'The Enchanted Wanderer' at St. Petersburg and Moscow
'The Enchanted Wanderer' by Rodion Shchedrin was commissioned by and written for Lorin Maazel, the principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. And that is the reason why the world premiere of the opera took place at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York. The opera is based on the story by Nikolai Leskov whom Shchedrin considers to be the 'most Russian' writer and best expert of the Russian psyche and soul.
The Americans actually succeeded in finding a balalaika player and a gusli player. These two traditional Russian instruments are of great significance in this work. The Russian opera was a great success in the USA which did not go unnoticed in Russia. And so, only one question was left unanswered: When will this work be finally performed in the home country of the 'Wanderer'? The answer was given four and a half years later when Valeri Gergiev included the opera in the programme of his festival 'Stars of the White Nights'. The New York premiere took place on 10 December 2002, the performance in St. Petersburg on 10 July 2007 in the new magnificent hall of the Mariinsky Theatre.
The Moscow premiere was not long in coming: The Moscow State Philharmonic Orchestra performed the 'Wanderer' (again with the orchestra and the soloists of the Mariinsky Theatre under the direction of Valeri Gergiev) to launch the festival, marking the 75th birthday of Rodion Shchedrin, while the main programme takes place at the end of 2007. It really was a brilliant start of the forthcoming celebrations: The Tchaikovsky Concert Hall was filled to the bursting point on 30 September, the ovations of the audience matching those at New York and St. Petersburg.
Shchedrin acutely observed that the story in monologue form is carried by three main characters. The libretto, as always very good, of his 'opera for the concert stage', as he calls it, was written by himself. Be that as it may, Valeri Gergiev already promised to include the opera in the programme of the Mariinsky Theatre.
'"The Enchanted Wanderer" seems to be a modern opera, with the year 2002 indicated in the score as year of composition. But it stubbornly defies its reference to the present - it seems to come from a wonderful past where an opera is no effective anachronism, as is common today, but a living and active part of the musical culture. It is organically connected to the entire operatic history of Russia, starting with Glinka's "A Life for the Tsar" to Shostakovich's "The Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District". There is no doubt that the subject of the opera is extremely Russian, its Russian melancholy unfathomable, its Russian fatalism hopeless. The opera has only three main characters: the gypsy woman Grusha (performed by Kristina Kapustinskaya, the young soloist of the Mariinsky Theatre) and the two men who have fallen in love with her, the careless prince (Evgeni Akimov) and his valet Ivan (Sergei Alexashkin). These three give so much passion that neither splendid costumes nor lavish sets are necessary.'