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Opera The Brothers Karamazov (mystery opera in three acts after the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky (version of 2013))
World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - established 1783

Running time: 3 hours 45 minutes

The performance has 2 intermissions

Schedule for The Brothers Karamazov (mystery opera in three acts after the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky (version of 2013)) 2020

Composer: Alexander Smelkov
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Director: Maestro Valery Gergiev
Musical Preparation: Irina Soboleva
Set Designer: Zinovy Margolin
Lighting Designer: Damir Ismagilov
Production: Vasily Barkhatov
Costume Designer: Maria Danilova
Libretto: Yuri Dimitrin
Production: Vasily Barkhatov
Musical Preparation: Irina Trutko
Stage Director: Vasily Barkhatov
Principal Chorus Master: Dmitry Ralko

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra

mystery opera in 3 acts

Performed in Russian with synchronised English supertitles

Premiere of this production: 23 July 2008, Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

Opera mystery in two acts after the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Performed in Russian with English supetitles

Towards the close of the XVI International Stars of the White Nights Festival of Arts, the Mariinsky Theatre presented the world premiere of St
Petersburg composer Alexander Smelkov's opera The Brothers Karamazov after the novel of the same name by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The libretto by Yuri Dimitrin includes almost every dramatic clash of the novel in the twenty-five scenes of the two-act opera.
Alexander Smelkov's opera is the first for several decades at the Mariinsky Theatre by a contemporary, living composer, and which promises to be a highlight of Russia's cultural life today. Alexander Smelkov's expressive and vivid music contains echoes from numerous genres (from the everyday romance to sacral chant), stylistic influences (from Musorgsky and Tchaikovsky to Shostakovich), while still remaining a truly original work by the composer, expressing the desire of human existence for utter truth while ensnared by passions and vices.


On the whole it may be said that the opera has succeeded in life… The musical emotions, roused by Gergiev, constantly take us to the edge, and the unbelievable functional set designs by Zinovy Margolin, already beyond all doubt or disagreement acclaimed as one of his best works, in each and every single detail tells us about something close to us, something recognisable, ramshackle and very spiritual... The inventiveness of the performers in The Brothers Karamazov is all thanks to young stage director Vasily Barkhatov, who has staged a detailed, refined production that is not at all childish in its construction, where practically everyone of the vast number of characters of Dostoevsky is distinctly drawn, moreover several times (he worked on the piece with several casts).

Yekaterina Biryukova. Afisha

Set within twenty-five scenes and slightly under three hours of music, the composer has succeeded in creating not a mosaic picture “after motifs of Dostoevsky”, but a work that is surprisingly integral and impressive. Dostoevsky wrote a “tragic novel”, Smelkov a “mystery opera” – it could be said with every right to do so in as much as the “life” moments and actual happenings figure in the work in a complex blend with historical and folkloric symbolism. Apropos, if you call it an opera or not, whatever serves as the basis of the libretto, the main and most important part of such a work is nonetheless always the music. It is pleasing that it was this score that was the main success of the premiere – and, possibly, the main event of the past season.

Gazeta. SPb

... It was with the living, passionate emotions of the singers and the established, expected expression of the orchestra that Smelkov’s opera seized the Barbican Hall, pushing aside the scepticism of music critics who did not wish to judge a work to be of any quality that tacked together the ideas of other composers – from Tchaikovsky to Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  The public at the Barbican was frenzied by the passion, by the savagery of the characters, by the truly – “Dostoevskian” – spiritual fever as performed by the singers – Vasily Gorshkov, Avgust Amonov, Alexei Markov, Vladislav Sulimsky, Andrei Popov, Gennady Bezzubenkov, Kristina Kapustinskaya, Olga Trifonova, Elena Nebera and Alexander Timchenko among others.

Irina Muravieva. Rossiiskaya Gazeta

The almost four-hour-long performance ended with a stormy ovation. But the public applauded not for the innovativeness but for the traditionalism. They applauded the justified expectations – that music of the 21st century has not perverted words of the 19th century. That Dostoevsky’s protagonists on stage were exactly as imagined by the majority of readers, even from their school years. That the production team (stage director Vasily Barkhatov and set designer Zinovy Margolin) conveyed their interest in the idea and the content, reconciling their own ambitions and the draw of self-expression.

Elena Gubaidullina. Kultura



1. The beginning of the legend (Prelude)

The square of a medieval town. The Grand Inquisitor and his guards are slowly moving across the square. As if from the future, a childrenґs choir can be heard – "The evening is quiet, it is a summerґs eve…" Foreseeing the impending trial of Mitya Karamazov, the male voices repeat several times "You are accused of murder…", "Accused of the murder of your father…"

2. … Anything goes!

