Opera in four acts with a prologue
Libretto by NA Rimsky-Korsakov
Bermyat, neighbor boyar
Girl Snow Maiden
Bobylikha, his wife
Lel, the shepherd
Kupava is a young girl, the daughter of a rich slave woman
Mizgir, a trade visitor from Berendeyev’s village
The first baby
The second hook
The Tsar’s boyfriend
Pancake week, straw dummy
Boyars, nobles and royal retinue, guslyars, blind people, buffoons, whistleblowers, bagpipers, shepherds, boys and girls, Berendeys of every rank of both sexes, leche, Spring suite – birds, flowers.
The action takes place in the country of the Berendeys, in prehistoric times.
HISTORY OF CREATION
In the early seventies, Rimsky-Korsakov became acquainted with the tale of A. N. Ostrovsky “The Snow Maiden” (1873). Then she did not make a big impression on him. “In the winter of 1879-1880,” the composer recalled, “I again read The Snow Maiden and accurately saw her amazing poetic beauty… There was no better story for me in the world, there were no better poetic images for me than the Snow Maiden, Lel or Spring “.
The opera was composed in the summer of 1880 in a remote Russian village. The composer said later that no work was given to him with such ease and speed as the “Snow Maiden”. In 1881 the opera was completed. The premiere, which took place on January 29 (February 10) next year on the stage of the Mariinsky Theater, was a great success. The opera enthusiastically accepted and A. Ostrovsky:
The optimistic idea of the opera – the glorification of the powerful life-giving forces of nature, which bring happiness to people – is rooted in folk poetry. “Snegurochka” embodies at the same time the idea of the great transforming power of art. In the opera two worlds are contrasted – real and fantastic, personifying, according to the composer, “eternal, periodically acting forces of nature.” The Snow Maiden, the shepherd Lel and King Berendey are semi-real, semi-fantastic characters. Jaril-the sun – “to the creative beginning, causing a life in the nature and people” (Rimsky-Korsakov) – hostile severe Frost. Snow Maiden – the cold child of Frost and Spring – with all his heart reaches out to people, to the sun, and the composer with remarkable truth expresses how gradually love and warmth triumph in her heart, leading to death.
Red hill in the magical realm of Berendey. Moonlight night. Surrounded by the entourage of birds, descends to the ground Spring-red. The forest is still slumbering under the snow, the country is cold. Fifteen years ago, the daughter of the Snow Maiden was born at the Spring and the Frost, and since that time the angry Jarilo-sun gives the earth little light and heat; summer became short, winter – long and severe. Appears Frost. He promises to leave the country of the Berendeys in the Spring. But who will protect the Snow Maiden? After all, Yarilo only waits for the occasion to light a fatal fire of love in the girl’s heart. Parents decide to let her daughter go to the village of Berendeyevka to look after the childless Bakula-bobyl. The Snow Maiden is happy: she has long been attracted to people by the wonderful songs of the shepherd Lelya. Having entrusted Leshoe to protect his daughter, Spring and Frost leave. A crowd of merry Berendeyes approaches. They accompany Maslenitsa, cheerfully welcoming the onset of spring. Bobyl notices the Snow Maid that appeared from the forest thicket. To the great joy of Bobyl she asks to take her to her daughters.
At the request of the Snow Maiden, the shepherd Lel sings to her, but, hearing the call of cheerful girlfriends, throws a flower, presented by Snow Maiden, and runs away. The girl is offended. Kupava approaches her: she is in a hurry to share her happiness – her beloved Mizgir loves her, and soon their wedding will be. Here is the bridegroom himself, who appeared with rich gifts. According to an old tradition, he must buy the bride from his girlfriends. But, seeing the Snow Maiden, Mizgir, captivated by her beauty, refuses Kupava. The deceived bride in tears turns to bees and hops with a plea to punish the offender. The people, outraged by the betrayal of Mizgir, advises Kupava to ask for intercession with the good and just king Berendey.
The Royal Palace. The Guslars praise the wise Berendey. But his heart is troubled: Yarilo-sun is angry for something on the Berendey. To appease a formidable deity, the king decides tomorrow, on Yarilin day, to marry all the brides and grooms. Kupava runs in. She talks about her misfortune. The indignant Berendey orders Mizgir to be brought and condemns him to eternal exile. Mizgir is not justified. He only asks Berendey to look at the Snow Maiden. The beauty of the girl amazes the king. Learning that the Snow Maiden does not know love, he understands the cause of the wrath of Jaryla the sun. And Berendey declares: a young man who, before dawn, can make the Snow Maiden love himself, will get her as a wife. Mizgir asks to postpone the expulsion and swears to light the girl’s heart.
