Classical Album of the Week
When Tchaikovsky began composing the opera “Iolanta,” he was probably not aware that it would also be his last.
The celebrated Russian composer died less than a year after the premiere, which took place at the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in December 1892.
Based on the play, “King René’s Daughter,” by the Danish poet Henrik Hertz, ”Iolanta” takes place in France in the 15th century and tells the story of the King’s blind daughter, Iolanta, who, through dramatic trials of love and faith, not only regains her sight, but also spiritual transcendence. “Iolanta” is an opera in one act, consisting of nine scenes, with the opera-libretto written by Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modest.
Though the opera was fairly well received at it’s premiere, Tchaikovsky was quite disappointed with it, feeling that he had lost the ability to write good opera. The reason for this was perhaps because it succeeded his previous opera, “Queen of Spades,” which premiered a few years earlier and was both a compositional and dramatic masterpiece.
“Iolanta” is not commonly performed on the world’s opera stages, unfortunately.
However, this week’s Classical Album finds none other than superstar Anna Netrebko holding the opera’s title role. This fall she can be seen performing “Iolanta” over eight performances New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera House.
On this live recording Netrebko is flanked by among others: Sergey Skorokhodov, Alexey Markov, Vitalij Kowaljow, and the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, as conducted by Emmanuel Villaume.
And it’s perfect for her with its both enigmatic, passionate and at the same time evocative character.
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