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The Sorceress

Peter I. Tschaikowski 1840—1893

Opera in 4 acts
Libretto by Ippolit W. Schpaschinsky
First performed November 1st  1887, Mariinski Theater, St Petersburg

This production first seen December 4 2022
Sung in Russian with German & English surtitles

Introductory talks (in German) begin in the Holzfoyer 30 mins before curtain up and can be viewed here shortly before opening night

Conductor Valentin Uryupin / Takeshi Moriuchi

Nastasia Nombulelo Yende
Prince Iain MacNeil
Prince Elena Manistina
Their son, Prince Juri Gerard Schneider
Mamyrov Mikhail Biryukov
Nenila Cláudia Ribas°
Ivan Schuran Božidar Smiljanić
Foka Dietrich Volle
Polja Caterina Marchesini°
Balakin Jonathan Abernethy
Potap Morgan-Andrew King°
Lukasch Kudaibergen Abildin
Paisi Michael McCown

°Member of the Opera Studio

Far away from the city of Nischni Novgorod, guests at an establishment run by the widow Nastasia (known as "Kuma") can talk and party as they please. She calms things down when a heated argument breaks out. New guests arrive from the city: young prince Juri, son of the Prince, and his entourage. Juri’s admired by everyone, but refuses their invitation to stay. The mood changes when the Prince arrives with his spy, the clergyman Mamyrov. Because Mamyrov has accused Nastasia of witchcraft and fornication. The Prince intends to arrest her, but she manages to win him round with her hospitality and beauty. He even gives her his ring. Nastasia’s dancers perform. Mamyrov’s forced to dance too and is publicly humiliated. Act 2 The Princess is very worried. Mamyrov confirms her suspicions, that the Prince has fallen for Nastasia and visits her every day. The Princess is livid. Her chambermaid, Mamyrov’s sister Nenila, attemps in vain to persuade her mistress to try and win her husband back with magic. Paisi arrives, begging for alms. Mamyrov promises to reward him if he spies on the Prince and gives regular reports on his visits to Kuma. The Prince thinks of nothing but his beloved Nastasia. When he tries to start a conversation with the Princess about Prince Juri’s forthcoming wedding, she accuses him of infidelity and threatens to have Nastasia arrested on suspicion of witchcraft. On Mamyrov's orders, the Prince's servants demand excessive taxes and loot the market. The merchants demand an explanation from Mamyrov, who sets his men on them. Civil disorder threatens. Juri interferes in his father's affairs for the first time, seeking to resolve the conflict. When he hears that his father loves Nastasia he decides to avenge his betrayed mother and kill Nastasia. Act 3 The Prince tries to force his love on Nastasia, but she spurns him. He threatens her with violence and leaves. Her friend Polya and uncle Foka warn Nastasia that Juri’s planning to attack her. She refuses any kind of protection and waits for her murderer. The young prince arrives. Nastasia convinces him of her innocence and declares her love for him. Juri, who realises that the supposed sorceress is in fact a strong, honest woman, returns her feelings. Act 4 Out hunting, Juri’s waiting for Nastasia, to run away with her. The hunters’ horns lure him away. The Princess, in the company of treacherous Paisi, meets Mamyrov, and asks him for poison. Nastasia says farewell to her friends. Disguised as a pilgrim, the Princess worms herself into her trust and gives her a deadly potion. Nastasia dies in the young Prince’s arms. The Princess confesses to murder. Her son curses her. When the Prince tries to claim Nastasia as his own and sees that she’s been murdered, he kills his son and his wife. Horrified by his actions, he goes mad.

Tchaikovsky’s seventh opera combines a story of jealousy with a political game of intrigues and religious quandary. It’s about a free spirit, the widow Nastasia, called Kuma, who runs a tavern on the outskirts of Nischni Nowgorod, where people from all walks of life meet up. She fascinates everyone with her love of freedom. Mamyrov, an intrigant cleric and the Prince’s advisor, accuses Kuma of sorcery and immorality. He persuades the Prince to have her tavern searched, but she manages to win the Prince round and make a fool of his advisor. While Mamyrov fans the flames of the Princess’ jealousy, the Prince tries to make Kuma love him. But she’s in love with the royal couple’s son, so turns into a dysfunctional ruling family’s football and ends up being poisoned by the Princess then ... Vasily Barkhatov highlights the present day in his production of Tchaikovsky’s seldom performed opera, reminding us of the fate of artists in 21st century Russia.