Opera "Snow Maiden": content, video, interesting facts, history

ON. Rimsky-Korsakov opera "Snow Maiden"

Opera "The Snow Maiden" did not immediately fall in love with musicians and listeners. Like a play, it is revealed by facets only to the most sensitive perception. But having once managed to comprehend its true cosmic beauty, no one can stop loving it. Like a young heroine, she out of modesty does not show all the depth at once. But through the fairy tale in Russia since ancient times they passed on the most valuable thoughts.

A summary of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden and many interesting facts about this work are on our page.




FrostbassFather of the Snow Maiden, the embodiment of the harsh with native forces
Springmezzo-sopranoMother Snow Maiden, hope, charm and warmth of nature
Snow Maidensopranodaughter of cold and warm, beautiful, unable to love
Lelcontraltoshepherd and poet singer admiring hearts
Kupavasopranogirlfriend Snow Maiden
MizgirbaritoneKupava's fiance, an overseas merchant
Berendeytenorruler of the kingdom of Berendey
Bobytenorthe adoptive parents of the Snow Maiden, who took her to their home
The people (berendei), royal servants


The libretto was based on the dramaturgic play “The Snow Maiden” by Alexander Ostrovsky. The second title of the work - "Spring Fairy Tale". There are many allegories in it - in the spring with nature there are such transformations that this process can be compared with magic. Fairy tale characters inhabit the tale, and the development of the plot is not built on the usual canons for that time.

Daughter of Spring and Frost Snow Maiden grew up in the forest under the protection of mystical forest creatures. But it has long been watching people, and with all its forces seeks to understand their world. She asks parents to allow her to live among people.

Once in the house of Bobyl and Bobylikhi, she begins to learn the world of human relationships. It turns out that people are looking for love and get married after meeting her. The Snow Maiden's heart is cold from birth. She listens to Lelia’s songs, talks to her friend Kupava, but does not feel anything.

The measured course of village life disrupts the appearance of Mizgir, Kupava's fiancé. A wedding has already been appointed, when suddenly Mizgir meets the Snow Maiden and is captivated by her cold-restrained beauty. He rushes after the Snow Maiden, asking him to become his wife.

Kupava is disgraced and cannot recover from her grief. Neighbors advise her to go to the wise king Berendey. Their philosophical conversation about whether to love and believe is touching and compassionate. Calling Mizgir to court, Berendey cannot solve the dilemma: how can you force a person to love against his will? What Mizgir proposes to the king to look at the Snow Maiden, the culprit of the trouble. At one glance, the king understands who stands before him. She is the reason that God Yarilo sends tests to the kingdom. Berendey gives a decree: until the morning of the next day (the day of the holiday Yarily) someone must melt the icy heart of the Snow Maiden - to fall in love with her. Complete the task is taken Lel, a shepherd, singing sweet songs. Mizgir urges permission to try too.

The Snow Maiden stretches to Lelia, with whom she became friends. But he suddenly turns his attention to Kupava. And it hurts Snow Maiden. She begins to experience hitherto unexplored feelings. Passionately she prays Mother Spring to bestow the ability to love. Spring comes to meet her, but warns that from now on the rays of the sun are dangerous for the Snow Maiden, she can melt under them.

The Snow Maiden, awakened for love, meets Mizgir and now looks at him with different eyes — she loves and asks him to be with her. Together they go to Yarilina Polyana, where the wedding ceremony is already underway - King Berendey consecrates the union of all comers.

And Mizgir with the Snow Maiden are asking for blessings. At this moment the sun rises already high, and the Snow Maiden begins to melt. Until the very last minute, she says how happy she could love. Mizgir in grief rushes into the lake.

Now Berendey is sure that his people are behind. Life goes on. The opera ends with a choral scene depicting a happy people free from a curse, singing the hymn "Light and Power, God Yarilo!".

Duration of performance
I - II ActIII - IV Act
45 min.55 min.

A photo:

Interesting Facts:

  • The work on the opera was completed on March 31, 1881, the day of the composer’s 50th birthday.
  • This is one of the forerunners of the fantasy genre - fabulous (Leshy, Frost, Spring) and realistic (Lel, Kupava, Mizgir) characters are involved in the plot, the plot itself has an archetypal structure.
  • The image of the Snow Maiden is unique in the whole world culture - there is nowhere else like it, except for Russian folklore. He is shrouded in mystery, there are no clear ideas about its origin, but this image is present in the visual arts, legends, songs.
  • V. Dahl mentioned that snowmen, bullfinches, snowmen were called "folded from the snow boobs", having the image of a man.
  • It is believed that the image of the Snow Maiden appeared after the baptism of Russia.
  • For Viktor Vasnetsov, the image of the Snow Maiden became the key to creativity.
  • In 1952, the cartoon was shot "Snow Maiden" To music from the opera by N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov.

