Summary Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov. The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia


Opera in four acts (six scenes)

Libretto by VI Belsky


Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich

Knyazhich Vsevolod Yuryevich


Grishka Kuterma

Fyodor Poyrok

The boy






Mezzo soprano

Two best people:


2 nd





The beggar-singer







The Tatar bogatyrs







of Paradise



Princes archers, travelers, domrachas, best people, poor brothers, people, Tatars.

The Summer of the Creation of the World.


As an operatic plot, the ancient Russian legend of the city of Kitezh attracted the attention of Rimsky-Korsakov in 1898. Then the idea arose to link it with the image of Fevronia, the heroine of the popular Murom novel about Peter and Fevronia. This image took the central place in the libretto of VI Belsky (1866-1946). The composer began composing music in the beginning of 1903. By the end of September next year the score of the opera was finished. The first performance took place on February 7 (20), 1907, at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.

“The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia” is one of the most significant works of Russian opera classics. It is characterized by a combination of epics and lyrics, heroic and fantastic motifs of folk poetry. The plot is based on the ancient Russian legend of the 13th

century, the era of the Tatar-Mongol rule. Real historical events have acquired a fantastic coloring in it. According to the legend, the city of Kitezh was saved from the ruin by the Tatars of “God’s will”: it became invisible and became the place of ideal, according to popular concepts, earthly life.

In the work on the libretto Belsky and Rimsky-Korsakov widely used various motifs of folk-poetic creativity. As a result, as the librettist rightly stated, “in the whole work there is not a single detail that one way or another would not be inspired by a devil of any legend, verse, conspiracy or other fruit of Russian folk art”.

In front of the audience there is a gallery of bright national types, all new to the opera scene. Such is Fevronia – the ideal image of a Russian woman, faithful and loving, wise and benevolent, modest and disinterestedly devoted, ready for the feat of self-sacrifice. She sharply contrasted with her dramatic and vital truth, the image of Kuterma – a man morally broken, crushed by poverty. By its social-accusatory force this image has no equal in the world opera literature. The tragic destinies of the main characters are shown in inseparable connection with the fate of the people who are experiencing a hard time of the Tatar invasion, against the backdrop of pictures of Russian nature, national life, patriotic struggle with a ruthless enemy. In accordance with the content of folk legends,


In the deaf more often Volga forests are the Fevronia hut. Her days are full of peace, quiet joyful thoughts. Beasts run to her voice, birds flock. The young man was amazed by the enthusiastic speeches of the girl about the beauty of nature, about the happiness to live under the majestic vaults of the forest, rejoicing in the sunshine, the fragrance of flowers, the brilliance of the blue sky, they came to each other’s heart and decided to exchange rings. the young fellow managed to set off on the way back, as the streltsy-hunters headed by Fedor Poyark, who were looking for his friend, learned from them Fevronia that the unfamiliar young man with whom she was engaged was Prince Vsevolod, the son of the old prince dence, the ruling Grand Kitezh.

On the trade square of Little Kitezh there is a crowd of people waiting in impatience for the arrival of the bride and groom. The guide and the bear laugh at the crowd; Goslyar sings like a luncheon like a lunar. Ropshchut Kitezhsky rich people, dissatisfied with the fact that the princess will become a simple peasant woman. Having seen the drunk Grishka Kutermu, they give him money to drink drunk and properly “chewed” the bride. Kitezhans joyfully greet their mistress. But Grishka Kuterma approaches Fevronia with insolent speeches, mocking her simple origins and poverty. The people drive him away, and on the sign of friends – Fyodor Poyarka – girls start a wedding song. Suddenly, the song ends. The sounds of military horns are heard, and crowds of people are running out into the square in confusion, pursued by the Tatars. Tatars are angry: Zikto from the inhabitants does not agree to extradite his prince, to show the way to Great Kitezh.

At one of the churches of Great Kitezh at midnight the people gathered to listen to the messenger – Fyodor Poyark, blinded by the enemies. The audience is shocked by his mournful tale of the people’s disaster and the rumors that the Tatars are leading the Great Kitezhu Fevronia. At the call of the old prince Yuri, people cry for salvation. Knyazhich Vsevolod asks his father to bless him with his retinue for a military feat and stands out from Great Kitezh to meet his enemies. Only their song has died down in the distance, as the city has enveloped in a light, golden haze, the bells gurgled quietly, presaging a deliverance.

Grishka brought the Tatars in a dark, impenetrable night, and with them captured Fevronia, to Lake Svetloyar. But the Tatar warriors do not believe in the traitor; they tied him firmly to a tree to wait for the morning, and began to divide the loot. The Tatars boast of their victory over the Kitezh military team, they tell of the death of the prince Vsevolod. Between the warriors a dispute broke out – who should own the feather of Fevronia. In the heat of the quarrel, Burundai kills an opponent with an ax blow. The separation is over, the hopeless Tatars fall asleep. Fevronia is bitterly weeping for her fiancé. Grishka Kuterma hails her; he, who betrayed his enemy’s native land, slandered Fevronia, tormented by remorse. He desperately asks Fevronia to let him go free, so that he can pacify the grave sin of betrayal. Fevronia felt sorry for the unfortunate sailor, and she freed him from the bonds. Grishka wants to run and can not: the bell ringing fills his soul with an insurmountable fear. He rushed to the lake to drown himself, and was dumbfounded at the sight of an unprecedented spectacle: the first rays of the rising sun slipped along the watery surface, lit up the empty shore of Svetloyar, and beneath it in the lake – the reflection of the capital city of Great Kitezh. In wild surprise, with a wild howl Kuterma disappeared into the forest more often. They saw the reflection of the invisible city and the Tatars. A mysterious sight brought panic fear to them. Forgetting everything, they fled in horror from a terrible place. In wild surprise, with a wild howl Kuterma disappeared into the forest more often. They saw the reflection of the invisible city and the Tatars. A mysterious sight brought panic fear to them. Forgetting everything, they fled in horror from a terrible place. In wild surprise, with a wild howl Kuterma disappeared into the forest more often. They saw the reflection of the invisible city and the Tatars. A mysterious sight brought panic fear to them. Forgetting everything, they fled in horror from a terrible place.

