Première of the stage performance of the opera “The Enchanted Wanderer”

The stage performance of Rodion Shchedrin’s opera „The Enchanted Wanderer” had its première in a production of Alexei Stepanyuk on 26th July, 2008 in St Petersburg at the XVIth “Stars of the White Nights” festival. At the same time the première of the opera marked the final to the 225th theatre season of Mariinski theatre. Originally composed as a concert opera and an order work for the New York Philharmonic it had a sensational success on its world première at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall on 19 December 2002 with Lorin Maazel as director.“Rodion Shchedrin presented the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with a masterpiece, which belongs to the some few works of contemporary music enriching the repertoire of classical music” - Maazel said with recognition and admiration about the opera of his friend. Since that day the success of the opera endures. It conquers the leading concert halls in the world - as recently, on 26th August, 2008, performed for the first time in Great Britain at the Edinburgh International Festival or in Helsinki/Finland on 11th September.

In the opera “The Enchanted Wanderer” for three vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra - based on Nicolai Leskovs same titled novel - Shchedrin repeatedly reveals the love to his native country Russia. After the liturgy “The Sealed Angel” it is already for the second time that Shchedrin had taken a work of this well known Russian author as a dramatic basis for an opera. The story of “The Enchanted Wanderer” is about the novice Ivan, who enters the service of a Prince after years of aimless travels and fall in love with a beautiful gipsy woman named Grusha. But Grusha gives her heart to the Prince. After a short period the Prince leaves Grusha because of a rich noblewoman. With a broken heart Grusha asks Ivan to kill her. Ivan, who can not bear to see her suffering, reluctantly fulfils her wish.

To Shchedrin, Nicolai Leskov belongs to the great classics in Russian literature. His writings are remarkable by giving the reader a good insight into the specific Russian character. The motives in Leskovs story, which lead to the killing of Grusha by Ivan, are in Shchedrins point of view typical to the Russian nature: according to her wish one kills the beloved woman, to release her from distress and by doing so to open her the gates to paradise, where she passes in as a true Christian and not as a victim of suicide!

The desire for a stage performance was expressed after the splendid success of the Russian première of the concert version in the last year. It was not long in coming to the realization of this planning by Stepanyuk, who is the stage director at Mariinski theatre. In Stepanyuks production the contrast had an important part - as a dramatic tool. It could be noticed explicitly in the powerful expressions of the dancing and movement of the silent ballet and the more moveless but powerful-voiced three soloists (Kristina Kapustinskaya - mezzo soprano, Sergei Aleksashkin - bass, Andrei Popov - tenor). The musical responsibility was in the safe hands of maestro Valeri Gergiev on the conductor’s podium.

The production could meet the high expectances of the audience. Because of the enthusiastic resonance to this successful production the next theatre season at St Petersburg’s Mariinski theatre, which starts on 25th September, 2008, will be opened with the opera “The Enchanted Wanderer”.