Chelsea Opera Group’s next concert at Cadogan Hall will be The Oprichnik (The Guardsman), an early, rarely performed opera by Tchaikovsky. Written in the early 1870s, it premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, on 24 April 1874.
The opera is a romantic tragedy set in sixteenth century Moscow during the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible and his feared bodyguards, the Oprichniki. At the centre of the dramatic narrative is young boyar Andrey Morozov, who decides to join the Oprichniki – Ivan the Terrible’s personal guards–so that he may obtain justice from the Tsar for the wrongs committed by Prince Zhemchuzhnïy, who killed Andrey’s father, thus leaving the boy and his mother, Princess Morozova, living in poverty. Andrey also is secretly in love with Zhemchuzhnïy’s daughter Natalya, whom her father has promised to the elderly Molchan (a fate she is desperate to escape). Andrey succeeds in driving off Zhemchuzhnïy, but when Morozova learns that her son has taken the blood oath of the Oprichniki, she disowns him, laying a deathly curse on his head. Nevertheless, Natalya and Andrey are happy together at last–that is until Andrey is called upon to fulfill his oath by submitting to the Tsar’s demand for a private visit with his new bride. Andrey revolts and is executed for his disloyalty. Morozova’s curse is fulfilled.
Despite the composer’s own reservations, the first production of The Oprichnik in St Petersburg was a significant triumph.
This is an excellent opportunity to hear this exciting work by one of the world’s greatest composers, in the first UK performance this century.
The conductor will be James Ham, with Yvonne Howard as Boyarinya Morozova, the widow, Stephen Richardson as Prince Zhemchuzhnyi, Brian Smith Walters as Andrey Morozov, Seljan Nasibli as Natalya, Aidan Smith as Molchan Mitkov, the bridegroom of Natalya, Emma Stannard as Basmanov, a young oprichnik, and Elinor Rolfe Johnson as Zakharyevna.
There will be a pre-performance talk in the hall for ticket holders at 5.45pm, to be given by Bruno Bower.
The Oprichnik – a concert performance in Russian with English surtitles – Cadogan Hall, 7pm Saturday 11th March 2023 (duration: approx. 3 hours incl. interval).
Boyarïnya Morozova, the widow – Yvonne Howard
Andrey Morozov, a boyar, her son – Brian Smith Walters
Prince Zhemchuzhnïy – Stephen Richardson
Natalya, his daughter – Seljan Nasibli
Molchan Mitkov, the intended bridegroom of Natalya – Aidan Smith
Basmanov, a young oprichnik – Emma Stannard
Prince Vyazminsky – Nicholas Lester
Zakharyevna, a nurse – Elinor Rolfe Johnson
The orchestra and chorus of Chelsea Opera Group
James Ham – conductor