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9 Jan '19

Extra concert I
9 Jan '19

Mariinsky Orchestra

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Tchaikovsky’s rise to fame was no easy path as far as opera was concerned, and the composer suffered many setbacks. He chose to delete two early works himself, and even "Eugene Onegin" experienced a delayed success. Tchaikovsky's last opera, premiered in 1892, also struggled to make its mark. Outside of Russia, "Iolanta" is very rarely performed on opera stages, despite its undeniable musical qualities.
Tchaikovsky's remarkable aptitude for depicting in music the protagonists and their characters is fully highlighted in this magical one-act opera. Princess Iolanta is blind, but her entourage is committed to hiding her this fact. It is only once Count Vaudémont has declared his love for her that she becomes aware of her blindness. The healing powers of a Moorish physician give the story a happy end in which Tchaikovsky expresses his own hope of overcoming social constraints.
External action is reduced to a minimum in "Iolanta". The opera's dramatic weight rests mainly on internal processes and an emotional world full of contradictions and conflicts. To express this panorama of the soul, Tchaikovsky makes use of a subtly differentiated musical language, which often takes on a chamber music quality, from dark woodwind intonations, and tender melodies played on the strings through to regal brass fanfares. Tchaikovsky couldn’t have left a more beautiful operatic legacy than this hymn to love.

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Good to know

The Mariinsky Orchestra is one of the oldest and finest orchestras in Russia. Its history stretches over two centuries and goes back to the first orchestral ensemble attached to the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres. It first developed its activities under two conductors, Italian composer Caterino Cavos and Konstantin Lyadov. The Mariinsky Orchestra then began to truly flourish in the nearly fifty years it was led by Eduard Nápravnik. Under his baton, the orchestra’s repertoire widened to include new Russian and foreign operas. The Mariinsky Theatre maintained the Russian operatic tradition during the Soviet era, but changed its name in 1935. It was still named Kirov Theatre when Valery Gergiev made his debut in 1978 as Assistant Conductor. It only regained its original designation in 1992, four years after Gergiev was appointed Artistic Director of the Opera Company. Gergiev’s arrival at the helm of the Mariinsky Orchestra marked the start of a period of renaissance and careful restoration of great masterpieces of the past, combined with an intense artistic development and an opening towards new horizons. The Mariinsky’s repertoire has also considerably expanded in the field of symphonic music. Thanks to Gergiev’s efforts, a new concert hall adjoining the theatre opened in 2006, which significantly broadened the orchestra’s possibilities. The new concert hall has facilitated the production of recordings on the Mariinsky label, which Gergiev founded in 2009.

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