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22 June 2022 (Wed), 19:00 World famous Bolshoi Ballet and Opera theatre (established 1776) - Marvellous Main (Historic) Stage - Opera Modest Mussorgsky "Khovanshchina" (opera in five acts)

The performance has 2 intermissions

Schedule for Modest Mussorgsky "Khovanshchina" (opera in five acts) 2022

Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Chorus Master: Valery Borisov
Director: Simon McBurney
Set Designer: Rebecca Ringst

Opera company: Bolshoi Opera
Orchestra: Bolshoi Theatre Symphony Orchestra

Opera in 3 acts

Performed in Russian, with syncronized English supertitles

Premiere of this production: 22 June 2022, Bolshoi Theatre, Historic Stage

Libretto by the composer

Conductor: Tugan Sokhiev
Stage Director: Simon McBurney
Set and Costume Designer: Rebecca Ringst
Video Designer: Will Duke
Chief Chorus Master: Valery Borisov

Time: The year 1682
Place: Moscow

Background and Theme: The principal theme of Khovanshchina is stated outright in the choral number "Akh, ty Rodnaya, Matushka Russ" ("Oh poor Motherland"), which laments that Russia is bleeding and dying not because of a foreign enemy, but because of fragmentation within. Something like a three-way civil war is in progress. Tsar Peter is modernizing, and two powerful forces are resisting his changes: the Streltsy and the Old Believers. The Streltsy are decommissioned elite soldiers/guards ("Streltsy" literally means "shooters", just like "musketeers"), past their prime and on indefinite furlough. They are fanatically loyal to Prince Ivan Khovansky. The Old Believers are Russian Orthodox Christians who have left the state-sponsored church because it went along with Tsar Peter's changes. Their leader is Dosifey. Fortunately for Tsar Peter, these two factions despise each other, as the Streltsy are rowdy degenerates and the Old Believers are pious ascetics. Each of the three principal basses in the opera believes himself to represent the "true" Russia against her internal enemies: Prince Ivan Khovansky by noble birth and military prowess, Dosefei by religion, and Shaklovity by supporting Tsar Peter.
Act 1
Moscow, Red Square
Shaklovity, a Boyar and agent for Tsar Peter, dictates a letter to the Tsar, warning of a rebellion planned by Prince Ivan Khovansky (captain of the Streltsy Guards) and the Old Believers. He conceals himself as Prince Ivan arrives. Prince Ivan promises an adoring crowd that he will defend the "young Tsars", by whom he means Tsar Peter's conservative rivals within the royal family. He and the crowd exit. Prince Andrey, Ivan's son, chases in Emma, a German girl, intending to assault her. Marfa, an Old Believer, interferes. Andrey threatens to kill Emma, but Prince Ivan returns, and decides to capture Emma himself. The ensuing quarrel between father and son is interrupted by the arrival of Dosifey, the leader of the Old Believers. Dosifey reproves everyone for being so quarrelsome and un-Christian. Marfa leaves with Emma.
Act 2
Summer study of Prince Vasily Golitsin
Golitsin, a nervous progressive nobleman, hires Marfa to tell his fortune in secret. She predicts that he will fall from power. After she leaves, Golitsin orders his servants to kill her. Prince Ivan Khovansky disrespects Golitsin by entering without waiting to be announced, and complains loudly that Golitsin has been interfering with his friends in the nobility. A quarrel ensues, each making insulting remarks about the other's military campaigns, but Dosifey enters and draws their attention away from their argument by criticising both of them—Golitsin for his modern views, and Prince Ivan for letting the Streltsy get drunk and run around making trouble all the time. Marfa, who has been saved by the Tsar's guards, reappears, followed by Shaklovity, who menacingly announces that the Tsar has been warned of the planned rebellion, and has issued orders to arrest the Princes Khovansky. At this unlikely moment, the curtain falls.
Act 3
The Streltsy Quarter, south of the Moscow River
Marfa is overheard singing of her love, by Susanna, a fellow Old Believer. Susanna scolds Marfa until Dosifey appears and drives Susanna away. Marfa admits to Dosifey that she loves Andrey Khovansky (the one she restrained from assaulting Emma). Dosifey tells her to pray for relief. They exit and Shaklovity, who until now had been presented as a purely threatening character, sings a haunting prayer for troubled Russia's protection from the Streltsy (he refers to them as "mercenaries") and from the rebellious powers they obey. Hearing them coming he exits; some of the Streltsy enter and sing a drinking chorus. The scribe arrives and informs them that Hungarian troops are invading, and that Tsar Peter's bodyguard fought with the foreigners against the Streltsy—Russian soldiers and foreign soldiers killing other Russian soldiers together. Ivan Khovanski enters and begs their forgiveness for the defeat.
Act 4
Scene 1: A richly furnished chamber in Ivan Khovansky's mansion
Prince Ivan Khovansky is warned by a servant of Golitsin that he is in danger, but he ignores the warning and watches his servant girls dance. Shaklovity enters and kills him, scornfully imitating the servants' song.
Scene 2: Moscow. The square before the Cathedral of Vasiliy the Blessed
Golitsyn is led into exile. Dosifey mourns the conspirators' downfall and the success of Tsar Peter. Marfa offers sanctuary to Andrey with the Old Believers. The Streltsy are led to their execution. Peter, through an agent, intervenes to pardon them (which is not in agreement with historical fact).

