Mazeppa, properly Mazepa is an opera in three acts (six scenes) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Victor Burenin and is based on Pushkin's poem Poltava, part of the cultural legacy of Mazeppa.
Mazeppa is a blood-thirsty tale of crazy love, abduction, political persecution, execution, and vengeful murder. The action takes place in Ukraine at the beginning of the 18th century. The protagonists are the historical figures Ivan Stepanovych Mazeppa (c. 1640–1709), the Hetman of the Ukrainian Cossacks, and Vasyl Leontiyovych Kochubey (c.1640–1708), a very prosperous Ukrainian nobleman and statesman.
The opera was composed between June 1881 and April 1883. Mazeppa's libretto was based on Poltava, a narrative poem by Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin based his story on historical events at Poltava, the battle where Tsar Peter the Great defeated Swedish King Charles XII. Pushkin took some creative freedom in order to create powerful characters and grand passions. For example, Kochubey (the wealthy Cossack whose daughter elopes with Mazeppa) actually managed to successfully keep Mariya from him. He turned Mazeppa in to the Tsar four years after Mazeppa asked for her hand.
Tchaikovsky first mentioned the idea of an opera based on Poltava to his publisher in the summer of 1881. Soon, he became obsessed with Poltava's story of tragic love and political betrayal and quickly produced four numbers plus sketching a duet based on material from his symphonic poem Romeo and Juliet (this music later became Mazeppa and Mariya's Act 2 duet). Librettist Burenin followed Pushkin's poem, incorporating large excerpts from Poltava into his libretto, but Tchaikovsky was not very pleased with Burenin's work: he felt "no special enthusiasm for the characters", and went on to make some critical changes of his own, adding more of Pushkin's lines back in. Vasily Kandaurov contributed the text for Mazeppa's aria in Act 2, Scene 2.
The libretto was revised over and over again, even after the opera's premieres. Choosing to focus primarily on the love story at the heart of the opera, the composer added the character Andrei, a lovesick boy whose unrequited love for the beautiful Mariya gives her tragic fate a special poignancy. Mazeppa shares many characteristics with Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin: they both center on a young woman whose powerful love draws her into a catastrophic downward spiral.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky "Mazeppa" (Opera in Concert Performance) on the playbill