in the morning. The Tartars tie him to a tree and begin to divide the booty. Burunday demands that Fevronia be given to him. A quarrel ensues and Burunday kills Bedyay. While the nomads sleep Fevronlya laments the death of Vsevolod. Kuterma is tortured by a fear of death and the ringing of the Kitezh bells, which seems to sound in his ears. He implores Fevronia to save him, but she is afraid of the Tartars' punishment. Grishka admits that he spread a rumor about her leading the Tartars to Kitezh. Fevronia is struck and frightened by the darkness of Grishka's soul. Giving in to Grishka's pleading, she releases him to atone by prayer for his sin of treachery, but he is so frightened that he is unable to run. In despair he wants to drown himself in the lake but a vision in the dawn's early light startles him-he sees the empty bank and a reflected image of the city on the surface of the lake. The festive pealing of the bells gets louder. Grishka loses his mind and rushes to the forest taking Fevronia with him. His cries awake the Tartars. On seeing the invisible city of Kitezh reflected in the water they run away in horror.

An impassable thicket in the Kitezh forest

Dark night. Fevronia, and Grishka have been making their way through the dense forest for many days. Fevronia tries to teach him to pray, but Grishka sees devils everywhere and with wild cries rushes into the thicket. Fevronia calls after him but does not receive an answer. Exhausted, she lies down on the grass, awaiting death. She plunges into a blissful state-exhaustion and pain have left her. All the predictions she told Vsevolod during their first meeting come true in a mysterious way. At the moment her soul is leaving earthly life she envisions the transfiguration of the forest-with flowers of paradise and the voices of prophetic birds. The Alkonost bird is singing about death, calm and mercy, and the Sirin bird is chanting about joy and eternal life. In the afterworld Fevronia meets Vsevolod.

The way to the Invisible City

The ringing of the bells is getting louder and louder. The Sirin and Akonost birds are singing about the new heaven and new earth and about a kingdom of light that cannot be described in words.

The Invisible City

Fevronia and Vsevolod enter the miraculously transformed city of Kitezh. Everything is bathed in light. Fevronia looks at the happy inhabitants of Kitezh. She sees Prince Yury and Feodor, who has regained his sight. She recognizes the wedding song-the one they began to sing at Lesser Kitezh. She is beside herself with happiness. Prince Yury tells her that the light comes from the prayers of the righteous; the white vestments they wear are washed by the tears of martyrs. Fevronia lacks only one thing in this harmony-she feels pity for Grishka who remains in the forest. She would like him to join them in the city. But his time has not come. Fevronia writes a letter to Grishka informing him that Kitezh has not been captured and its residents have not died and are now living in a divine place. Fevronia's letter indicates the way to the invisible city. Vsevolod and Fevronia, accompanied by the pealing of bells and the song of eternal joy, enter the cathedral.

Libretto by Vladimir Nikolayevich Bel'sky

Schedule for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov "The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya" (opera in in four acts) 2022

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