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1990s - 1 tour

1995 - Kirov Opera, Leningrad
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Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov


Composer and Vladimir Bel'sky


Sadko, the Rich Trader and The Tale of the Sea King and Wise Vassilissa, and other epic poems from Novgorod cycle (11th century)



First Performance: Moscow (Solodovnikov Theatre), 7 January 1898.

First Performance in UK: London (Lyceum), 9 June 1931.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Festival Theatre), 21 August 1995.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Rimsky-Korsakov was always fascinated by the legend of Sadko, perhaps because so much of his early life was spent at sea, travelling the world. Whatever the reason, one of his earliest orchestral compositions is Sadko - a musical picture, his opus 5, dating from 1869. He revised it in 1892, and started work on the operatic version a couple of years later, working on it from 1894-6.


Main Characters

Sadko, a minstrel from Novgorod(tenor)

Lyubava, his wife (mezzo-soprano)

The Sea King (bass)

Princess Volkhova, his daughter (soprano)

Nezhata, a minstrel from Kiev (mezzo-soprano)

Viking Merchant (bass)

Indian Merchant (tenor)

Venetiann Merchant (baritone)

Apparition of an Old Pilgrim (bass)


Plot Summary

In Novgorod the merchants are enjoying their prosperity, based on trade overland. Nezhata, a minstrel, sings in praise of Kiev, which makes them jealous. Sadko sings of trade and travel, but he means voyaging by sea - something not possible for a land-locked community like Novgorod. They ridicule his ideas, and in the evening he goes to the nearby lake on his own. A flock of swans is attracted by his singing. They are Princess Volkhova and her sisters. She knows that she is fated to marry a mortal. The Sea King emerges and orders his daughters to leave.

When Sadko returns home, having been away all night, his wife, Lyubava, is relieved to see him, but he is distracted by his experience of the night before. Back at the lake, on the quayside, a market takes place, with several foreign merchants in attendance. The fish Sadko catches all turn to gold. At his invitation, the merchants sing songs of their homelands. Sadko leaves on his travels.

Twelve years pass. Sadko's ship is becalmed. He offers gold to the Sea King to provide a breeze, but the he demands a human sacrifice. Sadko loses the lottery and is left by his shipmates to live in the Sea King's palace down below. The Sea King is so impressed by his singing that he has Sadko married to Volkhova. The wedding celebrations become so rowdy due to the dancing inspired by Sadko's music that a storm blows up. The spirit of an old pilgrim, disturbed by the noise, silences everyone and destroys the Sea King's power. Sadko is helped by Volkhova to return to Novgorod. As he sleeps by the lakeside, Volkhova sings a tender lullaby, before turning herself into a river that will give Novgorod access to the sea, thus ensuring future prosperity. Sadko is reunited with Lyubava and greeted as a hero by the citizens.

The Cast

 a mythic warrior appearing as an old pilgrim
 an entertainer
Foma Nazarich
 a priest
Indian Merchant
Lyubava Buslayevna
 Sadko's wife
 a young minstrel from Kiev
 (Ocean) the Sea King
 a gusli player and singer in Novgorod
 an entertainer
Venetian Merchant
Viking Merchant
 a Princess, the Sea King's favourite daughter

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