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05 November 2023 (Sun), 19:00 World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - Mariinsky II (New Theatre) - Opera Mikhail Glinka "Ruslan and Lyudmila" (magical opera in five acts)

Running time: 4 hours 30 minutes (till 23:30)

The performance has 3 intermissions

Schedule for Mikhail Glinka "Ruslan and Lyudmila" (magical opera in five acts) 2022

Composer: Mikhail Glinka
Lighting Designer: Vladimir Lukasevich
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Preparation: Irina Soboleva
Choreography: Michel Fokine
Director: Irkin Gabitov
Stage Director: Lotfi Mansouri
Costume Designer: Konstantin Korovin

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

magical opera in 5 acts

Performed in Russian, with synchronised English supertitles

World premiere: 27 November 1842, Bolshoi Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia
Premiere of this production: 1994, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia

What do you think of when someone mentions Russian opera? Most likely, it's something somber and dark, and with good reason. The most famous of Russian operas include Mussorgsky's grim historical epic Boris Godunov, along with Tchaikovsky's pair of bleak psychodramas The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin, operas with an epic quality of their own. And those three, popular dramas have something particular in common with plenty of other Russian operas. All three are based on works by Alexander Pushkin -- not most people's idea of leisurely reading. Yet there is one great Russian opera, also inspired by Pushkin, that occupies a far lighter region of the dramatic spectrum. Mikhail Glinka is often credited as the founder of the Russian opera tradition. Ruslan and Lyudmila was Glinka's second opera, and also his last. It appeared in 1842, after six years in the making, and it is based on a Pushkin epic. But this one might well be called an epic frolic -- a lush yet lighthearted romp through a world of fantastic adventures and fairytale love. The story sweeps its way across the vast Russian landscape, depicting a furious conflict between good and evil. But when it all shakes out, this epic features far more fun than furor. Glinka’s opera follows Pushkin's original fairly closely -- the whole plot is there, and then some. The opera may come up short of fully capturing the poem’s astonishing dramatic flow, but that would have been a tall order. Pushkin's epic is a real page turner, with disparate elements of the story tumbling over each other at a breakneck pace. The opera is more a series of related set pieces, and it probably didn’t help that the scenario was reportedly devised, by a buddy of Glinka’s, "in a quarter of an hour while he was drunk." Yet Glinka’s musical contribution is beautiful throughout, conjuring lively characters and vivid theatrical images, even when the action itself occasionally slows to a trot.

Libretto: Mikhail Glinka, Konstantin Bakhturin, Alexander Shakhovskoi, Valerian Shirkov, Mikhail Gedeonov, Nestor Kukol’nik and Nikolay Markevich, after the poem by Alexander Pushkin

Decorations are restored from the 1904 version of the performance by Alexander Golovin and Konstantin Korovin

Set Design: Thierry Bosquet (Belgium)

Ruslan and Lyudmila (Russian: Ruslan i Ljudmila) is an opera in five acts (eight tableaux) composed by Mikhail Glinka between 1837 and 1842. The opera is based on the 1820 poem of the same name by Aleksandr Pushkin. 

"At one of Zhukovsky’s soirees when speaking of his poem Ruslan and Lyudmila, Pushkin said that there was much he would like to change; I wanted him to tell me exactly what changes he would make, though his untimely death robbed me of the opportunity to do so," Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka recorded in his Notes. The composer began work on the opera in 1837, the libretto not yet being complete and the poet’s tragic death forcing him to turn to amateur poets from among his friends and acquaintances. Unlike the literary source material which was written with the irony and light humour of a young rake (Pushkin began the work when still a lyceum pupil and planned to rewrite it several times as a result), the opera is epic in character, monumental images of bylina Old Russian bogatyrs blended together with the fairytale oriental flavour of Chernomor’s kingdom, the abundance of crowd scenes setting off the protagonists’ famous arias which have become jewels in the treasure casket of Russian music, as has done the brilliant overture.

Act I

In Svetozar’s banquet hall, the wedding feast for Ruslan and Lyudmila is taking place. The guests listen to Bayan sing a song foretelling misfortune for the bride and groom, followed by happiness from true love. Lyudmila, saddened by the prospect of leaving her father, gives words of comfort to her unsuccessful suitors, Farlaf and Ratmir, and then pledges herself to Ruslan. Svetoslav blesses the couple. All of a sudden everything goes dark and there is a crash of thunder. The people are paralyzed by a spell while two monsters carry Lyudmila away. When light returns and everyone recovers, they panic over Lyudmila’s disappearance. Svetozar promises half his kingdom and Lyudmila’s hand to the man who brings her back. The three suitors ready themselves for the journey to find Lyudmila.

