The Tsar's Bride (opera)
The Tsar's Bride is an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in four acts by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

, the composer's tenth opera. The libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

, by Il’ya Tyumenev, is based on the drama of the same name
The Tsar's Bride
The Tsar's Bride is an historical verse drama in four acts by Lev Mei from 1849. Fifty years later Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov used the play as the basis for his opera of the same name. As with Mei's other Russian historical drama, The Maid of Pskov , this play is set in the time of Ivan the...

 by Lev Mey
Lev Mey
-Biography:Mei was born on 13/25 February 1822, in Moscow. His father was a German officer who was wounded in the Battle of Borodino and died young. His mother was Russian. Mei completed his studies in Moscow in 1841 and served in the office of the Governor for 10 years. He became part of the...

. Mey's play was first suggested to the composer as an opera subject in 1868 by Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and therefore are in the same style as the source...

. (Alexander Borodin
Alexander Borodin
Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian Romantic composer and chemist of Georgian–Russian parentage. He was a member of the group of composers called The Five , who were dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music...

, too, once toyed with the idea.) However, the opera was not composed until thirty years later, in 1898. The first performance of the opera took place in 1899 at the Moscow theater of the Private Opera of S.I. Mamontov.

Rimsky-Korsakov himself said of the opera that he intended it as a reaction against the ideas of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

, and to be in the style of "cantilena par excellence".

The Tsar's Bride is a repertory opera in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, although it is not part of the standard operatic repertoire in the West.

Performance history

The Moscow Premiere was given at the Private Opera Society, the scenic designer being Mikhail Vrubel
Mikhail Vrubel
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel is usually regarded amongst the Russian painters of the Symbolist movement. In reality, he deliberately stood aloof from contemporary art trends, so that the origin of his unusual manner should be sought in Late Byzantine and Early Renaissance painting.-Early...

. St. Petersburg had its premiere two years later at the Mariinsky Theatre
Mariinsky Theatre
The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic theatre of opera and ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. The...

 with scenic designs by Ivanov and Lambin. Another notable performance was at the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow, conducted by Emil Cooper
Emil Cooper
Emil Albertovich Cooper, also known as Emil Kuper was a Russian conductor and violinist, of English ancestry....

 (Kuper) and with scenic design by Konstantin Korovin
Konstantin Korovin
Konstantin Alekseyevich Korovin was a leading Russian Impressionist painter.-Biography:Konstantin was born in Moscow to a merchant family officially registered as "peasants of Vladimir Gubernia". His father, Aleksey Mikhailovich Korovin, earned a university degree and was more interested in arts...

, Golova, and Dyachkov. A film version was released in 1966 directed by Vladimir Gorikker.

One noted US production was in 1986 at Washington Opera. The Royal Opera
Royal Opera, London
The Royal Opera is an opera company based in central London, resident at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Along with the English National Opera, it is one of the two principal opera companies in London. Founded in 1946 as the Covent Garden Opera Company, it was known by that title until 1968...

 premiere was given at Covent Garden
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...

 in 2011, directed by Paul Curran
Paul Curran (director)
Paul Curran is a Scottish opera director. He was General Manager of the opera company of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet , and artistic consultant to Central City Opera of Denver, Colorado.-Early life:...

, with set and costume design by Kevin Knight and lighting design by David Jacques.


Role Voice type Premiere cast
3 November (O.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 22 October) 1899
(Conductor: Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
Mikhail Mikhailovich Ippolitov-Ivanov was a Russian composer, conductor and teacher.- Biography :...

Premiere cast
St. Petersburg
11 November (O.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 30 October) 1901
(Conductor: Eduard Nápravník
Eduard Nápravník
Eduard Francevič Nápravník was a Czech conductor and composer, who settled in Russia and is best known for his leading role in Russian musical life as the principal conductor of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg for many decades...

Premiere cast
Moscow 1916 (Conductor: Feliks Blumenfeld
Felix Blumenfeld
Felix Mikhailovich Blumenfeld was a Russian composer, conductor, pianist and teacher.He was born in Kovalevka, Kherson Governorate, Russian Empire , the son of Austrian Mikhail Frantsevich Blumenfeld and the Polish Marie Szymanowska, and studied composition at the St...

Premiere cast
14 April 2011 (Conductor: Mark Elder
Mark Elder
Sir Mark Philip Elder, CBE is a British conductor. He is the music director of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England.-Biography:Elder was born in Hexham, Northumberland, England, the son of a dentist...

Vasily Stepanovich Sobakin, Novgorodian merchant bass
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...

