Opera Scotland

Ruslan and Lyudmila Ruslan i Lyudmila

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Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (born Novospasskoye, 1 June 1804; died Berlin, 15 February 1857)


Valerian Shirkov, with contributions by Nestor Kukolnik, Nikolay Markevich, and Mikhail Gedeonov, based on a scenario by Konstantin Bakhturin.


Poem (1820) by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)



First Performance: St Petersburg, 9 December 1842.

First Performance in UK: London (Lyceum), 4 June 1931.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 17 August 1995 (concert).

Scottish Opera Première: N/A.



Glinka composed slowly, and following the success of his first opera A Life for the Tsar, he took five years to prepare Ruslan, using a number of collaborators at different stages. While it was not entirely successful, and is rarely performed outside Russia, it has continued to be played on home territory. Further, the use of Pushkin's works and of Russia's extensive repertoire of legend and folk tales provided a pattern followed by many of his successors, including Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.


Main Characters

Svetozar, Prince of Kiev (bass)

Lyudmila, his daughter (soprano)

Ruslan, a knight (baritone)

Ratmir, a prince (contralto)

Farlaf, a cowardly warrior (bass)

Finn, a good sorcerer (tenor)

Naina, a evil witch (mezzo-soprano)

Gorislava, Ratmir's servant (soprano)

Chernomor, a dwarf (silent)


Plot Summary

Svetozar is holding a feast in honour of Ruslan, Ratmir and Farlaf, who are vying for the hand of Lyudmila. It is clear that she favours Ruslan, but when she is mysteriously abducted from the celebrations, the king promises her to whichever of the three manages to find her. Finn advises Ruslan that the kidnapper is Chernomor, and that Ruslan also needs to be wary of  Naina. She has meantime advised Farlaf that the sensible course is to wait for Ruslan to find Lyudmila and then to abduct her in turn. Ruslan encounters a giant head, and kills it in battle, but before it dies the head reveals that it was Chernomor's brother and betrayed by him, also that it possesses a magic sword which Ruslan may use to defeat Chernomor. Ratmir has been seduced by Naina's attendants. Gorislava loves her master and is distressed. When Ruslan arrives, he is also trapped by Naina's magic, and falls for Gorislava. Finn comes to the rescue, using his powers to defeat those of Naina. Finn and Ruslan leave in company with the newly reconciled Ratmir and Gorislava. When they reach Chernomor's enchanted garden Ruslan fights him, and is victorious, knowing that the dwarf's power rests in his long beard, which Ruslan manages to cut off. Lyudmila is in the garden, but in an enchanted sleep, so the friends decide to carry her back to Kiev. On this journey Lyudmila is again abducted, this time by Farlaf. Finn gives his magic ring, which can wake Lyudmila, to Ratmir. When they reach Kiev they find Farlaf has been unable to waken her, so Ratmir passes the ring to Ruslan, who does succeed.

The Cast

 a bard singer
 a Varagian knight
 a benevolent magician
 a captive maiden, in love with her master, Ratmir
 Svetozar's daughter
 an evil witch
 a Khazar knight
 a Kievan knight betrothed to Lyudmila
 Grand Duke of Kiev

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