Rodion Shchedrin

The Little Humpbacked Horse

ballet in two acts

Recommended age 6+

Dates

Libretto by Yury Trayan, based on Pyotr Yershov’s fairy tale of the same title
Choreography and staging: People’s Artist of Belarus Yury Trayan
Musical director: Honoured Art Worker of the Republic of Belarus Nikolai Koliadko
Set designer: Lyubov Sidelnikova
Costume designer: Ekaterina Bulgakova
Lighting designer: Sergey Martynov
Assistants to the choreographer: Honoured Artist of the Republic of Belarus Anton Kravchenko, recipient of the Francysk Skaryna Medal Anna Fokina
Conductor: Aleh Lessoun
Premiere: 30 and 31 October 2021


6

…Past the woods and mountains steep,
Past the rolling waters deep,
You will find a hamlet pleasant
Where once dwelt an aged peasant.
Of his sons-and he had three,
Th'eldest sharp was as could be;
Second was nor dull nor bright,
But the third-a fool all right…

The Hut
Three brothers Danila, Gavrila and Ivan, are sleeping heavily on an old smoked Russian stove. Their father is busy nearby. He tries to wake his sons up and din into them that someone trampled all the crops in the field at night. They need to go on patrol and catch the mysterious villain at all costs.
…Night fell and the white moon rose.

On his beat Ivan now goes,
Looking sharply all around;
Then he sits upon the ground,
Munching slowly at his bread,
Counts the bright stars overhead…

The Field
The night is beautiful! Danila and Gavrila are sleeping carelessly, leaving their younger brother to guard the harvest.
Suddenly Ivan sees a magnificent mare with four horses. He contrives to grab the beauty. The mare begs to let her go, promising two equally beautiful horses and a Little Humpbacked Horse in return. Ivan agrees and receives the promised.
Magical firebirds arrive on the field and lull Ivan, plunging him into wonderful dreams. Flying away, one of them drops a sparkling feather.
Yawning and stretching, Danila and Gavrila appear and see their younger brother sleeping, and next to him are two magnificent horses. Without thinking twice, the brothers decide to take the horses and sell them at the fair. When Ivan wakes up, he finds a feather and, having found out the horses were missing, goes after the thieves-brothers with his faithful assistant the Little Humpbacked Horse.

…Then the merchants loudly call
As each opens up his stall:
«Honest masters -
Come this way!
See what wares
We have today!…

The Fair
The fair is taking place on the main square of the capital city. The royal retinue, headed by the Tsar, reclining on a richly decorated with feather bed Russian stove, appears. Seeing the wonderful horses that the brothers put up for sale, the Tsar immediately decides to buy them. But at the last moment of bargain Ivan appears with the Little Humpbacked Horse and proves that he owns this "miracle horses": the brothers try to step up to the horses, but they fling and fight them off. The "would-be merchants" leave the market square in shame. The Tsar buys horses, and at the same time appoints Ivan as his stableman.

…Our young fellow made his way
To the Palace that fine day.
He is Master of the Horse
And he doesn’t pine, of course,
For his brothers and his dad…

The royal chambers
Boyars and maids are trying to entertain the Tsar, who hardly keeps his eyes open. Ivan sleeps next to the miracle horses, and the Little Humpbacked Horse jealously watched over him. But vigilant assistant was also overcome by sleep.
The royal retinue sneaks, hiding behind each other. They steal Ivan's Firebird feather and “give” this wonderful gift to the Tsar.  
The Tsar is impressed! Playing with a feather, he waves it too strong, and a miracle happens! Magical birds appear. They headed by their mistress: the Tsar Maiden.
The Tsar is head over heels in love with a beautiful woman, but the wonderful vision disappears. He calls Ivan and orders to set out in search of the Tsar Maiden and bring her to him!
Ivan is afraid that he will fell down on the task. But his faithful assistant the Little Humpbacked Horse knows how to do it. Only he knows what will happen next and how it will end!

