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Rimsky-Korsakov - Christmas Eve

Ian Skelly presents a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Christmas Eve given by the State Symphony Capella of Russia. Plus Vaughan Williams's The Wasps Overture.

Ian Skelly presents today's Thursday Opera Matinee: Rimsky Korsakov's Christmas Eve, performed by the State Symphony Capella of Russia. Based on a short story by Gogol, the opera tells of events happening in the Ukrainian hamlet of Dikanka on Christmas Eve. The widow Solokha helps the Devil steal the moon, and lots of people hide in sacks. Plus more from the BBC Performing Groups 'Best of 2015', with a performance of Vaughan Williams' overture The Wasps performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Thursday Opera Matinee:
Rimsky Korsakov Christmas Eve
Solokha... Lyudmila Kuznetsova (mezzo-soprano)
Vakula...Oleg Dolgov (tenor)
Devil....Maxim Sazhin (tenor)
Village Head...Sergei Toptygin (baritone)
Chub....Andrei Antonov (bass)
Oxana...Anna Pegova (soprano)
Deacon Osip Nikiforovich.... Leonid Bomstein (tenor)
Tsaritsa...Elena Evseeva (soprano)
Panas...Alexander Markeev (bass)
Patsyuk...Ruslan Rozyev (bass)
Woman with violet nose...Viktoria Smoinikova (soprano)
Woman with ordinary nose...Anastasia Proviznova (soprano)
State Symphony Capella of Russia Chorus
State Symphony Capella of Russia
Valery Polyansky (conductor)

Vaughan Williams Wasps Overture
BBC Concert Orchestra
Keith Lockhart (conductor).

2 hours, 30 minutes

Music Played

  • Opera Matinee

    • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

      Christmas Eve

      Singer: Людмила Васильевна Кузнецова. Singer: Oleg Dolgov. Singer: Maxim Sazhin. Singer: Sergey Toptygin. Singer: Andrei Antonov. Singer: Anna Pegova. Singer: Leonid Bomstein. Singer: Elena Evseeva. Singer: Alexander Markov. Singer: Ruslan Rozyev. Singer: Victoria Smolnikova. Singer: Anastasia Proviznova. Orchestra: Russian State Symphonic Cappella. Choir: State Symphony Capella of Russia Chorus. Conductor: Valery Kuzmich Polyansky.
  • BBC Concert Orchestra

    • Ralph Vaughan Williams

      The Wasps (Aristophanic suite) - overture

      Orchestra: BBC Concert Orchestra. Conductor: Keith Lockhart.

      Recorded 13 March 2015 at Dreyfoos Hall, West Palm Beach, Florida


Act 1

Tableau 1: Christmas Eve in the hamlet of Dikanka

The widow Solokha agrees to help the Devil steal the moon. The Devil is annoyed with Solokha's son Vakula, who painted an icon mocking him. The Devil decides to create a snowstorm to prevent Vakula from seeing his beloved Oksana. While the storm rages, Solokha rides up to the sky and steals the moon, while the Deacon and Oksana's father, Chub, are unable to find their way.

Tableau 2: Interior of Chub's house

Oksana is alone and lonely at home. She passes through several moods and the music follows her with gradually accelerating tempos. At one point, Vakula enters and watches her admiring herself. She teases him, and he says he loves her, but she replies that she will only marry him if he brings her a pair of the Empress's slippers. Chub comes back out of the storm, and Vakula, not recognizing him and taking him for a rival, chases him out by striking him. Seeing what he has done, Oksana sends Vakula away in a miserable state. Young people from the village come around singing Ukrainian Christmas carols. Oksana realizes she still loves Vakula. 

Act 2

Tableau 3: Solokha's house

The Devil is just getting cosy at Solokha's hut when in succession the mayor, the priest and Chub arrive to seduce her each hiding in a sack when the next arrives. Vakula hauls the four heavy sacks to his smithy.

Tableau 4: Vakula's smithy

Vakula puts down his sacks. Young men and women, including Oksana, gather singing Kolyadki and having fun. Vakula, however, is bored and dejected. Oksana taunts Vakula one last time about the Tsaritsa's slippers. Vakula gives his farewell to the lads and to Oksana, exclaiming that he will perhaps meet them in another world. He leaves the sacks - from which the four men emerge.


Act 3

Tableau 5: Inside Patsyuk's house

Patsyuk makes magic vareniki jump into his mouth. Vakula has come to request assistance from him. Patsyuk advises him that in order to obtain the help of the devil, he must go to the devil. Vakula puts down his sack, and the devil jumps out and tries to get his soul in exchange for Oksana. Vakula, however, grabs him by his neck, and climbs on his back. He forces the devil to fly him to St. Petersburg.

Tableau 6: Space. Moon and stars

We witness the charming "Games and Dances of the Stars". This is followed by the "Diabolical Kolyadka" in which Patsyuk, riding a mortar, and Solokha, on her broom, attempt to stop Vakula. He succeeds, however, in getting through, and the lights of St. Petersburg become visible through the clouds.

Tableau 7: A palace. A sumptuous room, brightly lit

The Devil puts down Vakula in the tsaritsa's court and disappears into the fireplace. Vakula joins a group of Zaporozhian Cossacks who are petitioning the tsaritsa. A chorus sings the tsaritsa's praises in a magnificent polonaise. The tsaritsa addresses the Cossacks. Vakula requests the tsaritsa's boots to the music of a minuet, and his wish is granted because of its unusual and amusing nature. The Devil takes Vakula away as Russian and Cossack dances commence.

Tableau 8: Space. Night

Vakula returns home on the devil's back. We witness the procession of Kolyada (young girl in a carriage) and Ovsen (boy on a boar's back). On approaching Dikanka, we hear church bells and a choir.

Act 4

Tableau 9: Christmas Day. Courtyard beside Chub's house

Oksana listens to some women exchanging gossip about Vakula, who is believed to have committed suicide. Alone, Oksana sings an aria expressing her regret that she had treated Vakula harshly, and wishing for his return. He appears with the boots, followed by Chub. Vakula asks Chub for Oksana's hand in marriage and Chub assents. Vakula and Oksana sing a duet. Other characters enter and ask Vakula about his disappearance.

Epilogue: In memory of Gogol

Vakula announces that he will relate his story to the beekeeper Panko the Gingerhead (i.e., Gogol), who will write a story of Christmas Eve. There is general rejoicing.