Outside the secluded monastery of the old man Zosima. Those wanting to meet the old man are waiting at the entrance. The head monk leads Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his sons Ivan and Alyosha to the old man. The father hopes that the old man will resolve the rights of inheritance between them and his eldest son Mitya. Mitya appears. The father accuses his son of abandoning his fiancйe Katerina Ivanovna and preferring the "local seductress" Grushenka. Instead of a reconciliation between the father, passionately in love with Grushenka, and Mitya, who is jealous of him, a heated quarrel arises. Suddenly the old man falls on his knees before Mitya. "I bowed to the great suffering of his future. To the great suffering…" the old man explains to Alyosha.

3. Confessions of a passionate heart

Mitya tells his brother Alyosha how Katerina Ivanovna became his fiancйe. Her father, a lieutenant colonel, was accused of embezzlement. Mitya offered money to save her father if she would come to him. She came. He gave her the money… and let her go. Later he got his money back, followed by a letter from her… He sent an answer through his brother Ivan who fell in love with her… And now Mitya wants Alyosha to tell Katerina Ivanovna of his decision to break off with her and no longer hide the fact that the money she recently asked Mitya to send to Moscow was squandered by him and Grushenka. When Alyosha agrees, Mitya tells him that he is rushing to his fatherґs house: according to his fatherґs servant Smerdyakov, three thousand roubles have been made ready for Grushenka, and his father is impatient for her arrival. "And if I find out she has come…", Mitya warns Alyosha, blinded by hatred for his father, "… I will break in and commit murder!"

4. Both together

Alyosha comes to Katerina Ivanovna and tells her about Mitya’s decision and about her money which his brother spent carousing with Grushenka. Unexpectedly Katerina Ivanovna brings Grushenka from the next room and states that they are by no means rivals. Grushenka has long been in love with an officer who abandoned her and married, but who is now free again and has returned. The women encircle Alyosha, explaining in every possible manner their feelings to each other. In thanks, Katerina Ivanovna even kisses Grushenkaґs hand. And the other, it would seem, is ready to respond likewise. But suddenly with a sneer she throws it all in Katerina Ivanovnaґs face: "What a noble lady you are. And what if I don’t kiss your hand? I will tell Mitya. How he will laugh." Katerina Ivanovna is furious. Grushenka disappears, laughing. Katerina Ivanovna is overcome by convulsions and weeping.

5. What for? Why? (Mityaґs aria)

Mitya is left alone. "Dead. Utterly lost and dead. Why is the steppe so empty, why are the people poor, why do the children go hungry? I saw Grushenka, her beauty – and was lost. Beauty is a terrible thing. What for? Why?"

6. Drinking cognac…

The house of Fyodor Pavlovich. The servants Grigory and Smerdyakov attend their master, who has finished lunch and is having coffee with his son Ivan. Alyosha appears. A discussion about faith begins. Fyodor Pavlovich says "Ivan, tell me, is there a God?" "No". "Alyosha, is there a God?" "Yes". Fyodor Pavlovich says "And there is no eternal life?" Ivan replies that "There is no eternal life." A terrible noise and violent screams are heard from the canopy, and Mitya bursts into the room – "Sheґs been hidden! I saw how she came to the house!" Mitya bursts into the other apartments looking for Grushenka. Trembling with passion, Fyodor Pavlovich follows him – "Grushenka is here?" He is stopped by the servants. Coming back, Mitya grabs the old man by his hair and throws him to the floor, beating him furiously. The brothers draw him off. Ivan cries out "Madman! You have killed him!" "Even if I haven’t, I will come again to kill." Mitya leaves, turning to his blood-soaked father with the words: "I curse you and renounce you…" Fyodor Pavlovich calls Alyosha: "Alyosha, I am afraid of Ivan. I fear Ivan more than the other one."

7. Anguish in the drawing room

Katerina Ivanovna, Khokhlova the landowner and Ivan are in Khokhlovaґs apartments. Alyosha enters. Katerina Ivanovna tells him of the "drunken epistle" she received yesterday from Mitya. "If even he marries such a… creature, I will not abandon him! When he becomes miserable, then let him come to me…" Katerina Ivanovna declares with resolution. "Anyone else would be wrong, but you are right…" Ivan agrees. "Alyosha… Katerina Ivanovna never loved me! She was taking revenge for Mityaґs insult… But you know, Katerina Ivanovna, you need him to contemplate the extent of your faith. Farewell!" Coming towards Ivan, who has left Katerina Ivanovnaґs apartments, there is a brisk figure dressed the same way as Ivan himself. Quickly bowing to Ivan, he removes his top hat, exposing Devil’s horns.

