RUSLAN AND LUDMILA
Opera in five acts (eight scenes)
Svetozar, the Grand Duke of Kiev
Lyudmila, his daughter
Ruslan, the Kiev hero, the groom of Lyudmila
Ratmir, Prince of Khazar
Farlaf, Knight of Varangian
Gorislav, captive of Ratmir
Finn, kind wizard
Naina, the evil sorceress
Chernomor, an evil wizard, Carla
Sons Svetozar, knights, boyars and nobles, hay girls and mothers, children, griddles, chashniki, cadets, druzhina and people; the maidens of the magic castle, the Arabs, the Carls; slaves of Chernomor, nymphs, undines.
The action takes place
in the times of Kievan Rus.
HISTORY OF CREATION
“The first thought of Ruslan and Lyudmila was given to us by our famous comic Shakhovskiy…” At one of Zhukovsky’s evenings Pushkin, speaking of his poem “Ruslan and Lyudmila,” said that he would have changed a lot, I wanted to learn from him which rework, he supposed to do, but his premature death did not allow me to fulfill this intention. ” This is how Glinka describes the origin of the idea of the opera “Ruslan and Lyudmila.” The composer began working on the opera in 1837, without having a ready-made libretto. Because of Pushkin’s death, he was forced to turn to secondary poets and amateurs from among friends and acquaintances. Among them were NV Kukolnik (1809-1868), VF Shirkov (1805-1856), NA Markevich (1804-1860), and others.
The text of the opera included some fragments of the poem, but in general it was written anew. Glinka and his librettists made a number of changes in the composition of the actors. Some characters disappeared (Rogdai), others appeared (Gorislava); The plot lines
of the poem have also been altered somewhat.
The concept of the opera is largely different from the literary source. Pushkin’s brilliant youthful poem (1820), based on the themes of the Russian fairytale epic, features features of light irony, playful attitude towards heroes. From this interpretation of the plot Glinka resolutely refused. He created a work of epic scope, full of great thoughts, broad generalizations of life.
The opera praises heroism, nobility of feelings, faithfulness in love, ridicule cowardice, crookedness, anger and cruelty are condemned. Through the whole work the composer holds the idea of the victory of light over darkness, about the triumph of life. The traditional fairytale plot with feats, fantasy, magic transformations Glinka used to show a variety of characters, complex relationships between people, creating a whole gallery of human types. Among them – the chivalrous noble and courageous Ruslan, the gentle Lyudmila, the inspired Bayan, the ardent Ratmir, the faithful Gorislava, the cowardly Farlaf, the kind Finn, the cunning Naina, the cruel Black Sea.
The opera was written by Glinka for five years with great interruptions: it was completed in 1842. The premiere took place on November 27 (December 9) the same year at the Bolshoi Theater in St. Petersburg.
“Ruslan and Lyudmila” is an epic opera. The monumental images of Kievan Rus, the legendary figures of the Grand Duke Svetozar, the hero Ruslan, the prophetic folk singer Bayan transfer the listener to an atmosphere of deep antiquity, give birth to the idea of the beauty and grandeur of the people’s life. A significant place in the opera is occupied by fantastic pictures of the kingdom of Chernomor, the castle of Naina, whose music is endowed with oriental colors. The main conflict – the clash of the forces of good and evil – is reflected in the music of the opera due to the relief contrast of the musical characteristics of the actors. Vocal parts of positive characters, folk scenes are full of song. Negative characters either lack vocal characteristics (Chernomor), or are depicted with the help of recitative “govorka” (Naina).
The idea of the work – the triumph of the bright forces of life – is revealed already in the overture, in which the jubilant music of the finale of the opera is used. In the middle section of the overture, mysterious, fantastic sounds arise.
The first act impresses with the breadth and monumentality of the musical embodiment. The act opens with an introduction that includes a number of numbers. Bayan’s song “Cases of bygone days”, accompanied by searches of harps, imitating gusli, is sustained in a measured rhythm, full of majestic calmness. Lyrical character has a second song of Bayan “There is a deserted land.” The introduction ends with a powerful choral choir “The Light Prince and Health and Glory.” Cavatina Lyudmila “I’m sad, my dear parent” – a well-developed scene with a choir – reflects the girl’s different moods, playful and graceful, but capable of a great and sincere feeling. Choir “Lel mysterious, delightful,” revives the spirit of ancient pagan songs. The scene of the abduction begins with sharp chords of the orchestra; music takes a fantastic, gloomy color, which is preserved in the canon “What a wonderful moment,” which transmits a state of stupor that has engulfed everyone. The quartet crowns with the choir “O Knights, Quickly in a Pure Field,” full of courageous determination.
The second act, consisting of three paintings, begins with a symphonic introduction, drawing a severe, mysterious northern landscape, enveloped in a wary silence.
In the first picture, the central place is occupied by the ballad of Finn; her music creates a noble image, full of deep humanity and moral beauty.
The second picture is by its nature opposite to the first one. The image of Naina is outlined by the spiky rhythms of short orchestral phrases, cold instrumental timbres. A sharp comic portrait of a triumphant coward is captured in the rundo Farlaf “The hour of my triumph is near.”
In the center of the third picture is Ruslan’s magnificent aria; its slow introduction, “About the field, the field, who has covered you with dead bones” conveys a mood of deep, focused meditation; the second section, in a fast, energetic movement, is endowed with features of heroism.
The third act is most diverse in its color, the picturesqueness of music. Alternating choirs, dances, solo numbers paint the setting of the magical castle of Naina. The melody of the Persian chorus “Lies in the Darkness of the Night in the Field” sounds charmingly seductive. Cavatina Gorislava “Lovely luxury star” is full of hot, passionate feelings. Brightly pronounced oriental coloring noted the aria of Ratmir “And the heat and heat changed the night’s shadow”: the whimsical melody of the slow section and the flexible valsovye rhythm quickly depict the ardent nature of the Khazar knight.
The fourth act is distinguished by magnificent decorative features, brightness of unexpected contrasts. Ludmila’s aria “Ah you are a share, a little bit” – a detailed monologic scene; deep sadness turns into determination, resentment and protest. March Chernomor draws a picture of a bizarre procession; angular melody, piercing sounds of pipes, the flickering sounds of bells create a grotesque image of an evil sorcerer. The march is followed by oriental dances: Turkish – smooth and languid, Arab – mobile and manly; The dance suite is concluded by a fiery, vortex lezginka.
In the fifth act two pictures. In the center of the first one is the romance of Ratmir, imbued with a faint romance and passion. “She is my life, she is my joy”.
The second picture is the finale of the opera. Severe, woeful chorus “Ah, you, light-Ludmila” is close to people’s lamentations-lamentations. The second move “The bird does not wake up in the morning” is colored with sadness, interrupted by the sorrowful remarks of Svetozar. The music of the awakening scene is fanned by the morning freshness, the poetry of a burgeoning life; a melody full of lively, quivering feelings, (“Joy, happiness is clear”), sings Ruslan; Lyudmila joins him, and then the rest of the participants and the choir. The final chorus (“Glory to the great gods”) sounds jubilant, light and cheerful (overture music).
1 AA Shakhovsky (1777-1846) – playwright, the author of many vaudevilles and comedies.
2 The second song of Bayan, not directly related to the plot, is a kind of musical dedication to Pushkin.