Nikolay Mutin Lev Sibiryakov Vasily Petrov
Vasily Petrov
Vasily Ivanovich Petrov , in Stavropol Krai. He completed high school in 1935 and studied for two years at a teacher training institute until 1937. Petrov joined the army in 1939 and completed the lieutenant's course in 1941....

Paata Burchuladze
Paata Burchuladze
Paata Burchuladze is a Georgian bass opera singer.Born in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR, he graduated from the Tbilisi State Conservatory and began his operatic career at Tbilisi and Moscow, with subsequent appearances at Covent Garden , Salzburg Festival under Herbert von Karajan , Metropolitan Opera in...

Marfa, his daughter soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel
Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel
Nadezhda Ivanovna Zabela-Vrubel was a Russian opera singer. Vocally, she is best described as a lyrical soprano, with a particularly high tessitura....

Adelaida Bolska Antonina Nezhdanova
Antonina Nezhdanova
Antonina Vasilievna Nezhdanova was a Russian lyric-coloratura soprano. An outstanding opera singer, she represented the Russian vocal school at its best....

Marina Poplavskaya
Marina Poplavskaya
Marina Poplavskaya is a Russian operatic soprano. Her repertoire includes leading roles in operas of the Romantic era; she is particularly known for her performances in the operas of Verdi....

Grigory Gryaznoy, an oprichnik
An oprichnik was a member of an organization established by Tsar Ivan the Terrible to govern the division of Russia known as the Oprichnina ....

Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

Nikolay Shevelyov Ioakim Tartakov Leonid Savransky Johan Reuter
Johan Reuter
Johan Reuter is a Danish baritone and opera singer. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and at the Royal Danish Opera Academy...

Malyuta Skuratov, an oprichnik bass Tarasov Aleksandr Antonovsky Platon Tsesevich Alexander Vinogradov
Alexander Vinogradov
Alexander Pavlovich Vinogradov was a Soviet geochemist, academician , and Hero of Socialist Labor ....

A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

 Ivan Sergeyevich Lïkov
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Anton Sekar-Rozhansky Fyodor Oreshkevich Mikhail Kurzhiyamsky Dmitry Popov
Lyubasha mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

Aleksandra Rostovtseva Mariya Slavina Pavlova Ekaterina Gubanova
Yelisey Bomelius, the Tsar's physician tenor Vasily Shkafer Daverin-Kravchenko Fyodor Ernst Vasily Gorshkov
Domna Ivanovna Saburova, a merchant woman soprano Sofiya Gladkaya Sofiya Gladkaya Elizabeth Woollett
Dunyasha, her daughter, Marfa's girlfriend mezzo-soprano Varvara Strakhova Yuliya Yunosova Konkordiya Antarova Jurgita Adamonyte
Petrovna, the Sobakins' housekeeper mezzo-soprano Varvara Kharitonova Anne-Marie Owens
The Tsar's stoker bass
A maiden mezzo-soprano
A young lad tenor
Chorus, silent roles: Two distinguished horsemen, riders, oprichniki, male and female choristers, dancers, boyars and boyarïnyas, maidens, servants, people.


Time: Autumn, 1572
Place: Aleksandrovsky settlement, Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

Act 1: The Feast

The oprichnik (bodyguard) Gryaznoi loves Marfa, daughter of the merchant Sobakin, even though Gryaznoi already has a mistress, Lyubasha, whom he has neglected of late. Marfa is already beloved of the boyar Lykov. In a jealous rage against Lykov, Gryaznoi arranges to cast a spell on Marfa with a magic potion from Bomelius, the Tsar's physician. Lyubasha has overheard Gryaznoi's request.

Act 2: The Love Philtre

Lyubasha in turn obtains from Bomelius another magic potion with which to cancel any feelings of Gryaznoi for Marfa. Bomelius consents, but at the price of an assignation with Lyubasha for himself.

Act 3: The Best Man

In the meantime, the Tsar of the title, Ivan IV
Ivan IV of Russia
Ivan IV Vasilyevich , known in English as Ivan the Terrible , was Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 until his death. His long reign saw the conquest of the Khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia, transforming Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state spanning almost one billion acres,...

 (known as "Ivan the Terrible"), is looking for a new bride from the best aristocratic maidens in Russia. The Tsar settles upon Marfa. At the celebration of the engagement of Marfa to Lykov, everyone is surprised when the news arrives of the Tsar's choice of Marfa as his bride. Gryaznoi had slipped what he thought was the love potion from Bomelius into Marfa's drink at the feast.