The evening glow burns down. Berendey in the clearing in the forest reserve celebrate the eve of the coming summer. As a reward for the songs, the king offers Lelyu to choose a beauty for himself. Lel chooses Kupava. This upset the Snegurochka up to tears. Appearing Mizgir addresses her with worried words of love, but the Snow Maiden can not respond to an incomprehensible feeling. The path to Mizgir is blocked by Leshy. He enchants the forest, teases Mizgir with the ghost of the Snow Maiden. Lel and Kupava come out to the deserted glade, who gently thanks her new fiancé for saving her from shame. The Snow Maiden, who saw this, was in despair. She decides to ask Mother Spring for warmth.
Yarilina Valley. It’s brightening. In response to the request of her daughter, Spring puts on her a magic wreath. Now the Snow Maiden knows the feeling of love, and a new meeting with Mizgir lights her with a reciprocal passion. Soon the sun will rise, and remembering the instructions of the parents, the Snow Maiden hastens the beloved to flee from the fatal rays of Yarila for her. But Berendey and his retinue descend to the valley. At the first rays of the rising star, the king of the Berendeys blesses the bride and groom. Appears Mizgir with the Snow Maiden. The girl tells the king about her immense love. However, the happiness of the Snow Maiden does not last long. Having learned the hot human feeling, the daughter of Moroz became accessible to revenge of Yarila. A bright sunlight dissects the morning mist and falls on the Snow Maiden. Even anticipating a near death, she thanks her mother for the sweet gift of love. In despair, Mizgir rushes into the lake. The people are amazed. But the wise Berendey is calm: after all, the existence of the Snow Maiden was a violation of the laws of nature; with her miraculous passing Jarilo will cease to be angry, and a happy life will be restored in the country. Lel, and behind him the whole nation, sings a laudatory hymn to the Sun.
“Snegurochka” is the most poetic opera of Rimsky-Korsakov. The composer considered her his best creation. “Snow Maiden” strikes amazingly sensitive, loving reproduction of pictures of folk life, rites of ancient paganism, wonderful images of folk tales. The music of the opera, imbued with the unfading freshness and wise simplicity of folk songs, is painted with soft lyrics, spring tones of blooming nature. “This is the spring tale – with all the beauty, the poetry of spring, all the warmth, the whole fragrance,” wrote AP Borodin about the opera.
The orchestral introduction to the prologue is a colorful musical landscape that depicts the awakening of nature from hibernation; The severe, sullen melody of Frost gives way to the tender, charming tunes of Spring. In the choir “Gathered birds” (gaming folk song), the orchestra imitates the voices of birds. In the Snow Maiden aria “With girlfriends in the berry to go” light and graceful voice overflows resonate with the transparent and chilly tunes of the flute. In the lyrically-penetrating Arietta Snegurochka “I Heard, I’ve heard” the expressive melody of the oboe is echoed in a tender, gentle and fragile vocal phrases. The colorful ritual scene “Farewell Maslenitsa” consists of a number of choral episodes of the folk song store; a melody for the words “Cheerfully greet you, welcome” – of national origin.
The first act opens with Lelya’s long song “Strawberry-Berry” and a cheerful dance “How the woods make a noise in the forest”. Arietta Snegurochka “How painful is here” is imbued with a mood of gentle sadness. Kupava’s story “The Snow Maiden, I’m Happy” conveys an enthusiastic, impetuous feeling. Ariosezo “Bee, bees winged” is sustained in the spirit of folk dowries.
In the second act, along with the choral episodes, an important place is occupied by scenes-dialogues. A leisurely majestic song of guslars “Prophetic, sonorous, strings rumble” recalls ancient epic tunes. In the duet of Berendey with Kupava “Father, Bright King!” The inconsistent, excited speech of Kupava is highlighted by the gentle and calm remarks of the tsar. The hymn of the Berendeys sounds solemnly, epically, majestically “Hello to you, wise.” In Cervantes Berendeya “Full, full of miracles” against a background of dimensional orchestral accompaniment quietly flowing dreamy, poetic melody.
The third act begins with a big mass stage. Girls and boys sing a cheerful round-the-beat song “Ai, in the field of a liponka”, Bobyl dashingly danced to the chanting tune “Batted a beaver” (both folk themes). “Dance buffoons” – a virtuoso symphonic episode, full of bright orchestral colors, fascinating rhythms. The third song of Lelia “A cloud with a thunder was negotiating” begins with a shepherd’s jaunt of the clarinet; on its background there is a wide, free melody. The lyrical arioso of Mizgir “In the warm blue sea” is inspired with inspiration.
The fourth act conveys the growing lyrical feelings of the heroine. Gently caressing the love duet of the Snow Maiden and Mizgir “The soul is full of mine is not fear” flows freely and easily. In the Snegurochka aria, “The Great Tsar” again sounds, this time warmly and excitedly, the melody of her arietta “I Heard” (from the prologue). The scene of the Snow Maiden melting is one of the most touching episodes in the world opera literature. The fragile tenderness of the image of the Snow Maiden is highlighted by the majestic, radiant sound of the final choral hymn “Light and strength, the God of Jarilo.”