Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans
Martin Handley introduces a performance of Tchaikovsky's the Maid of Orleans, with mezzo Ksenia Dudnikova in the title role, and conducted by Dmitri Jurowski.
As part of Breaking Free: a Century of Russian culture, Martin Handley introduces a performance of Tchaikovsky's the Maid of Orleans, recorded earlier this year in the Victoria Hall, Geneva with mezzo Ksenia Dudnikova in the title role and conducted by Dmitri Jurowski.
After Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky turned from Russian subjects and set an adaptation of Schiller's The Maid of Orleans. Written while he was in Europe, it follows more in the style of French Grand opera, notably with the inclusion of a ballet in Act 2, and was the first of Tchaikovsky's operas to be
performed outside Russia.
Martin is joined in the studio by Marina Frolova-Walker to discuss Tchaikovsky's more cosmopolitan style in this opera.
Joan of Arc ..... Ksenia Dudnikova (mezzo-soprano)
King Charles VII ..... Migran Agadzhanyan (tenor)
Agnès Sorel ..... Mary Feminear (soprano)
Dunois, a French knight ..... Roman Burdenko (baritone)
Lionel, a Burgundian knight ..... Boris Pinkhasovich (baritone)
The Archbishop ..... Marek Kalbus (bass)
Raymond, Joan's betrothed ..... Boris Stepanov (tenor)
Soldier ..... Aleksandar Chaveev (bass)
Thibaut d'Arc, Joan's father ..... Alexey Tikhomirov (bass)
Bertrand, A peasant ..... Alexander Milev (bass)
Loré ..... Peter Baekeun Cho (bass)
Angel, solo voice in the choir of angels ..... Iulia Elena Preda (soprano)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (orchestra)
Dmitri Jurowski (conductor).
In the square in front of the church village girls decorate an oak and sing songs. Peasant Thibault of Arc is annoyed by their levity at such a terrible time for the fatherland. He is concerned for the safety of his seventeen year-old daughter Joan and wants her to marry Raymond, who can protect her. But Joan feels a heavenly calling and refuses. An alarm sounds announcing the fall of Paris and the siege of Orleans. In a panic, the citizens pray for salvation but, inspired, Joan predicts the death of the English commander, Salisbury. This prophecy is confirmed by a French soldier and Joan is credited with divine sight. Following her calling, Joan says goodbye to her birthplace, setting out on her heroic endeavour to the acclaim of a heavenly choir.
In Château de Chinon the king is being entertained by a group of minstrels, forgetting his duty to his beloved Agnès Sorel. The king is paralyzed by inaction. Neither the appearance of Knight Lauret, mortally wounded in the battle, nor the resignation of courageous Knight Dunois, who leaves to fight with honour ("I'm sorry! Monarch we do not have, I am not your servant any more...") can shake the king's decision to flee. The archbishop suddenly appears, informing the king of the rout of the British, the French victory, and the "glorious Maiden" who inspired the soldiers. Joan herself enters and tells the astonished audience about the vision that convinced her to lead the fight and take a vow of virginity to ensure victory. On the orders of king, Joan is put in command of the army.
Deep in the woods, Joan fights Knight Lionel of Burgundy. He is struck and his helmet falls, revealing his beautiful face. Conquered by his looks, Joan cannot kill him. Lionel is moved by the generosity of Joan but wonders why she has spared him after slaying so many others. She is shocked by her awakened feelings, recalling her vow of virginity. Lionel decides to side with the French and offers his sword to Dunois. In the heart of the enemy-turned-ally a love for Joan grows.
The nation celebrates the king and Joan, the victor. Her father, however, believes that all the acts of his daughter are the devil's work and decides to save her soul, even at the cost of her life. When the king declares her saviour of the fatherland, ordering an altar to be erected, the father accuses the daughter of dealing with Satan and challenges her to publicly prove her innocence: "Do you believe yourself holy and pure?" Joan does not answer, tormented by her love for Lionel. Dunois attempts to protect the heroine as the citizens, frightened by a clap of thunder, turn on her. Lionel tells Joan to flee, which she does only after denouncing him as her enemy.
Joan is alone, abandoned in the remote woods. "To a mortal how dare I give the soul promised to the creator?" But when Lionel finds her, she eagerly responds to him. The happy moment is cut short as English soldiers arrive, killing Lionel and capturing Joan.
In the square of Rouen, a pyre is built. Joan is to be executed. The citizens filling the square sympathize with the heroine and doubts grow about the justice of the impending execution. But Joan is tied to a pole and the fire ignited. Holding a cross, Joan cries out to God, humbly ready to die. She hears voices of angels bearing forgiveness.