Act 4: The Bride

At the Tsar's palace, Marfa has become violently ill. Lykov has been executed, at the instigation of Gryaznoi, on charges of attempting to kill Marfa. When Marfa learns that Lykov is dead, she goes insane. Eventually, Gryaznoi admits that he had slipped a potion into her drink, and after learning that it was poisonous, asks that he himself be executed. Lyubasha then confesses that she had substituted her potion from Bomelius for Gryaznoi's. In a rage, Gryaznoi murders Lyubasha, and is then taken to prison eventually to be executed. In her madness, Marfa mistakes Gryzanoi for Lykov, inviting him to return the next day to visit her, then dies.

Important musical excerpts

  • Overture
  • Gryaznoy's Recitative and Aria (Act I)
  • Lyubasha's Song (Act I)
  • Marfa's Aria (Act IV)


  • 1943 Natalya Shpiller, Maxim Mikhailov, Piotr Medtviediev, Anatoly Lioubimov, Anatoly Orfionov, Maria Maksakova, Vassily Yakouchenko, Sofya Panova, Varvara Gagarina, Maria Levina, Bronislav Zielezinsky; Chorus and Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre; Lev Steinberg
    Lev Steinberg
    Lev Petrovich Steinberg was a Russian conductor and composer.In 1914 Diaghilev invited him to Paris and London. He founded the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra in 1943....

    , conductor (1943 recording) Dante Productions LYS 055/56:
  • 1975 Galina Vishnevskaya
    Galina Vishnevskaya
    Galina Pavlovna Vishnevskaya is a Russian soprano opera singer and recitalist who was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1966.-Biography:...

    , Irina Arkhipova, Vladimir Valaitis, Yevgeny Nesterenko
    Yevgeny Nesterenko
    Yevgeny Nesterenko is a renowned Russian operatic bass.Nesterenko's first profession was architecture, graduating from the Engineering and Construction Institute in Leningrad. But he was called to music, and he studied under Vasily Lukanin at the Leningrad Conservatory...

    , Andrei Sokolov, Vladimir Atlantov; Chorus and Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre; Fuat Mansurov
    Fuat Mansurov
    Fuat Mansurov was a Soviet and Russian conductor.National artist of Russia, Tatarstan, and Kazakhstan.In 1991 Mansurov conducted the Bolshoi at the New York Met for performances of Mlada and Eugene Onegin....

    , conductor.
  • ____ Ekatarina Kudriavchenko, Nina Terentieva, Arkady Mishenskin, Vladislav Verestnikov; Sveshnikov Academic Russian Choir; Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre; Andrey Chistiakov, conductor
  • ____ Marina Shaguch, Olga Borodina
    Olga Borodina
    Olga Vladimirovna Borodina is a leading dramatic mezzo-soprano, known for her roles in Russian operas at her home company, the Mariinsky Theatre, and for her international performing and recording career in a varied repertoire.Borodina made her debut in Samson and Delilah at the Royal Opera House...

    , Dmitri Hvorostovsky
    Dmitri Hvorostovsky
    Dmitri Aleksandrovich Hvorostovsky , is a leading baritone opera singer from Russia.Hvorostovsky was born in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. He studied at the Krasnoyarsk School of Arts under Yekatherina Yofel and made his debut at Krasnoyarsk Opera House, in the role of Marullo in Rigoletto...

    , Evgeny Akimov, Sergei Alexashkin, Nikolai Gassiev, Gennady Bezzubenkov, Irina Loskutova, Olga Markova-Mikhailenko, Lyubov Sokolova, Yuri Shkliar, Lyudmila Kasjanenko, Viktor Vikbrov; Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre
    Mariinsky Theatre
    The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic theatre of opera and ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. The...

    ; Valery Gergiev
    Valery Gergiev
    Valery Abisalovich Gergiev is a Russian conductor and opera company director. He is general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg.- Early life :Gergiev,...

    , conductor. Philips 462 618-2:

  • 1983 Lydia Kovaleva (Marfa), Yuri Grigoriev (Grigory Gryaznoy), Boris Morozov (Malyuta Skuratov), Evgeny Shapin (Ivan Sergeyevich Likov), Nina Terentieva (Lyubasha), Konstantin Pustovoi (Yelisey Bomelius), Larissa Yurchenko (Domna Ivanovna Saburova), Marina Shutova (Dunyasha), Nina Grigorieva (Petrovna). Orchestra and Chorus of the Bolshoi Theatre, conductor Yuri Simonov
    Yuri Simonov
    Yuri Ivanovich Simonov is a Russian conductor.He studied at the Leningrad Conservatory under Nikolai Rabinovich. He is currently director of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.-Selected recordings:...

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