Opera by Pyotr Tchaikovsky "Mazeppa"
Performed in Russian, with syncronized English supertitles (with synchronised English supertitles)
Premiere of this production: 23 Jun 2021
The performance has 2 intermissions
Running time: 3 hours 30 minutes
The atmosphere of sounds in the opera Mazeppa by Tchaikovsky appears from a combination of intonations of the Southern Slavic speech, which is heard around magnificent cherry orchards and quiet rivers, and a bloody tragedy, one of the darkest in the history of the genre, unfolding against this background. Pushkin’s Poltava, which became the foundation of the libretto, inspired the composer to create a musical canvas about the death of the powerful grandee Vasily Kochubey’s family. A tragic ending awaits every character without exception — their lives are being ruined irretrievably, from the idyllic first scenes to the dark finale.
Tchaikovsky confessed there was no other writing that was as hard to compose as this opera. Naturally, there was less enthusiasm in his work to start with, less of a spontaneous and intuitive approach than we can see in the cases of Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades. However, this circumstance also had some positive outcomes: as a result, we have a true masterpiece, Meisterwerk, which perfectly fits the “matrix” of romantic opera. The plot of Poltava provided the composer with material for huge duet scenes of disputes (comparable to Aida by Verdi), a classical love triangle (Maria, Andrei and Mazeppa), large scale choral episodes, and finally, for an astonishing climax — the descent into insanity of the main female character and her enlightened departure (let us remember Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti or the future The Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov).
The world premiere of Mazeppa took place on the Historic Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre on the 3rd of February 1884. Further recreations and new productions of the opera were regular: over almost one and a half centuries, there have been seven of them.
In the garden of the Cossack Kochubey, overlooking the River Dnepr (Scene 1), Kochubey's daughter Mariya remains behind while the other girls sail down the river. She loves the elderly hetman Mazepa, but the cossack Andrey is in love with her. The peasants dance a gopak to honour Mazepa. Mazepa asks Mariya's father for her hand in marriage, but Kochubey says that Mazepa is too old for her and refuses his consent. After an argument, Mariya again declares her love for Mazepa and she leaves with him. Inside Kochubey's house (Scene 2), Kochubey sends Andrey to Moscow, to denounce Mazepa to the Tsar for conspiring with the Swedes.
In a dank dungeon beneath a palace at Belaya Tserkov, Kochubey is chained to a pillar (Scene 1). The Tsar does not believe Kochubey's accusations against Mazepa and delivers him and his comrades into Mazepa's hands. Orlik, Mazepa's henchman, tortures Kochubey, and demands to know where he keeps his treasure. Later, in a room in Mazepa's castle (Scene 2), Orlik tells Mazepa that Kochubey has not revealed his secret under torture. Mazepa decides that Kochubey must die the next day. Mariya enters, unaware of her father's fate, and Mazepa tells her of his plans to rule over an independent Ukraine. After they reaffirm their love, Mazepa leaves. Mariya's mother Lyubov appears, and tells her that Kochubey is to be executed. The following morning, in a field with a scaffold (Scene 3), a crowd has gathered to witness the execution. Mazepa watches on horseback as Kochubey and Iskra are led to the scaffold. Mariya and her mother arrive just as the axes fall.
Act III opens with a symphonic tableau depicting the Battle of Poltava.
Mazepa's forces are defeated. In Kochubey's garden, now neglected and overgrown, Andrey and other Russian soldiers are pursuing fleeing Swedish soldiers. Andrey hides when he hears Mazepa and Orlik approaching. Andrey attacks Mazepa and is mortally wounded. Mazepa discovers Mariya wandering about in a daze, but he is forced to flee without her. Andrey dies in Mariya arms as she sings him a lullaby
1 Teatralnaya ploschad (1 Theatre Square), Moscow, Russia
Bol'shaya Dmitrovka Street, 4/2, Moscow, Russia