8. … It is interesting to talk with an intelligent man

Smerdyakov with his guitar and Marya Kondratievna are seated on a bench in front of Fyodor Pavlovichґs house. "However much I resist," Smerdyakov sings with emotion, "… I shall depart and enjoy life in the capital!" Ivan appears. Marya Kondratievna quickly departs. "What, are you not leaving?" Smerdyakov asks Ivan. Ivan does not understand, "Why do you advise me to leave?" "What do you mean why? You are to be pitied." The Devil in his top hat rises from the bench. For an instant Ivanґs gaze is fixed intently upon him. With a devilishly sneering smile, the Devil blushes. Ivan quickly departs. Smerdyakov says to the Devil "… It is interesting to talk with an intelligent man."

9. Praise be to God!

The square of a medieval town. A funeral procession is approaching the church. The Grand Inquisitor is in the distance. A childrenґs choir can be heard singing a prayer. Mityaґs voice too: "I wanted to kill but I am not guilty!" Menґs voices: "A murder trial is being held… of a retired titular counsellor…" The Wanderer appears in the middle of the square. Everyone recognises him. With a silent smile of compassion he moves towards the church porch. The mother of the dead girl throws herself at his feet begging for her child to be resurrected. The Wanderer passes his hand over the dead childґs body… The girl in the coffin rises and sits up. She is holding the bouquet of white roses she had with her in the coffin. The people are overcome with confusion, cries and weeping… The Grand Inquisitor gives the guards a signal. The Wanderer is seized and led away. The Grand Inquisitor raises his outstretched arm over the crowd. "Praise be to God!" The crowd bows down before him.


10. It is even sweeter to be dirty! (Fyodor Pavlovichґs monologue)

Fyodor Pavlovich is alone. "No, my dearest Mitya Fyodorovich. Not a rouble! Not a rouble! I want to be a man another twenty years or so. But when I'm old I'll become unclean… That's why I will need money. It is even sweeter to be dirty! Even sweeter to be dirty!"

11. Gold-fields

Mitya bursts into Khokhlakova’s rooms. “I have come in the most utter despair to ask you to lend me three thousand.” Khokhlakova’s response delights Mitya. “I’ll give you more, I’ll save you... You will discover gold-fields, you will make millions and become a useful man for Russia...” Khokhlakova, rushing to the desk, moves box after box searching for something, brings out a small icon and places it around Mitya’s neck. “Gold-fields! Now you may go.” “But the money?” “Under no circumstances. Not for you. I love you.”

12. Relay from Mokroe

Grushenkaґs apartments. Well-dressed, Grushenka is anxiously awaiting her old love – the officer who has come back to her. There is a knock at the door… Marya Kondratievna escorts Alyosha into the room; he has come here looking for Mitya. Grushenka is inexpressibly delighted at the visit, seats Alyosha down at the table and offers him champagne, falling at his knees. "Alyosha, today is a special day for me. My officer is coming, my tormentor! Perhaps, today, I will take a knife to him… Tell me, do I love him?" Marya Kondratievna runs in holding a letter: a carriage has arrived from Mokroe. Grushenka grabs the letter: "If he comes and whistles to call me, I shall creep back to him like a beaten dog! Grushenka is flying to a new life…"

13. She wonґt take the knife, she wonґt take it… (Alyoshaґs prayer)

Alyosha is alone… "God! Look at her… I came here to find a wicked soul and I have found a treasure, a loving soul… She forgave all, forgot all, and weeps. And she wonґt take the knife, she wonґt take it!"

14. The copper pestle

Mitya bursts into Grushenkaґs house, pushing Marya Kondratievna: "Where is she?" "My lord, I know nothing." "If Grushenka has run off to the old man… Iґll… kill him! Like a fly!" Mitya rushes to the doors, comes back, grabs the pestle from the mortar on the table and runs out.

