Dmitri Tcherniakov recently staged Rimsky-Korsakov’s rarely seen opera “The Tsar’s Bride” to great acclaim at the Schillertheater in Berlin. Nikolay Rimskij-Korsakow’s opera, premiered in Moscow in 1899, is a story about love, envy, jealousy and political intrigue. Marfa, who is promised to her childhood sweetheart Lykov, is chosen by the Tsar to become his wife and is also the object of desire of one of the Tsar’s guards, Gryaznoy. Lyubasha, herself in love with Gryaznoy, is consumed with jealousy of Marfa and poisons her rival.
The acclaimed Russian director Tcherniakov, who is responsible for both direction and the sets, has transferred the plot to the present day and so the search for a suitable first lady proceeds via an online database: “The search for the bride becomes a television casting show and the prize is a virtual bachelor tsar assembled in computer images flashed onto a screen”(bloomberg.com).
The music is very convincing too: “The Tsar’s Bride by the Berlin Staatsoper is an artistically homogeneous, concentrated production … the like of which we have not seen for some years. The singers, the musicians of the Staatskapelle, the extras: they all throw themselves into the score (…),” wrote Die Zeit newspaper enthusiastically. The Süddeutsche Zeitung joined in the chorus of praise: “Daniel Barenboim on the rostrum of the Berlin Staatskapelle (…) allows emotions and acoustic passages in the score to smoulder and go on the rampage with enormous impact,” producing a Tsar’s Bride that people will talk of in Berlin for a long time to come: a “triumph!” (FAZ).