Opera in three acts with prologue
Libretto by Alexander Borodin with the help of Vladimir Stasov based on the Ancient Russian epic of 12th centuryThe Lay of Igor's Host
The opera was written in 1890. The scenography of this version was replicate the scenography of the 1890-year production in Mariinsky Theatre. This version was first performed in Perm in 2015. Running time: 3 hours 45 minutes including 2 intervals
One of the pillars of the classics of Russian opera, Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, is based on an historical subject, taken from the monument of Russian literature The Tale of Igor’s Campaign or The Lay of Igor’s Host, and tells the story of the failed raid of Igor Svyatoslavich against the Polovtsians. The Prince is taken prisoner by the Khan Konchak. Despite numerous attempts by Igor’s enemies to gain the favour of his wife, Yaroslavna, the Princess remains true to her husband and soon awaits his happy return home.
Borodin’s unfinished work was completed after his death by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov. The opera was premiered in 1890 in the Mariinsky Theatre, and it is to this production that the artistic company of the Perm premiere refers in 2015.
For the director Sigrid T’Hooft, famous primarily as an expert in historical theatrical reconstruction, the conductor Valery Platonov, an authority on Russian musical heritage, and the artist Stephan Dietrich, a superb stylist who thoughtfully works with visual documents from different epochs, the important task is not to produce direct replications but to get as close as possible to the aesthetic of operatic theatre of the end of the 19th century.
Vladimir Yaroslavich (Galitsky)
Russian princes and princesses, boyars and boyarynas, maidens, people, Konchakovna's girlfriends, slaves of Khan Konchak, Polovtsy
The town of Putivl. The residents of the town gather in the square in front of the cathedral. They have come to watch Prince Igor with his army depart in their campaign against the Polovtsy. The people and the boyars cheer on the prince, his son Vladimir and the army with the parting words: “Victory to Rus, let our foemen bleed, disperse them as once before at Oltava”.
The army is ready to depart, but suddenly the light fades and a solar eclipse begins. The people look at the sky in astonishment and read the eclipse as an ominous sign: “Oh wait a while before you march. Do not go yet. Oh tarry Prince, tarry a while”. But the Prince is not prepared to change his mind: “What God’s sign in the heavens forebodes — or good or ill, we soon shall know… But since none can elude his fate what have we then to fear? We go forth in a righteous cause, to fight for faith, for home, for Rus!”
The sky becomes light again. Igor, accompanied by the other princes and boyars, walks along the rows of soldiers and vigilantes. Two gudok players, Skula and Eroshka, slip away and desert the army. Igor says goodbye to his wife Yaroslavna. She begs her husband to abandon the campaign but Igor remains firm: duty and honour call. His son Vladimir Igorevich and Yaroslavna’s brother, Vladimir Galitsky (Prince of Galich), second him. Igor leaves Galitsky as temporary deputy in Putivl and orders him to look after the princess, to be her protection and support. Galitsky gives his word: he is in a debt of gratitude to Igor for sheltering him in Putivl when he was banished from Galich by his father and brothers.
Yaroslavna, the princesses and the wives of the boyars leave. An elder approaches from the cathedral and blesses the army. The troops depart with Igor leading the way.
The edge of the Polovtsian camp. The Polovtsy, gazing into the distance, are awaiting the troops of Khan Gzak. The warriors appear with Russian prisoners. Khan Konchak comes out to meet them and congratulate their success. The whole event is observed by the prisoners with bowed heads — Prince Igor, Prince Vladimir and their Russian supporters.
Prince Igor laments: “Why did I not fall on the battlefield? Why did I not fall with my regiment, whilst I fought at their head?”
Khan Konchak approaches Igor and says: “Are you well, Prince? What has made you so cast down, my guest? Why are you so thoughtful?” Konchak offers a variety of entertainment to Igor: hunting with hawks, a horse and tent of his choice and a sword of Damask steel. In answer Igor only remains silent. Then Konchak orders the maiden slaves to come and entertain him.
Igor shakes hands with Konchak: he would be glad to become an ally of the Khan, but cannot. “Well, do you want me to release you to your homeland?” asks Konchak: “just give me your word that you will not raise your sword or block my path”. Igor openly admits that he could not give such a promise. As soon as he regains his freedom his army will reassemble and once again fight the enemy. The Khan praises the pride and courage of his noble prisoner: “I love you! You are brave and true. I am the same! Oh if only we could be allies — we would take the whole of Rus!”
The Polovtsian slaves appear, with Konchak’s entourage closely following. The Polovtsian Dances in praise of Khan Konchak begin.
The courtyard of Vladimir Galitsky’ house. Some drunken servants led by Skula and Eroshka sing the praises of the governor-prince. Vladimir Galitsky appears from the palace. The power that he has been given is not enough and instead he would rather replace Igor as the Prince of Putivl and lock his sister up in a monastery.
Some girls run into the courtyard. They implore Galitsky to desist his behaviour and release their friend who was kidnapped on his orders and locked in the palace. In his anger and annoyance Galitsky chases the girls away to the great amusement of the drunk servants.