In the deaf often Kerzhenskie forests, through the windbreak and tenacious bushes make their way fleeing from the Tatars Fevronia and Kuterma. They suffer from hunger and fatigue. Unable to withstand the tortures of conscience and terrible visions, the commotion disappears in the dense more often. The exhausted Fevronia sinks to the grass, urging the deliverer to die. Around her bloom unprecedented flowers, candles light up on the branches of trees, the voice of birds of paradise, they predict peace and happiness, and from the depth of the clearing approaching the ghost prince Vsevolod. Again full of strength, Fevronia joyfully rushes to meet him, and the young slowly move away to Great Kitezh.

On the square of the wonderfully transformed city they are met by the people in white robes. Intricate walls are illuminated with a bright silvery radiance, a lion and a unicorn with silver wool are guarded by princely mansions, birds of paradise sing, sitting on high spiers. Fevronia looks at the magical city with astonishment. To the sounds of heavenly priests people are singing a wedding song, inundated in Little Kitiž. But Fevronia recollects the unhappy, mad Grishka Kuterma, who is not destined to enter the magical Kitezh, and decides to send him a message.1 At last the writing is written, and young people march slowly and majestically to the cathedral to the crown to solemn singing and bell-ringing.


“The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia” is an opera legend. The slow development of the action, the abundance of wide expressive melodies of the song-Russian character give the opera an original national coloring, a color of distant gray antiquity.

Orchestral introduction “Praise to the Wilderness” paints a picture of the forest with rustle of leaves and bird singing; here sound tunes of Fevronia.

The music of the first act is imbued with a bright lyrical mood. The song of Fevronia “Oh, you are a forest, my forest, a beautiful desert” is marked by spiritual purity, serene tranquility. The great scene of Fevronia with the prince is gradually filled with a jubilant, enthusiastic feeling. The love duo, warm and sincere, completes it. The duet is interrupted by invocations of hunting horns and the courageous song of the musketeers. The act ends with mighty arrogant fanfare, symbolizing the image of the Great Kitezh.

The second act is a monumental historical fresco painted by a broad brush. The mournful epic of Guslyar (the prophesy of the impending disaster) is sustained in the style of an ancient epic tale. Behind it follows a chorus resembling folk laments-lamentations. In the developed scene, Grishka Kuterma’s versatile description is given. The chimes of the bells in the orchestra, joyous exclamations, unite in a solemn chorus, greeting Fevronia. In the scene of the meeting between Fevronia and Kuterma, her angular, convulsive speech of the singer is sharply contrasted with her smooth, lyrical, melodic melodies. The invasion of the Tatars marks a sharp turn of action; up to the end of the act in music, the elements of gloomy colors, threatening, harsh sounds, with which the Tatar invasion is depicted, dominate.

The third act consists of two pictures, which connects the symphonic interlude. The first picture is painted in dark, harsh tones, emphasizing the dramatic nature of the events. The gloomy, sad story of Poyarka, interrupted by the excited exclamations of the choir, forms a wide scene full of great inner tension. The aria of Prince Yuri “O glory, wealth vain!” Is imbued with a mood of heavy meditation and deep sorrow. The heroic song of the squad, which Vsevolod sings, is overshadowed by a premonition of doom. The final episode of the picture is full of mysteriously flickering sounds, a muffled buzz of bells and a magical torpor.

Symphonic interlude “Sich at Kerzhenets” is an outstanding example of Russian program music. With tremendous realism, a clear sketch of the struggle of the Tatars with the Russians is outlined here. Having reached the ultimate drama, he is cut off; only the echoes of a receding wild leap are heard, which the now defeated beautiful melody of the song of the Kitezhskaya squadron confronted. The Tatars’ chorus “Not the crows are hungry” sounds tired and cheerless at the beginning of the second picture. Wishes of Fevronia resemble a long folk song. Yearning, feverish excitement, passionate entreaty, sorrow, joy, horror – these nervously alternating states convey the terrible torment of Kuterma. The confused choral phrases of the Tatars and the alarm bell ring out the third act.

The fourth act also consists of two paintings, connected by a vocal-symphonic intermission. The first picture is divided into two large sections. In the center of the first one is a commotion. Music with tremendous tragic power transmits the sharp spiritual dissonance of a man losing his mind, the wild visions of his hallucinating fantasy. The next section is devoted to showing a wonderful transformation of nature. The painting ends with a bright lyrical duet.

Without interruption the vocal-symphonic interlude “Walking to the Invisible City” follows; against the backdrop of a radiant, majestic procession, joyful chimes sound the intricate singing of paradise birds. The music of the second picture creates a still, as if frozen in a fantastic charm, a panorama of a wonderful city. Vocal phrases of actors, choral episodes follow one another in a measured and orderly manner; their major sound illuminates the music with a soft and even glow. Only the wedding song and gloomy images that appear in the Fevronia writing scene remind us of past terrible events. The opera ends with an enlightened, long dying chord.

1 The scene of Fevronia’s letter to Kuterma, according to the tradition of the first operas, is usually released.

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Summary Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov. The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia