Opera Scotland

Iolanta Yolanta; Yolande

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (born Kamsko-Votkinsk, 7 May 1840; died St Petersburg, 6 November 1893)


Modest Tchaikovsky


Play Kong Renés datter (1864) by Henrik Hertz, translated by Vladimir Zotov.



First Performance: St Petersburg (Mariinsky Theatre), 18 December 1892.

First Performance in UK: London (St Pancras Town Hall), 20 March 1968.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 26 August 1992.

Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 29 October 2017 (concert).



Well received at its premiere in tandem with Nutcracker, Iolanta quickly slipped from the repertoire. The British premiere, at the 1968 Camden Festival, was conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, with Josephine Barstow in the title role. In 1974, the English Opera Group mounted a production by Colin Graham, with Teresa Cahill and Anthony Rolfe Johnson in the leads. The second part of the double bill on that occasion provided an interesting contrast in the shape of Sullivan's Trial by Jury. Opera North's staging at the 1992 Edinburgh Festival was directed by Martin Duncan, and attempted to reconnect it to its original partner, this time Matthew Bourne's modern treatment of Nutcracker for Adventures in Motion Pictures. Both works were conducted by David Lloyd-Jones.

The dominant section of the score is the superb duet as Vaudémont and Iolanta meet and fall in love. However the level of invention is not consistent and its medical verisimilitude is highly questionable.


Main Characters

King René of Provence (bass)

Iolanta (or Yolanta), his daughter (soprano)

Ibn-Hakia, a Moorish physician (bass)

Bertrand, keeper of the castle (baritone)

Marthe, his wife, Iolanta's nurse (mezzo-soprano)

Joffroi, Count of Vaudémont (tenor)

Robert, Duke of Burgundy, his friend (baritone)


Plot Summary

The setting is 15th century Provence. Iolanta, King René's daughter, blind since birth, has been kept in ignorance of the fact, and anyone attempting to inform her of her supposed disability will be executed. Ibn-Hakia tells the King that her condition can only be cured if she wills it herself, therefore she must be told. Robert of Burgundy is contracted to marry Iolanta, but when he and Vaudémont arrive it is the latter who discovers her blindness - she can't tell a red rose from a white one. In spite of this he falls in love, as she does with him. The King now decrees that Vaudémont will die unless Iolanta's sight is restored. This threat has the desired effect - since Iolanta now wishes to see, the cure is effected. Burgundy, himself loving another woman, is released from his engagement.

The Cast

 King René's armour-bearer
 Keeper of the castle
 Iolanta's friend
 a Moorish physician
 King René's blind daughter
 Iolanta's friend
 Iolanta's nurse and Bertrand's wife
 King of Provence
 Duke of Burgundy
 Joffroi, Count Vaudémont, a Burgundian knight

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