" King René’s Daughter" is the richest plot for music, capable to warm and inspire me to the point that I do not doubt the success. "

P.I. Tchaikovsky


April 9 and 10, May 6 the premiere of "Iolanta" will take place in  the Astrakhan State Opera and Ballet Theatre. The last opera by Pyotr Tchaikovsky was based on the drama  “ King René’s  Daughter." by the Danish writer Henrik Hertz. Impressed by the originality and poetic nature of the dramatic plot, the composer created the opera in five months. The premiere took place in St. Petersburg, in December 1892, at the Mariinsky Theatre.


Almost 125 years have passed, but the opera is kept on the Russian stage and regularly appears at the foreign theatres. In the theatrical season 2015-2016, it was performed in the world's largest theaters: the Bolshoi Theater of Russia and the Paris National Opera.


The opera "Iolanta", which has been perceived as a charming hymn of love at all times, will surely adorn the repertoire of the Astrakhan Theatre and will encompass the audience of a wide age range.


During the Soviet era, the libretto of “Iolanta”, written by Modest Tchaikovsky, was  reprocessed: the sacred meaning of the opera contradicted the atheism implanted in the country. In the "Soviet" version  ​​the Divine Light  idea  was altered into the medical theme of  a blind girl physical healing . Everything connected with the mention of the Creator was reformulated into the glorification of Nature.


The Astrakhan State Opera and Ballet Theatre refers to the text of the original libretto, returning the sacral esoteric meaning to the   "Iolanta" content.


Financial conditions of the crisis time we live in are rather tough.They sometimes seem insurmountable. However, the directors of the performance managed to get out of the difficult situation brilliantly. They used in the scenography a significant fragment of another performance set, but presented it in a new perspective. Such a rethinking gave a completely different sound to the organizing element of the set design, which received a completely new image.


Without conflict with the plot of the opera, the directors have created on the stage the closed space for Iolanta - a circle that protects her from real life, from a stranger eye, from the danger of accidentally finding out the truth about her physical defect. No one from the outside has the right to violate the limits of this circle. At the same time, Iolanta himself is ignorant of the world out of the circle, but intuitively it attracts her.


The skillful Moorish physician Ebn-Hakia comes from another world. His philosophy is foreign for  King René’s court. The doctor doesn’t doubt that the spiritual and the material worlds are inseparable. Ibn-Hakia sings the monologue "Two worlds", explaining the interdependence of the mind and the body within the divinely ordained universe, which merges spirit and matter.


In the stage decision of this key monologue of Ebn-Hakia, there is a director's allusion connected with the Old Testament: as proof of this duality, the royal stick gives live shoots  in the hands of the physician.


The theme of roses  takes a special place in the opera . In the European tradition, the red rose is associated not only with love, but also with suffering. In the opera, Vaudemont's request to pick a red rose for him turns into a terrible test for the heroine. She goes out of her world limits and ... is lost there. When Vaudemont tells Iolanta about the sun, the sky and the radiance of the stars, the petals of roses are falling from above, spreading through the whole scene a red carpet. Thus the moment  is accented when love awakens in the soul of Iolanta. But not only that.

To restore her sight, to break out of the  physical circle, Iolanta must perform a spiritual feat. And she does it - not for her own sake, but for saving the life of her beloved. She readily goes along this red carpet - the path of suffering.

Over  hundred years of  Iolanta scenic history, it has been expected that  at the moment of the heroine's curing of blindness streams of light have to flood the stage. Konstantin Balakin pays special attention to the author's instruction in the score: when Iolanta begins to see, it is "Almost night. Only the distant peaks of the mountains are illuminated a little bit by the glow of the evening dawn. Stars".

Just in this gentle light, Iolanta discovers the visible world for the first time, and in its center there is a wonderful beautiful censer emanating grace. In church services the censer symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is to Him that the look of the grateful and enlightened Iolanta rushes in the finale.

In the last opera by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the music of amazing beauty gives us spiritual enlightenment, moves back  the material world, showing  the true meaning of the universe through renewing harmony.

 There are family stories that are forever cut into memory and become legends. One of such stories in our family is connected with the Great Patriotic War - and with "Iolanta". I involuntarily recall it when I hear the sounds of this unusual opera.

   I can clearly imagine the story from my grandmother’s youth. Late fall. The first months of the blockade. Music sounded from  the round loudspeaker (they were called "plates" in Leningrad ) . They gave "Iolanta". As if mesmerized, she could not tear herself away from the broadcast. It was cold in her flat. She stood barefoot, but she did not dare to leave and warm her tea or put on wool socks: she was afraid to miss something very important ...

   The last opera by Tchaikovsky gives the listener an inner enlightenment, without which human life is nothing.This enlightenment brings love, faith, hope.  It brings the feeling of life fullness and beauty of the universe.

   As I understand now, these hour and a half became the strongest emotional shock in the besieged city, to which the darkness fell.

   The hardest years of battle with this darkness were coming - and the unfortunate father prayed to the Lord for the healing of his daughter. The shells were bursting - and the noble knight asked to give him red a rose. There was a terrible war - and the blind girl obediently accepted sufferings to save her dear man.

The Victory was still far away, and the voice of enlightened Iolanta joined a hymn praising the Creator ...
Konstantin Balakin

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