Ian Skelly presents a performance of Tchaikovsky's only comic opera, the Christmas story The Tsarina's Slippers, given at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 2009.
With Ian Skelly.
A second chance to hear Tchaikovsky's rarely performed only comic opera, his Christmas story The Tsarina's Slippers (Cherevichki), which was produced at London's Royal Opera House in 2009.
Inspired by one of Nikolai Gogol's most famous short tales, Christmas Eve, the opera is a mix of village comedy and fairy-tale fantasy. The beautiful Oxana will only marry her besotted blacksmith Vakula if he finds the Tsarina's little leather slippers for her. The desperate Vakula finally uses the Devil to help him fulfil his beloved's wish. There is much devilry, mistaken identity, hiding of lovers and drunken villagers along the way. The music ranges from popular dances and Christmas carols to deeply moving lyrical scenes such as Vakula's despairing monologue in Act 3.
Tchaikovsky: The Tsarina's Slippers (Cherevichki)
Solokha (a witch) ...... Larissa Diadkova (mezzo-soprano)
The Devil ...... Maxim Mikhailov (bass)
Chub (an elderly Cossack) ...... Vladimir Matorin (bass)
Panas (Chub's friend) ...... John Upperton (tenor)
Oxana ...... Olga Guryakova (soprano)
Vakula ...... Vsevolod Grivnov (tenor)
Pan Golova (The Mayor) ...... Alexander Vassiliev (baritone)
The Schoolmaster ...... Vyacheslav Voynarovskiy (tenor)
Wood Goblin ...... Changhan Lim (baritone)
Echo ...... Andrew Macnair (tenor)
His Highness ...... Sergei Leiferkus (bass)
Master of Ceremonies ...... Jeremy White (bass)
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Alexander Polianichko (conductor).
Vakula, the town smith, in love with Oxana, has painted an insulting image of the Devil on the local church.
Scene 1: Solokha’s roof
Solokha, a witch, is on her roof, enjoying the night. The Devil comes and flirts with her. Then he recalls that his reason for coming to the village was to take revenge on Solokha’s son Vakula for painting his picture on the church wall.
Scene 2: The storm
Part of the Devil’s revenge is to invoke a huge storm, which causes the moon to disappear. By hiding the moon, the Devil intends to prevent Oxana’s father Chub from going out drinking; if Chub is at home, Vakula won’t be able to pay court to Oxana. Solokha and the Devil ride their brooms into the sky and fly over the village. In the chaos of the storm, Chub and his friend Panas get lost on their way to the pub.
Scene 3: Chub’s house
Oxana is at home alone, singing about her own beauty. Vakula arrives and declares his love for her. Oxana teases him; she predicts a marriage between Vakula’s mother and her own father. Chub and Panas come in. As they are totally covered with snow and it is dark, Vakula doesn’t recognize them and throws them out. Oxana is furious; she fights with Vakula, and he leaves. Oxana is invited by fellow villagers to go carolling. She feels remorse for her behaviour towards Vakula.
Scene 1: Solokha’s house
Solokha and the Devil have returned from their night ride. The Devil is keen to make love to Solokha, but is interrupted when someone knocks at the door. Pan Golova, the Mayor, has come to woo Solokha as well. Solokha hides the Devil in a sack and opens the door. After a short while someone else knocks, so the Mayor – who is married – has to hide in a sack too. Solokha’s visitor this time is the Schoolmaster, who in turn has to hide when Chub appears. When Vakula unexpectedly returns home, Chub decides to hide in another sack.
Vakula is miserable because of his unhappy love life, and decides to leave the village. He takes with him the sack containing the Devil, thinking it is coal, and the sacks full of Solokha’s lovers, thinking that they are sacks containing his working tools.
Scene 2: The village
Villagers gather near the church to see who’s got the most presents for carolling. A game begins; one of the boys gets a pair of beautiful slippers for his girlfriend Odarka. Oxana mocks Vakula in front of everyone, telling him that she will marry him if he can procure her a pair of the Tsarina’s slippers.
Vakula leaves in despair, taking one of the sacks but forgetting the other three. The villagers open them, thinking they will contain presents. Intead, all three of Solokha’s would-be lovers get out of the sacks. Chub attempts to turn everything into a joke, claiming that he and the Schoolmaster planned the trick on purpose.
Entr’acte and Scene 1: The Enchanted Lake and the flight
The water nymphs and the Wood Goblin at the Enchanted Lake sing of stillness and darkness. Vakula arrives. He has decided to throw himself in the lake. However, the Devil comes out of his sack and suggests a deal: he will help Vakula to win Oxana in exchange for Vakula’s soul. Vakula pins him to the ground, and forces the Devil to agree to carry him to the Tsarina’s court at St Petersburg. They fly off.
Scene 2: St Petersburg
Vakula and the Devil land in St Petersburg and are led into the Ballroom. The Courtiers praise the Tsarina. His Highness then sings an ode in praise of the Tsarina and the Russians’ victories in battle. Vakula enters, and is presented to His Highness. He asks him for a pair of golden slippers ‘like the Tsarina’s’. The Court are amused by Vakula’s request, and it is granted. Then it is time for entertainment: ballet dancers perform a classical Russian dance and cossacks dance. Afterwards, the Devil and Vakula leave.
Scene 1: The church
Back in the village, both Solokha and Oxana grieve for Vakula, who they believe to be dead. Oxana is invited to a Christmas party, but refuses, weeping.
Scene 2: Wedding
Vakula arrives, begs Chub’s pardon for his behaviour, and asks for Oxana’s hand. Oxana is overjoyed to see Vakula, and laughs when he shows her the Tsarina’s slippers, declaring that she wants Vakula, not a present. Chub gives the couple his blessing, and the villagers celebrate the marriage of Vakula and Oxana with singing and dancing.
- With thanks to the Royal Opera House