Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Iolanta

 opera in two acts 

Saturday | 15 June 2024|19:30

Age 12+

Дирижер – Юрий Караваев

Courtyard of the Radziwill Castle

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Dates

Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky based on Henrik Hertz’s drama King René's Daughter

Musical director: People's Artist of the Republic of Bashkortostan Artem Makarov

Director: Anna Motornaya

Designer (sets and costumes): Lyubov Sidelnikova

Chorus master: Sergey Agranovich

Lighting designer: Evgenii Lisitsyn

Conductor: Yuri Karavaev 

Sung in Russian

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes with one interval

Premiere: 10 December 2023

 

Иоланта – Елена Золова

Король Рене – Андрей Валентий

Водемон – Александр Михнюк

Эбн-Хакиа – Станислав Трифонов

Роберт – Денис Янцевич

Марта – Екатерина Михновец

Бригитта – Анастасия Лурикова

Лаура – Дарья Горожанко

Альмерик – Андрей Матюшонок

Бертран – Сергей Лазаревич

 

Iolanta. Synopsis

 

 

Act I

 

The beautiful Princess Iolanta lives in the remote mountains of Southern France, in King René’s secluded castle, hidden from the outside world. The girl has not seen the world around her since childhood, and at the behest of her father, no one is allowed to tell her about her blindness. The entrance to the castle is carefully guarded, it is closed to strangers, and everyone residing here is forbidden on pain of death to mention beauty, light, and the ability of a person to see.

 

All the secret castle dwellers, including her father, girlfriends, nurse, is very kind and affectionate towards Iolanta. She is the centre of their world, their unise, their pain, mystery, and hope for salvation. All the inhabitants of the castle live in hope and eagerly await the sacred day of ta’s healing.

 

And yet... Why is there such an ineffable sadness in the heart of this young girl? Why are there so many tears? Why did her life stop being a joy? Why are there so many doubts in her kind heart? No, she won’t show it to her friends, she won’t overshadow their pleasant conversation, her voice won’t waver. And only the kind Martha, so devoted and sensitive, could feel it...

 

My voice was firm and steady.

You did not touch my eyes so how did you know I was shedding tears?

There is something you are not allowed to tell me.

 

Oh, be calm, beautiful princess, the world around you is full of harmony. And again flowers, wonderful singing, aromas... And a dream. This mysterious place has its own laws: a great secret is hidden in the heart of the wondrous garden, and not a single glance will penetrate here. There are only a few people from the outside world who are privy to the secret of King Renés castle, and only his faithful guardian, Knight Bertrand, can open the gates.

 

A horn warns of a stranger by the castle. The arrival of René with an important guest is preceded by the visit of Knight Alméric, the King’s new squire. King René has dreamt of his daughter’s healing for fifteen years, because her blindness is not just a misfortune, it is the collapse of all his hopes. He is a peace-loving king who does not tolerate wars or strife; Iolanta has been engaged to Robert, the Duke of Burgundy, since infancy, and the news of the brides blindness can upset not only the marriage, but also the King’s plans for peace with neighbours. Many years ago, the King made a difficult decision to hide his daughter’s illness from the whole world and from herself, but he fervently believes that his child can still see light, and he will summon the best minds, he will give everything for it!

 

However, the best healers turned to be powerless. The princess is already sixteen, she is attractive and has a beautiful soul, being completely blind physically. Perhaps today her fate will be decided and his child will regain the ability to see God’s world?

 

René brings the famous Moorish physician Ibn-Hakia to the castle; his wisdom is great, and his science is dark and inexplicable. So what is the verdict? A cure is possible, but only if she learns about her misfortune.

 

The King is in turmoil. So I have to tell my daughter about her unhappy fate and still not be able to expect a happy outcome? But will she be given light?

 

The sage is adamant: it is possible to see light only when the spirit and mind long for it. Iolanta should not only know that she is blind, she should be desirous of the ability to see!

