Opera Scotland

Prince Igor Knyaz' Igor'

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Aleksandr Porfirevich Borodin (born St Petersburg, 12 November 1833; died St Petersburg, 27 February 1887)


The composer


Scenario by Vladimir Stassov derived from epic Lay of Igor’s Army (12th century).



Completed and edited by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov:

First performance: St Petersburg (Mariinsky Theatre), 4 November 1890.

First UK performance: London (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), 8 June 1914.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 7 May 1928..

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.



Borodin is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of a successful amateur composer. He was a chemist by training, and spent much of his career as Professor of Organic Chemistry at St Petersburg. As a composer he was essentially self-taught, using music as a relaxation for weekends and holidays. The result is that his musical output is inevitably small, and several pieces, including this opera, were worked on for years and left unfinished at the time of his death. Many sections existed only in sketch form, and the performing version prepared after his death is imperfect in many respects. However there is much wonderful stuff in it. The ballet music, known as the Polovtsian Dances, has long had a separate place in concert and ballet programmes, and was performed by the Russian Ballet on its Scottish tour of 1913.


Main Characters

Igor, a Ukrainian prince (baritone)

Yaroslavna, Igor’s second wife (soprano)

Vladimir Igorevich, Igor’s son (tenor)

Vladimir Yaroslavich, Prince Galitzky, Yaroslavna’s brother (bass)

Khan Konchak, leader of the Polovtsi (bass)

Konchakovna, Konchak’s daughter (mezzo-soprano)

Ovlur, a Polovtsian Christian (tenor)


Plot Summary

In 1185, Igor and his son lead an army from Putivl in the Ukraine against the Polovtsi, a nomadic Tartar tribe which regularly harasses the area. Igor’s brother-in-law, Galitzky, is left as regent in his absence. Yaroslavna has misgivings about the enterprise, and after the army’s departure she quickly becomes lonely and fearful. Her worries are justified when news comes that the army has been defeated and not only have her husband and stepson been taken prisoner, but the Polovtsi are preparing to attack Putivl itself. At the Polovtsian camp, Vladimir falls in love with Konchakovna, who believes her father will agree to a match. Igor regrets that he ever set out on this ill-fated escapade. Konchak treats him as a guest rather than as a prisoner, and decides to cheer him up by putting on a display of dancing. In the third act, largely created by Glazunov, Igor escapes to defend his home. Vladimir is recaptured, but Konchak, who does not bear grudges, allows him to marry Konchakovna and stay. The final act is located back in Putivl. The government of Galitzky has not been successful, though his supporters have attempted to have the absent Igor supplanted. Yaroslavna and the people sing heartfelt laments, but these turn to rejoicing at the return of Igor.

The Cast

 a gudok player
 son of Svyatoslav, Prince of Seversk
 the Polovtsian Khan
 daughter of Khan Konchak
 to Yaroslavna
 a Christian Polovtsian
Polovtsian Girl
Prince Galitsky
 Vladimir Yaroslavich, brother of Yaroslavna
 a gudok player
Vladimir Igorevich
 Igor's son by his first marriage
 Igor's second wife

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