15. Darkness…

Late evening. The garden in front of Fyodor Pavlovichґs house. Mitya appears. "There is a light in the old manґs room. She is there!" He looks in the window. Fyodor Pavlovich can be seen through the glass. Mitya hides in the shadows. Fyodor Pavlovich disappears. "Is she here?" Again Mitya approaches the window, knocks gently and retreats. Fyodor Pavlovich immediately comes to the window. "Grushenka, is it you? You have come! I will open up now." Mitya takes the pestle from his pocket and hides behind the house. Grigory appears. Mitya comes back with the pestle raised high. "Monster! Father-killer!!!" Mitya strikes Grigory with the pestle. The latter falls. Mitya cries out "God! Why did I do that? Is he alive?" Mitya throws the pestle away. "But it doesnґt matter much now. I have killed."

16. The Grand Inquisitor

To the sounds of a childrenґs choir, prison bars can be made out, and behind them the Wanderer. Carrying a lantern, the Grand Inquisitor approaches him to take a better look. He stops before the Wanderer and lights up his face. The Grand Inquisitor asks "Why did you come to interfere here? The Devil tempted you in the desert: ґTurn the stones into loaves… Give the people miracles… Take Caesarґs sword…ґ You scorned this advice. We did not.” In the distance male voices can be heard: "All rise! Court is in session… Court… Court is in session…" "We gave them bread. And the people rejoiced… We have sanctified your faith through the mystery of a miracle. And the people rejoiced… We are like Caesar with his sword, we are kings on Earth. Why did you come here to interfere, you heretic?"

17. Let me love… (Mityaґs prayer)

Mitya is alone. "God, save me from that terrible sort! Revive the old man! And donґt judge me harshly, God. Because I have judged myself. And let me love…" Mitya tears the amulet from his neck. "Here are one and a half thousand, half of Katerinaґs money." Mitya breaks open the amulet and takes out a pile of currency bills… “If only I could return it”.

18. Take me away, far away…

A hall in an inn. The Polish officers Mussyalevich (the officer who has returned to Grushenka) and Vrublevsky are sitting playing cards at a table. Sitting in a chair with a half-full glass, Grushenka suddenly sees Mitya at the door. "Mitya! Sit down, Iґm glad to see you!" Champagne is brought. Mitya suggests the Poles play a round. Having lost several hundred, Mitya takes them aside. "If you want three thousand, sir, take it and begone," he tells Mussyalevich. "Five hundred roubles this very minute, the rest tomorrow." Understanding that Mitya does not have three thousand, they proudly turn him down and Mussyalevich tells Grushenka of the conversation. Grushenka (to Mitya): "Is it possible he took no money from you?" Mussyalevich says "I came to take you as a wife, but see quite another miss, not the one there was before…" "Oh, get out, go back to whence you came!" Mitya throws himself at the Pole. His path is blocked by a throng of musicians and young women singing and dancing in the crowded room. Grushenka says "I love someone here, Mitya. Can you guess who?" The songs and merriment at the inn fade away… Grushenka continues, "Take me, Mitya!!!" In the eyes of Grushenka and Mitya, everything and everyone around them have disappeared. "… Donґt touch me. We must be pure and good… Take me far, far away, do you hear?" Mitya replies "Far, far away…" Grushenka continues "Theyґre not animals, they are kind…" Mitya replies "Iґd give up my whole life for just one hour." Together they sing "The snow is bright, the church bell rings… the church bell… Far, far away…" Meanwhile, the bell begins to chime in reality. The district police officer and his gendarmes enter and approach Mitya. "Retired Lieutenant Karamazov, you are arrested on suspicion of the murder and robbery of your father." Mitya replies "Not guilty! Not I! Not I! I am not guilty for that blood!" The officer continues "Grigory the servant is alive, he has regained consciousness. And will give evidence."


19. What I need exists not on earth… (Katerina Ivanovnaґs aria)

Katerina Ivanovna is alone. She is holding the letter she received from Mitya yesterday. "Fateful Katya… I will give you the money. I will smash the old manґs skull and take it from under his pillow… If only Ivan would go away…" Katerina Ivanovna scrumples up the letter. "And what do I tell the court? …I remember… I have the money, and I can make a gesture of respect. ґCome in. The door is open…ґ Mitya could not kill… My window is high above the ground. I see only the sky and the sunset… I weep without tears for a faithless vow. What I need exists not on earth, not on earth…"

20. Not you, not you who killed

Alyosha and Ivan are in the gloom of a storm. Ivan says "Katerina Ivanovna has a document, in Mityenkaґs own hand, proving that he killed." "That is impossible, because he is not the killer!" "Who then?" Alyosha says "I will tell you one thing… You did not kill your father. You are no murderer." After a lengthy pause, Ivan says "I will have no more to do with you from this day on." And continues, as he leaves: "You stay well clear of me today!"