Famous arias and numbers from the opera:

aria of the Snow Maiden "Walking with berries on the berries" (prologue) - listen

Lelia's third song "A Cloud with Thunder Collected" (III action) - listen

choir "Ay, in the field of little lip" (III act) - listen

the duet of the Snow Maiden and Mizgir "Wait, wait!" (IV action) - listen

Final Choir "Light and Power, God Yarilo" (Act IV) - listen


Since the early childhood Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov He was very fond of Russian folk music, its special rhythm, close to colloquial, expressive intonation, melodious melody. In "The Snow Maiden", he expressed this love with the skill of a mature composer. He practically does not use direct quotations of folk songs, but he very precisely stylizes them, creating his songs, which are stunningly similar in spirit to folk ones.

This music is very picturesque - the imagination vividly paints pictures of the winter forest, the chirping of birds, the appearance of Spring-Red, the coldness and detachment of the Snow Maiden. The gradual awakening of nature and the aspiration of the Snow Maiden to human warmth and love are shown and in music, it becomes passionate, even expressive. At the same time, the fantastic character of the fairy tale is maintained.

The opera opens with a prologue in which the main characters are represented by musical means - the forces of nature, severe frost, gentle Spring, and the fragile Snow Maiden. The orchestra imitates bird trills, ringing creeks, natural metamorphoses. The scene of the Maslenitsa at the end of the prologue almost fully illustrates the ancient rite of meeting spring and winter, the choral episodes colorfully describe folk festivals. The stage is so bright that it is often performed in gala concerts.

Creating images of the main characters, the author carefully thought out the melodic and dramatic characteristics of each. A separate intonational-rhythmic and timbre sphere was created for each category of characters (fairy-tale characters, real people, representatives of elements). The operatic vocals of Rimsky-Korsakov are melodic in combination with simplicity. His chorus is often another character - the people, and also brings an additional flavor to the whole sound. At the same time, the richness of orchestration never argues with a vocal beginning, but, on the contrary, it complements and enriches it.

The composer has a special relationship with the female lyric image. His Snow Maiden, Martha from "The Tsar's Bride", Olga from "Pskovytyanki" are examples of touching, sublime, reverent femininity, the embodiment of fascinating ideal beauty. The transformation of the image of the Snow Maiden is reflected in her vocal part. If at the beginning of the opera her melody is close to the instrumental (and accompanied by flute overflows), then the more it reaches out to people, the more melodiousness, melody, ardor appear in the music (there are more strings in the orchestra).

In general, the composer himself provided a complete musical analysis of the opera in the book The Chronicle of My Musical Life and the article Analysis of the Snow Maiden. In it, the author gave a detailed account of the artistic design and its implementation. It is worth noting that the need for such documents was caused Like Ostrovsky’s play itself, the opera’s performance did not initially meet with performers, the conductor, and critics. Later, after an explanation appeared, there was a more successful performance, close to the author’s interpretation.

It is amazing how mathematically he designed dramaturgy and development of the action. The depth and innovation of the composer could not meet the instant acceptance of this music. They did not coincide with the main themes in the art of the time. However, after a decade, it becomes the locomotive of artistic transformation in the national art.

History of creation

Nikolai Andreevich began work on the opera in the summer of 1880. For the basis of the plot, he took the poetic play by Alexander Ostrovsky "The Snow Maiden", which was published in 1873. The play itself caused a great resonance in society. Appreciated her few. The fairy tale was admired by FM. Dostoevsky, A.I. Goncharov, I.S. Turgenev. Young at that time, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, at the request of the author, was invited to write music for the theatrical production of Snow Maiden.

But most of the public and especially critics met the play coldly. Images and allegories of it were incomprehensible to contemporaries. Oral Russian folk art, ritual song folklore and mythology, the cult and beliefs of the ancient Slavs were something distant and uninteresting for the then audience. Superficially perceiving the play, critics immediately accused the author of avoiding reality. Accustomed to his already established role of denouncing the vices of Russian society, the audience was not ready to dive into the complex world of allegories of the tale.

Ostrovsky was accused of being seduced by decorative images and a light fabulous object, "fantastic" and "meaningless." The perception was also complicated by the poetic syllable with which the play was written. The ingenious Russian playwright traveled the farthest provinces, collecting motifs and rhythms of folk songs and legends, in the play a lot of Old Slavonic words and revolutions. Only a true connoisseur and connoisseur of Russian folklore can truly understand and appreciate the beauty of the syllable of these verses.

And Rimsky-Korsakov himself, when he first met the play, didn’t like it too much. Only after a while when he was re-read (in the winter of 1879-1880), he suddenly "saw the light", he discovered the depth and poetry of the work. He instantly ignited a desire to write an opera on this plot. This desire led him first to Ostrovsky - to ask permission to write music for his magical work, and then - to the Stelevo estate, where the opera was written in unison.