A room in Yaroslavna’s palace. The princess is alone. There has been no news of Prince Igor, her son Vladimir and their retinue for some time. The nurse interrupts her gloomy thoughts with the arrival of the girls who have come with a complaint about Galitsky. They recount the troubles caused by Galitsky: “We pray for you to be just, do not abandon us, protect us!” They ask the princess to restore order in the absence of Prince Igor.
Galitsky breaks into Yaroslavna’s chamber. The girls run away scared. Yaroslavna calls upon Galitsky to answer for his behaviour, and threatens to tell all to Igor upon his return. Galitsky gives a sneering response, telling her that he only need wave his hand and Putivl would choose him as its leader. Yaroslavna is furious. Realising that he has said enough, Galitsky leaves.
Yaroslavna tries to pull herself together: “Oh, if only the Prince would have come back sooner, my soul would be rested… I am tired, I do not have enough strength for fighting…”
The boyars enter the palace. They report to Yaroslavna that Igor and his forces have been defeated, that the prince himself is wounded, that together with his son has been taken into captivity, and that the Polovtsian army is now approaching Putivl. Yaroslavna faints.
When she regains consciousness, the princess begs the boyars to find a solution. They reply: “The city stands strong, be calm, the walls are thick, the ditches deep and the fort is dependable”.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Galitsky is speaking to the boyars within the stronghold and suggests that he should become the new ruler: “He who protects Putivl from the Polovtsy should rule the principality”. The boyars reject his candidacy.
An alarm bell starts ringing. The glow of fire can be seen within the palace windows. The boyars are getting ready for battle.
The Polovtsian camp. The Polovtsian maidens are singing and dancing to entertain the Khan’s daughter — Konchakovna. She is eagerly awaiting a meeting with the Russian prisoner Vladimir Igorevich: “Night, come down quickly, wrap me in darkness, a misty robe. Oh, day!”
The Russian prisoners appear, returning from a day of work. The maidens welcome them and give them drink. The patrol appears, making its way around the camp. The maidens depart.
Night wraps the camp in darkness. Only one guard, Ovlur, remains on duty.
Vladimir carefully approaches Konchakovna’s tent. The lovers are overwhelmed by the long-awaited meeting. Vladimir suddenly hears his father’s footsteps and bids farewell to his beloved before disappearing into the darkness.
Prince Igor is struggling to come to terms with the defeat: “No sleep, no rest for the tormented soul…” He feels guilty for the deaths within his troops, is desperate to regain his freedom, to atone for shame he has brought and save his honour — he would even rather reconvene his regiments and attack the Polovtsian army once again. Thoughts about his homeland are replaced by thoughts of his beloved wife.
Ovlur, a Christian, quietly approaches the prince. The dawn sky grows brighter. Ovlur offers the prisoner a chance to escape, promising him horses. Igor is outraged at the suggestion: “Me, a prince, escaping from captivity in secret?” Ovlur makes a second attempt: “You should escape not for me, but for Rus, for afterwards you will save your native land, faith and people.” Igor is full of doubt.
Konchakovna, greatly agitated, runs to Vladimir’s tent. She has learnt that Vladimir is going to make an escape — she is horrified by the thought of separation from her love. She begs him to either stay or take her with him. Prince Igor comes out of the tent. Vladimir is torn between Konchakovna and Igor, between love and duty. His father’s will is stronger. Then Konchakovna starts striking a gong, raising a panic alarm across the camp. Prince Igor slips away alone.
The Polovtsy come running from every direction, they seize the young prince. On realising that Prince Igor has escaped, the guards go to kill the remaining captives. Konchakovna rushes to the defence of Vladimir.
Konchak appears with the khans. The guards tell him that Igor has escaped. Konchak is full of admiration for the prince: “No wonder I loved him so, in Igor’s place I would have done the same! Oh! He and I are not to be enemies, but faithful allies”.
The Khan holds Konchakovna and Vladimir’s hands together and declares that the young man is not an enemy, but a son in law. He takes his army and sets off for battle against Russia.
Putivl is razed to the ground. Yaroslavna, alone on the city walls, cries and wails, calling to the wind, to the river Dnieper and to the sun, questioning them of Igor.
Some villagers pass by. They sing a song — a plaintive melody about the devastated region.
Suddenly two riders appear on the horizon. They are getting closer and closer. Yaroslavna recognises one of them as Prince Igor and rushes to meet them. Igor dismounts and embraces the princess. Ovlur steps aside with the horses.
Igor is determined to re-assemble his troops to fight back against the enemy.
The drunken Eroshka and Skula are singing about Igor’s unsuccessful campaign against the Polovtsy when they see the returning prince with his wife in the distance, and quickly break off their singing. Reflecting on what they should do: “After eating the prince’s bread how could we gnaw on crusts? After drinking the prince’s wine must we go back to drinking water?” They ring the bell, calling the people to the square, and tell them about the return of the prince.
The crowd grows. Prince Igor together with Princess Yaroslavna come out of the palace, followed by elders and boyars. Prince Igor bows to the people, and the people welcome him.