Rasputin

 

Stage Director – Dmitry Bertman
Music Director – Vladimir Ponkin
Set and Costume Designers – Igor Nezhny and Tatiana Tulubieva
Light Designer – Damir Ismagilov
Choirmaster  – Denis Kirpanev
Choreographer - Edwald Smirnov
Playing time – 1 hour 40 minutes
Premiere – October 1, 2008
Language of performance – Russian

"Rasputin" opera was written by Jay Reise on his own libretto on request of New York City Opera and was devoted to outstanding American singer Beverly Sills. The world premiere took place on the 17th September 1988.

The brightest events of Grigory Rasputin's life are compressed in two acts of the opera. Grigory Rasputin was one of the most mystical characters of Russian history of the beginning of XXth century. Who really was that man? What are the consequences of his life and death? Even these times new versions appear. Investigating the circumstances of "Rasputin's case", Reise appeals to the memoirs of the participants of the events, to the facts of Russian history, to mystical sect of "khlysty"... He brings the events to the unexpected outcome! In music of "Rasputin" European romanticism meets American minimalism, foxtrot meets the waltz from "Swan Lake". The score is saturated with energy. The composer brought to opera everything that has considered to be a privilege of cinema: the art of creating suspense.

SYNOPSIS

Act one
Scene one
Rasputin and his followers gather for a meeting of the Khlysty, a heretical religious sect. Rasputin preaches that salvation is achieved only through pain and mortal sin. When Iliodor, a zealous monk, charges blasphemy, Rasputin rebukes him, and an orgy of sex and flagellation ensures. Rasputin dares God to strike him down instantly if He is displeased. When he is not harmed, the Khlysty proclaim Rasputin their Savior. Iliodor is overcome by the sectarians.

Scene two
Prince Felix Yusupov and his friend, Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, meet at a Winter Palace ball celebrating Russia's entry into the Great War; they discuss the emergence of the peasant Rasputin, a lecherous monk who calls himself the voice of God and the people. Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra arrive at the ball. Terrified by the restless crowd gathered outside, Alexandra recalls a prophecy that Germany would not be vanquished until the Russian autocracy was destroyed. Rasputin enters, greeting the Tsar in an overly familiar manner. Outside, a riot erupts. When Rasputin commands the indecisive Nicholas to reassure the crowd, Yusupov challenges Rasputin's impertinence. Alexandra convinces Nicholas to obey Rasputin, but Yusupov orders the monk's arrest. Rasputin repels the guards, and the crowd quiets when he emerges from the palace with Nicholas. Alexandra swears that Rasputin will save them; Yusupov resolves to destroy him in order to preserve the security of the nobility, and then leads the court in a toast to Russia's coming victory.

Scene three
Nicholas and Alexandra enjoy a quiet moment with their infant son Alexei, the heir to the throne. Nicholas, however, is clearly distracted by the gunfire outside, and Alexandra is troubled by prophecies of Alexei's death. As Alexandra holds Alexei, Nicholas notices that the child's back is covered with blood. Alexei has hemophilia, and Sokolsky, the royal doctor, cannot stop the bleeding. Rasputin suddenly appears, and as if by magic, stops the hemorrhaging. Nicholas receives word that Cossacks have fired upon a mob attempting to storm the palace; when he goes to mollify the crowd, Rasputin, with Alexandra's approval, curtly dismisses Sokolsky. Alexandra berates herself for passing hemophilia on to her son, but Rasputin calms her saying that the Mother of God has promised that Russia and Alexei will grow stronger together. Alexei will be saved, Rasputin vows, if Alexandra follows his advice.

Scene four
Rasputin gloats that he has gained complete control over the Tsar and Tsaritsa. Nothing can prevent him from ruling Russia now.

Intermission

Act two
Prologue
Lenin expounds upon the need for revolutionary violence and terror.

Scene one
Yusupov, in drag, performs in a cabaret. After a thunderous reception, he is visited backstage by his friend Dr. Sokolsky, who tells him he was dismissed by Rasputin. Distraught over his bleak future, Sokolsky shoots himself. In a rage, Yusupov vows revenge upon Rasputin.

Scene two
At an orgy in his apartment, Rasputin makes love to several women. Yusupov bursts in and finds his wife Irina among the revelers; Yusupov orders his henchmen to rough up Rasputin. Rasputin tries to flatter and bribe Yusupov into becoming political allies. When that fails, Rasputin overcomes Yusupov physically and then hypnotizes him into total submission.

Scene three
In the stateroom, Alexandra and Rasputin discuss Nicholas's incompetence as a ruler and his need for medical "cures". Rasputin suggests that Nicholas abdicate in favor of Alexei and let Alexandra rule as regent. Yusupov, Smerdsky, Dmitry and General Zhevadov concur that Rasputin's power must be thwarted. Nicholas, looking terribly ill, is led into the room. Yusupov shows Nicholas suggestive cartoons of Rasputin and Alexandra and her daughters, and demands Rasputin's dismissal. Nicholas finally breaks down completely and in an hallucination, shouts out military orders and calls for plan from his ministers. Yusupov realizes that all is lost – the Tsar and Tsaritsa are both under Rasputin's hypnotic power. Yusupov plans an apparent reconciliation with Rasputin in order to destroy him. Alexandra reassures her deranged husband that she and Rasputin will save Russia. After urging Yusupov to join them, Rasputin symbolically proclaims Alexei the new Tsar.

Scene four
At Yusupov's palace, Smerdsky, Dmitry and Zhevadov prepare poisoned wine and cakes to kill Rasputin. Yusupov arrives with Rasputin, who has been lured to the palace on the promise of cementing their alliance and of seeing Felix's wife Irina, who is purportedly upstairs giving a party. While waiting for Irina, Yusupov and Rasputin argue about the succession to the throne. As Rasputin repeatedly refuses the wine and cake, Yusupov grows increasingly nervous. When Rasputin finally accepts the refreshments, the poison has no effect. On the pretext of inquiring about Irina's delay, Yusupov periodically goes upstairs to confer with the conspirators. In desperation, he gets a revolver and shoots Rasputin. The assassins prepare to dispose of Rasputin's body in the river, and Yusupov abuses it when left alone. But, inspired by spiritual voices, Rasputin revives, and the terrified Yusupov summons his friends, who brutally finish Rasputin off.

Epilogue
Revolution sweeps Russia, and the Imperial family is executed.

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