s part of the Tchaikovsky Revealed season at the Royal Festival Hall, the performance yesterday evening was his rarely-heard one-act opera Iolanta , first performed in 1892 and given here in a concert performance.
The plot is a slightly soppy fairy-tale, based on an 1845 play by Henrik Herz. Princess Iolanta is blind, but does not know it - her father King René has kept her away from the world, with servants who are forbidden to make any reference to anything to do with sight. She feels that something is missing, but cannot tell what. An Arabic physician tells the King that he must tell her the truth, for only by wishing to see will she ever be able to, but the King is unwilling to break what he sees as her protection.
She is betrothed since childhood to a Duke who does not know of her blindness, but when a visiting stranger enters the stronghold and they fall in love, he inadvertently reveals her blindness to her: reluctant at first, she agrees to undergo the operation which restores her sight: the King allows them to marry.
Tchaikovsky's score is assured and masterly, though it wasn't appreciated at its first performances - even Rimsky-Korsakov complained about the orchestration: but in fact from the sombre opening through the increasingly passionate meeting with the visitor, to the final exultation on the return of her sight, his use of melody and orchestral colour is vivid and imaginative. It's a fine work, and one which deserves a wider hearing.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, with Tania Monogarova as Iolanta, Sergei Alekshakin as the King and Yevgeny Shapovalov as Count Vaudémont, the stranger: an excellent and involving performance
Posted: Sun - October 26, 2008 at 08:27 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM