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“The Golden Cockerel” by Rimsky-Korsakov: Opera-tale with political satire

N. Rimsky-Korsakov The Golden Cockerel

“The Golden Cockerel” was the fifteenth and the last opera by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote this opera shortly before his death. The plot of the opera revolves around a fairy tale, but the main thing in the opera is an overt satire on the Russian autocracy.

The revolutionary history of the opera “The Golden Cockerel”

Russian Revolution of 1905 changed the lives across the entire Russian Empire by destroying many preconceived notions about the Russian people and the fairness of the Russian Tsar. In the wake of the revolutionary events of the early 20thcentury, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov decided to write the opera “The Golden Cockerel”.

Satirical notes present in the opera are not typical for the Russian composer, and are only a reflection of despair and bitterness of a man standing on the threshold of death, who lost faith in everything in what he believed all his life.

The first sketches of the new musical work appeared in October of 1906. At the same time, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov told about his desire to write a new opera to his friend and librettist Belsky. Subsequent collaboration was very intensive and by 1907 the opera was completely finished.

The plot of the opera is based on a fairy tale by the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, written in verse. At the same time, the libretto is different from the fairy taleand develops some political ideas. The librettist also added the original text with massive scenes and more boldly developed the psychological portraits of all the characters.

The opera “The Golden Cockerel” has no positive characters. The opera is a reflection of the sad contemplations of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov about the difficult fate of Tsarist Russia in the post-revolutionary era. The opera amazes the audience with its bright sounds, harmony of all stage elements of the opera. But, nevertheless, the stage life of the opera was not easy.

Difficult production of the opera “The Golden Cockerel”

Tsarist censorship from the outset was not happy with the opera. However, it was never completely banned, as it was written based on the fairy tale story by the great poet Pushkin.

The opera was staged only in 1909 with big censorship edits throughout the storyline. Unfortunately, the composer never saw its production. Maybe it’s for the best, since not a single opera before had been edited so much by censors due to its revolutionary context.

In the future, some of the directors of the opera “The Golden Cockerel”, fearing for their own destinies, even took the road of the complete denial of satire in the opera. For example, during the “Russian Seasons” of Diaghilev in Paris, the opera was interpreted as a ballet, which was accompanied by the singing of standing motionless artists.

Rimsky-Korsakov gave the storyline of the classic fairy tale by Alexander Pushkin its own special sound, which, despite all the censorship managed to reach the audience that warmly accepted the opera.

Radio production of the opera “The Golden Cockerel” (1962)

Comments

4 responses to ““The Golden Cockerel” by Rimsky-Korsakov: Opera-tale with political satire”

  1. William Shire says:

    Where can I get a libretto for Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel in both English and Russian, (or in Russian only)?

    • Alexey says:

      Did you use youtube?

      • William Shire says:

        I’m not sure why you suggested youtube since that is mostly musical excerpts. In any case, yes, I did look there and on google. No luck. I still cannot find a libretto for The Golden Cockerel in Russian.

        • Alexey says:

          Huh. It’s a strange. Please try “либретто оперы “Золотой петушок” (google). And click the first link.

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