Act II

Tableau 1
Ruslan comes upon the cave of the kindly wizard Finn, who tells him that the evil sorcerer Chernomor has absconded with Lyudmila and that Ruslan is the man who will destroy him. Ruslan asks Finn why he lives in this deserted place, and Finn relates the story of many years ago, when he was a shepherd and fell in love with a beautiful girl named Naina. When she rejected his declaration of love, he went away to go off to battle with enemies for booty, returned and presented it to her, and yet again she spurned him. Then he resolved to study magic to win her; many years went by, and through sorcery he finally summoned an old, gray-haired, humpbacked woman -- it was Naina, who now was mad with passion for him. He ran away from her and has been hiding from her ever since. For abandoning her, Naina is consumed by vengeful hatred, which will likewise fall upon Ruslan. Assuring him that Lyudmila will not be harmed, Finn instructs Ruslan to head north, and the two of them exit in opposite directions.

Tableau 2
In a deserted place, the cowardly Farlaf wonders whether he should continue searching for Lyudmila, when the decrepit Naina approaches him. She promises to get Lyudmila for him and send Ruslan far away. She disappears, and Farlaf rejoices in his triumph.

Tableau 3
Ruslan, having come upon a foggy desert strewn with weapons and bones from a past battle, wonders at the cause of this scene and whether he, too, may end up the same way. He chooses a new shield and spear from the ground to replace his broken weaponry, but cannot find a sword heavy enough to complete his new set of armor. When the fog lifts, a giant Head is revealed and blows through its lips to bring up a storm so as to drive Ruslan away. When Ruslan strikes the head with his spear, the Head falls back and reveals a sword underneath. He takes it and asks the Head where it came from. As it is dying, the Head explains that it once was a giant, and his dwarf brother is the evil sorcerer Chernomor. The sword was destined to kill both of them; so, in order to forestall fate, Chernomor tricked the giant, beheaded him, and flew his live head away to the distant desert to keep the sword protected underneath it. With the sword now in Ruslan’s hands, the Head calls for vengeance on Chernomor.


Young maidens are luring passing travelers to enter Naina’s magical castle. Gorislava appears, looking for Ratmir, who had taken her captive and then abandoned her. After she goes away for a moment, Ratmir himself comes on the scene and falls under the spell of the maidens, who seduce him with dance. The final guest attracted to the castle is Ruslan, who finds himself forgetting Lyudmila upon seeing Gorislava. Suddenly Finn appears; and, after pronouncing a happy fate for Ratmir with Gorislava, and for Ruslan with Lyudmila, the castle turns into a forest as they resolve to rescue Lyudmila.

Act IV

Within Chernomor’s magical gardens, Lyudmila longs for Ruslan and resists the influence of the enchanted surroundings. Chermonor with his retinue arrives; dances are performed. A trumpet call signals a challenge from Ruslan. Chernomor puts Lyudmila under a sleeping spell and goes off to fight Ruslan, who shortly comes on the scene triumphantly wearing Chernomor’s beard around his helmet. Although he is disheartened by Lyudmila’s condition, Ruslan, along with Ratmir and Gorislava, resolve to return to Kiev with Lyudmila to seek the aid of the magicians there. Chernomor’s former slaves freely come along.

Act V

Tableau 1
In a moonlit valley, Ruslan, Ratmir, and Gorislava, with Lyudmila, have camped for the night. Ratmir, who is standing guard, worries about Ruslan, and then expresses his happiness at his reunion with Gorislava. Suddenly the slaves report that Lyudmila once again has been abducted and that Ruslan has left in search of her. Finn appears, gives a magic ring to Ratmir that will awaken Lyudmila when she is brought back to Kiev.

Tableau 2
Lyudmila lies asleep in Svetozar’s banquet hall. It turns out that Farlaf, with Naina’s assistance, kidnapped Lyudmila and brought her to Kiev so as to appear to have been her rescuer. However, he cannot waken her. Horses approach, and Ruslan, Ratmir, and Gorislava arrive. Ruslan brings the magic ring to Lyudmila, and she awakens. As the tableau opens onto a view of Kiev, the people rejoice in their gods, their fatherland, and the young couple.



Svetozar, Grand Prince of Kiev: bass

Ludmila, his daughter: soprano

Ruslan, a Kievan knight, Lyudmila's betrothed: baritone

Ratmir, a Khazar prince: contralto

Farlaf, a Varangian knight: bass

Gorislava, a captive of Ratmir [and in love with him]: soprano

Finn, a good sorcerer: tenor

Naina, an evil sorceress: mezzo-soprano

Bayan, a bard: tenor

Chernomor, an evil sorcerer, dwarf: non-singing role

A Giant Head: chorus (inside)

Sons of Svetozar, knights, boyars and boyarynyas, chamber-maids and nurses-maids, page boys, bodyguards, cupbearers, stolniks, the Prince's armed force, and people; maids of the magic castle, blackamoors, dwarves, slaves of Chernomor, nymphs, water-nymphs

The action takes place in the time of Kievan Rus'.

Schedule for Mikhail Glinka "Ruslan and Lyudmila" (magical opera in five acts) 2022

Extract from the opera "Ruslan and Lyudmila"
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Extract from the opera "Ruslan and Lyudmila"

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