Act 5
A pine forest, a secluded monastery, a moonlit night
Dosifey and his followers have taken refuge in a hermitage in the forest. Although he is weighed down by the sorrows and sufferings of the brethren, he remains defiant and determined to win a "crown of glory" in fire and flame ("Here, in this holy place"). He exhorts the brethren to don white clothing and light candles, preparing for immolation. They enter the hermitage. [Andrey enters, singing of his lost love, still seeking Emma. Marfa sings to Andrey, reminding him of their love, and assuring him that she will not leave him, but will burn with him. Dosifey and the brethren return, dressed in white and carrying candles. They build a funeral pyre. Offstage trumpet calls herald the approach of Tsar Peter's soldiers. Marfa sings to Andrey of the hopelessness of their situation. The trumpet calls sound again. Dosifey exhorts the brethren to remain strong one last time. Marfa lights the pyre. The schismatics sing a final hymn ("God will save me"). As Dosifey, Marfa, Andrey, and the Old Believers perish in the flames, Peter's soldiers arrive in a vain attempt to capture them.]


Act I


Scene 1

Petersburg. Strolling in the Summer Garden, Surin tells Chekalinsky about the previous night’s gambling: as usual, Нerman had spent the whole night by the gaming table, gloomily following the game, but not taking part in it. 

Нerman and Count Tomsky come into the garden. Нerman admits he is in love with a girl whose name he does not know even. He is afraid she is above him in station and therefore will prove beyond his reach. 

Prince Yeletsky informs his friends that he is to get married. Нerman asks him about his betrothed. „There she is”, Yeletsky replies, pointing to Liza who is in the company of the old Countess, known as The Queen of Spades. Gherman is in despair: for Liza is the very girl with whom he is in love. 

„Happy day, I bless you!” Yeletsky says. „Unhappy day, I curse you!” Нerman exclaims. 

Tomsky tells his friends that in her youth the Countess was a great beauty. A passionate gamblег, in Paris she had once lost everything at the gaming table. Count Saint-German had told the ’Moscow Venus’ the secret of three cards which had helped her win her fortune back. The Countess had been warned she would die at the hands of a man who, „impelled by despair”, would come to her to demand the secret of the three cards. 

Tomsky’s story made a great impression on Нerman. The Summer Garden empties, a storm is about to break. All take shelter except Нerman who stands as if in a trance. He swears that if Liza does not become his, he will take his life. 

Scene 2 

Liza’s room at the Countess’ house. Some girls of her own age have come to see Liza. Their merrymaking is interrupted by a stern housekeeper: the Countess is annoyed — it is already late and she cannot sleep because of the noise the girls are making. Left alone, Liza confides her secret to the night: she is in love with Herman. 

Herman appears at the balcony doors. He declares his love to Liza. There is a loud knocking at the door. The old Countess has come to Liza’s room herself to find out what the noise is about. Hiding, Herman remembers the legend of the three cards. Overcome by a burning desire to find out the secret of the winning cards, he immediately forgets his love for Liza. The Countess leaves the room and Gherman comes to his senses. He again tells Liza he loves her. She begs him to leave but, won over by the strength of his passion, she admits to reciprocating his feelings. 

Act II

Scene 3

A ball given by a rich dignitary. Yeletsky notices that Liza is out of spirits and keeps questioning her as to the cause of her malaise. Liza avoids giving an explanation. The entreaties of her fiance to whom she is indifferent, leave her cold. 

Liza gives Herman the key to a secret door into the Countess’ house: they must see each other. The way to Liza’s room lies through the old woman’s bedroom. It seems to Gherman that fate itself is helping him discover the secret of the three winning cards. 

Scene 4

The Countess’ bedroom. Here everything is reminiscent of the distant youth of the ’Moscow Venus’ and Herman forgets why he has come. Possessed by the wish to find out the secret of the three cards, he decides to remain in the bedroom and make the Countess reveal it to him. 

On her return from the ball, the Countess, having dismissed her maids and hangers on, remembers her youth and the marvelous balls in Paris. Herman suddenly appears and asks the Countess to reveal her secret to him. The old woman remains silent. Herman, threatening her with a pistol, repeats his request. The Countess dies.... 

Hearing the noise, Liza runs into the bedroom. Catching sight of the dead Countess, she exclaims in despair: „So it was the cards, not me you were after!” 


Scene 5

Herman’s quarters in the barracks. Herman is reading a letter from Liza in which she asks him to meet her on the embankment and give an explanation of his conduct. Herman is tormented by thoughts of the dead Countess. Against a background of the wailing wind and raging snowstorm outside, the old woman’s ghost appears to Herman, who has gone out of his mind. She tells Herman he must marry Liza and that the secret of the three cards — Three, Seven and Ace — will be his. 

Scene 6 

The embankment of the Winter Canal. Dusk is falling fast. Liza is waiting for Herman hoping that he will dispel her suspicions that his murder of the Countess was premeditated. She waits a long time. Liza begins to lose hope and is ready to believe in Herman’s villainy. But then Herman appears and for a brief moment it seems to them both that happiness may be possible, that all their sufferings are over. But, possessed by the thought of the three cards, Herman, half out of his mind, pushes Liza aside and runs off. Liza throws herself in the canal. 

Scene 7 

At the gambling house, the game is in full swing. Herman puts all his money on the three, the card named to him by the ghost, and wins. He doubles his stake. The second card, the seven, also brings him luck. 

Herman, in very overwrought state, challenges anyone to stake once more. Yeletsky offers to play with him. But Gherman’s third card turns out to be the Queen of Spades, not the ace. His card is trumped. Herman sees the ghost of the Countess. Gibbering with fear and rage he shoots himself.

Schedule for Modest Mussorgsky "Khovanshchina" (opera in five acts) 2022

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