21. Alyoshaґs dream

A space filled with splashes of light. Alyosha is in the centre of a pulsating beam of light. Alyosha says "Dusk and the heavenly vault, filled with glittering stars…" Somewhere in the distance an unreal vision of the dead old man Zosima appears, slowly moving towards Alyosha. The old man says "Where are you, Alyosha? Where are you?" There are mysterious, indefinable silhouettes of Mitya, Ivan, then Fyodor Pavlovich and Smerdyakov. They all slowly approach Alyosha. "Where are you, where are you, Alyosha? The sound of silence, like the echo of the vanishing secret of lost souls…” The silhouettes of Grushenka, Katerina Ivanovna and Khokhlakova appear… "Where are you, where are you, Alyosha?" And, lastly, the thought comes again and again to the tormented Alyosha: "The truth is that anyone is guilty for everyone and everything in the eyes of the world." Everyone around Alyosha slowly begins to move away from him – "Where are you, where are you, Alyosha? Where are you Alyosha?" – and gradually they disappear.

22. And so it was you who killed…

Ivan appears in Smerdyakovґs room. Smerdyakov asks "Why are you worried? That it is the trial tomorrow? I wonґt give evidence against you. It wasnґt you who killed, not you." Ivan replies "I know it wasnґt me!" "Do you know? Well in fact you did. And you knew about the murder… Knowing all, you left and appointed me the murderer. You are the principal killer." The Devil appears with a mandolin under his arm and a case in one hand. He quickly passes by the talking men as if he does not see them. Ivan follows him with his eyes. Smerdyakov places a packet of bank notes before Ivan. "There. All three thousand. Take it."

23. You are I, only the face is different

The Devil is sitting on a sofa in Ivanґs room and while waiting sings Smerdyakovґs song, accompanying himself on the mandolin. "However much I resist, I shall depart and enjoy life in the capital!" Ivan enters. "Youґre here?" The Devil continues his seductive song: "I am bound to the pretty thing by an unconquerable force… Are you going to court tomorrow? To defend your brother? That is a fine decision." Ivan replies "Do you wish to assure me that you are I, only our faces are different?" The Devil says "I donґt know how to please you any more." He sets the mandolin aside, takes a trumpet from a case, continuing to talk, mixing in virtuoso passages on the trumpet. There is a knock at the door. The Devil, finishing a section, says "Open it, it is your brother Alyosha. With very unusual news." Alyosha comes in: "An hour ago Smerdyakov hanged himself." The Devil, looking indifferent, while playing on the mandolin, says "… To enjoy life and live in the capital!"

24. All rise! Court is in session…

The court. Mitya is on the bench of the accused; Alexei, Grushenka and Katerina Ivanovna are around… The foreman of the court, the jury, the public are all there. Voices can be heard: "Retired lieutenant Dmitry Karamazov stands accused of murder… of the murder of his father." Alyosha says "My brother is innocent. Believe him!" Katerina Ivanovna chimes in "Believe him!" Grushenka speaks: "I am guilty. It all happened because of me. Believe him." Ivan appears in the courtroom. Waving the packet of banknotes he declares "Here is the money… all of it… I got it from Smerdyakov. He killed, it was I who taught him to kill…" Katerina Ivanovna exclaims "He is ill, he is fevered!" The public and the jury reply "He is a madman!" Ivan intervenes "Free my brother, take me!" Katerina Ivanovna again: "I must tell you… immediately!" She takes out Mityaґs letter: "Here is a letter… This monster killed his father. He writes that he would kill him as soon as Ivan would go away." Grushenka exclaims "Mitya, this snake of yours has ruined you!"

25. The Wanderer (Postlude)

Once again the Grand Inquisitor and the prison bars loom up, the Wanderer beyond them. The voice of the foreman of the court can be heard: "Is the accused guilty of premeditated murder with the intent of robbery?" The Grand Inquisitor (to the Wanderer): "Look about! Thus fifteen centuries have passed… Look, look at them: whom did you raise to your own level?" Menґs voices: "Yes. Guilty … Yes. Guilty… Yes. Yes. Guilty…" The Grand Inquisitor proclaims "Tomorrow you will be burnt." The Wanderer, slowing down, passes through the bars, approaches the front of the stage, stares at the audience, goes to the Grand Inquisitor, kisses his bloodless lips and slowly disappears. A childrenґs chorus can be heard: "The evening is quiet, it is a summerґs eve…"

Compiled by Yuri Dimitrin

© Photo by N. Razin

Schedule for The Brothers Karamazov (mystery opera in three acts after the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky (version of 2013)) 2020

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