 

Is it possible? So many years... Did he grow this wonderful garden, did he create a magical world for his daughter, where the goodness of words entwines her more tightly than plants entwine the walls of the castle, to destroy it himself? This is not the true King:Death is the penalty for any who reveal the secret to her. That is my decision, and the doctor must defer to the father.

 

 

Act II

 

A fateful day, a miraculous day. Two young knights, Duke Robert and Count Vaudémont, who are lost in unfamiliar lands, discover a secret entrance to the incredibly beautiful Garden of Eden.

 

Turn back, be fearful: it is forbidden to enter, on pain of death.” Vaudémont hesitates, but Robert is not in the mood to wander further. He intends to stay in this beautiful place and relax, for he is in no hurry to reach his destination, where he will have an unpleasant meeting and explanation with the bride appointed to him and her father, King René, and in fact, the very idea of this marriage disgusts him.

 

Robert is in love with the one of a kind Duchess Mathilde, while Iolanta is probably prim and boring, like all maidens brought up by nuns. His friend Vaudémont does not agree with this choice. On the contrary, he is not attracted by languid glances; he is an inspired poet and is ready to wait for the appearance of his heavenly angel.

 

Suddenly, the young men see a secret terrace and a girl resting on it. Vaudémont is fascinated by the sleeping maid, but Robert is not attracted by her beauty. He is ready to leave the strange castle as soon as possible, fearing for his life.

 

Iolanta wakes up, hears unfamiliar voices and warmly greets the unexpected guests. She is surprised by the absence of her companions, but she can easily keep the visitors company herself. The girl offers the knights wine, but Robert, suspecting a trap, refuses and goes into the forest in search of his entourage.

 

Vaudémont stays alone with Iolanta. He gets more and more fascinated by her delicate beauty and tells the girl about his admiration. The knight asks her to pick a fragrant red rose flower for him as a keepsake. Iolanta tears off a white one. A terrible guess dawns on Vaudémont, so he repeats asking, and the girl is mistaken every time. The knight understands that she is blind. The first impulse to leave is replaced by an irresistible desire to stay. Vaudémont is enamoured of the girl and is not going to leave his beloved.

 

He passionately tells Iolanta about the infinite beauty of nature, about light, which is the source of knowledge of the beautiful world. However, Iolanta does not need light, for she understands the beauty of creation so completely and spiritually that Vaudémont is ready to admit: such a wonderful creature like her does not need light, and even if the world remains in darkness, she feels all its beauty, because she herself is light!

 

King René, the courtiers and the physician return and realize that the secret has been revealed. The daring young man, who illegally entered the property, told Iolanta about her blindness. The King is furious, but Ibn-Hakia is sure that this is the way to salvation. He is ready to start treatment, but does the girl want to see?

 

How can I want something I only dimly understand?

If you desire it, father, I will humbly obey you.”

 

It is not obedience that the sage needs, but an irresistible desire to see! Now the King agrees with the Moorish, but how can he awaken in his daughter an impulse, a burning desire to see light? He accepts the conditions of the sage’s game and threatens: if the treatment does not help, Vaudémont will be executed! Iolanta and her subjects cannot believe their ears: the King has shown uncharacteristic cruelty. The girl takes a decision; she is ready to make any sacrifice to save her beloved: “I will see, and he will live!

 

Meanwhile, Robert and his entourage return to help his friend. Struck by an unexpected meeting with King René, he is confused and embarrassed. Vaudémont begs his friend publicly to give up Iolanta. The King is surprised by the knight’s sincerity and makes a wise decision. Robert is free, and Vaudémont is given an opportunity to find happiness.

 

Iolanta voluntarily sacrifices herself for love and the happiness of those who are dear to her. She gives her inner light, her faith and joy to the entire world around her and for this, she receives only the opportunity to see her beloved, her father and... this uniquely beautiful earthly world that is so difficult to preserve.

 

When we find love, we get a small hope of happiness to live forever.

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