The composer himself was a librettist, making changes to the original text of Ostrovsky. All work was completed in a matter of months. By the end of March 1881 the opera was completed, and in January 1882 the premiere took place. Rimsky-Korsakov himself described the period of creation of the opera as creatively filled, he wrote extremely quickly and easily, with inspiration. The Snow Maiden became his favorite opera for him.

Allegories in a fairy tale and opera

About the music of Rimsky-Korsakov, it is often said that it is light, pure, and sublime. The fairy tale "The Snow Maiden" has a truly naive plot, which is what attracted the composer. It contains a description of the ideal arrangement of the society, the Berendeys, with a surprisingly wise and unusual ruler - King Berendei, who teaches his people to live by heart, to keep moral purity and nobility. This is a utopian picture even for a 19th century resident. However, in the Russian ancient epic, it was not rare.

Russian land can be fertile and fruitful. But the climate is harsh and unpredictable. Long winter experienced due to the summer harvest. And the yield depended on the whims of nature, and not the industriousness or talent of the peasant. In such conditions, the sun, giving warmth and growth to plants and animals, became the main deity. But they didn’t just worship him, people looked for (and found) a connection between their behavior and thoughts - and the answer of God-Sun. Therefore, Berendey worried and complained that the god Yarilo turned away from the kingdom of Berendeyev, believing that his inhabitants began to think too much about self-interest.

Allegories in a fairy tale:

  • Frost is the opposition to the Sun, a deity that brings death and destruction. Their confrontation escalated when Spring and Frost had a child - the Snow Maiden, a beautiful maiden with a cold heart, unable to love. The sun turned away from the people as a punishment for their cold to each other. And the Snow Maiden became a symbolic embodiment of the conflict of heat and cold of the soul.
  • When at the end of the tale she asks Mother Spring to bestow the ability to love, and receives it, and perishes from the heat of the sun, it symbolizes the sacrifice that the heroine brings in the name of the people. She consciously went on this path. With her death, Yarilo will return the favor of the people, and the people themselves, seeing the sacrifice and ardor of her act, will return to their ethical ideals.
  • The name of the merchant Mizgir is significant. Translated from Old Slavonic, it means "spider", "tarantula". The very occupation of the merchant is alien to the peasant way of life, he is perceived as a stranger carrying a vague threat. And according to ancient belief, he who kills a spider, will receive during his lifetime the forgiveness of the seven sins. The very appearance of Mizgir in the settlement agitated the villagers. And his death from longing for the Snow Maiden became a symbolic atonement for the Berendeans.
  • The shepherd Lel, evoking with his poetic songs and sweet voice, everything alive to love and feelings is undoubtedly a unique character for all operatic art. The power of his talent, he affects people, forcing transformed. According to one of the versions, Lel in the Russian epic epic is a deity personifying Love. Some researchers are inclined to this, seeing the frequently appearing “Oh, Lado-Lel”, “Lada Lel-Lyuli” phrases to him.
  • But opponents of this version believe that Lel (Lala) is the son of Lada, the goddess of fertility. He is not a romantic hero, he awakens a desire for motherhood in a woman. Fertility for a woman is an opportunity to give birth. According to the ancient Slavic belief, to earn the attention of Lelya means to get a child. And this is for the Slavs - the highest good.

First productions

Despite the fact that Ostrovsky spoke about the music of Rimsky-Korsakov to his "Spring Fairy Tale" very enthusiastically, but much closer was the music of Tchaikovsky, written for the play. And the thrill that Nikolai Andreevich himself felt for his opera were not supported by the musicians and spectators of the first performances. So the first performances were saturated with disappointment.

The scenery for the stage was made by Viktor Vasnetsov, a peredvizhnik artist, moreover, he designed both theatrical production of the play and the operatic. Using specific elements of Russian architecture, architecture, embroidery motifs, he achieved a realistic embodiment of the atmosphere of peasant life.

Opera "Snow Maiden" can be called a national treasure. Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov He was a true patriot of his homeland, having traveled half the world while serving in the navy, he invariably returned his thoughts to the greatness of the Russian people. His aesthetic ideal and desire was to preserve the traditions of Russian folklore, to emphasize it. Inventing new artistic techniques and compositional techniques, he sought to place the national feeling of beauty at the center of his work. And in “The Snow Maiden” he managed to do it well.

We are pleased to offer opera singers and a symphony orchestra to perform arias and excerpts from the opera "Snow Maiden" at your event.

Watch the video: Luciano Pavarotti Recital - Nessun Dorma. Metropolitan OperaNew York ᴴᴰ (October 2019).

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