Act II

…Here the humpback tossed his head:
«You will see a glade,» he said;
«In the middle of this glade
Stands a hill, of silver made.
There it is that every morn
Fire-Birds flock before the dawn»…

The Kingdom of the Firebirds
Wonderful Firebirds frolic and dance in the magical meadow. The Tsar Maiden is in the center. She is beautiful, but lonely, nothing makes her happy.
The Little Humpbacked Horse runs out into the meadow, and when he sees the wonderful birds, he calls his master. Ivan freezes, amazed by the beauty of the Tsar Maiden. Frightened birds surround their tsarevna. But Ivan and the Tsar Maiden clicked with each other as soon as they met. Enchanted by new unfamiliar feelings, the beauty goes with Ivan on new adventures, and the devoted Little Humpbacked Horse leads them.

…At the Palace gates, at last
They arrived; the Tsar ran fast
To the Fair Tsar Maiden and
Led her by her lily hand
‘Neath a silken canopy
To the royal throne; the he
Fondly gazing in her eyes
Said, with honeyed voice, and sighs…

The royal chambers
The Tsar cools heels. The retinue flocks about him with hustle, the boyars try to distract him, but his soul longs to his beloved... It doesn't matter that he is old, fat and ridiculous. Bring her to him immediately!
Ivan appears with the tired Tsar Maiden in his arms. The lovestoned Tsar is trying to impress her. He is ready to get married right now. And the Tsar Maiden can’t help laughing, looking at her "groom".
And once again, the Little Humpbacked Horse makes a rescue. At his instigation, the Tsar Maiden demands from the Tsar to get the ring of the Sea Princess that lies on the seabed. The cunning boyars offer the Tsar to send the simpleton Ivan to the impossible task again.
Ivan and his faithful friend and adviser the Little Humpbacked Horse are streaking to adventures again.

…Well, Ivan rode off to bring
Back the Tsar Maid’s signet-ring;
And his horse flew like the wind,
Leaving miles and leagues behind -
Twenty thousand leagues, ere night,
Covered in a single flight…

The Underwater Kingdom
The heavy blue sea. At the seabed the inhabitants of the underwater kingdom dance around the Sea Princess. But nothing can cheer up the majestic, cold, never-laughing Sea Princess. Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse appear. No requests and entreaties of Ivan have any effect on the Mistress of the sea. Then Ivan gives the Sea Princess a gift: a Firebird feather.
The Little Humpbacked Horse jumps out and starts dancing. The Sea Princess broke down, laughed and presented her ring to the dashing dancer.
The inhabitants of the seabed farewell our heroes; the blue sea runs high again and its exotic inhabitants dance around their princess again.

…‘Yes, I know, I know,’ she said -
‘StilI-we cannot yet be wed.’
‘Why can you not be my wife?
Why? - I love you more than life;
And, forgive my boldness, do,
I just want to marry you.’…

The royal chambers
In the royal chambers, the lovestoned Tsar begs the Tsar Maiden to become his wife. He is sure that Ivan has disappeared in the depths of the sea and will not bring the coveted ring. And the beauty is thinking about Ivan and the cheerful Little Humpbacked Horse more and more. Meanwhile, she is having fun, forcing the lovestoned Tsar to dance "until he drops". Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse return. The Tsar's task has been fulfilled, the ring has been delivered, no one but the Tsar is particularly happy.

Only the Little Humpbacked Horse takes courage. He whispers to the Tsar Maiden how to arrange everything, and the bratty bride announces her decision. She is ready to become the tsarina, but on one small condition… The Tsar-Groom must lose weight, get younger, get prettier, and for this he must jump into a cauldron with boiling milk.

The Tsar is frightened! He wants to try this method of rejuvenation on Ivan and orders him to jump into the cauldron first.
For the sake of the Tsar Maiden, Ivan is ready to take any risk. Undressing and, unexpectedly even for himself, kissing the beautiful princess, he boldly jumps into boiling milk. Everyone is anxiously waiting. And the Little Humpbacked Horse calmly and confidently "conjures" over the cauldron, from which finally jumps out... a fine young man. Seeing the handsome Ivan, the Tsar takes his chance and falls into the cauldron like a lump. But this time the magic didn't work...

The wedding is in progress. Ivan and the Tsar Maiden dance their festive dance. Everyone celebrates the young couple’s honour. And they dote on the main character of the fairy tale, the smart assistant, brave Little Humpbacked Horse.

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