The Place: I’ve lived in Russia for six years and had never been to the Bolshoi Theatre (Big Theatre) up until recently. I don’t know what stopped me—the big hype about the Bolshoi being all ballroom grace and pomp or the fact that operas and ballets interested me less than Hamlet: Cumberbatch, maybe both. But once I went to the opera Iolanta, written by Tchaikovsky, I decided to frequent the Bolshoi more. It’s an amazing place, the interior all red and gold, the stage spacious, the lighting and decorations flawless.
The Opera: Iolanta follows the journey of Princess Iolanta, who is blind (hence she’s in the dark part of the stage) and distressed at the beginning of the opera.
Her father the King never told her of her defect, and she perceives the world and her many companions in her home with her other senses, thinking that all humans are this way. Once the truth is revealed to Iolanta by Count Vaudémont, who falls in love with her, she is overwhelmed with the desire to see the light, and this desire conquers her blindness and enables her to find peace.
So deep in your heart there is no desire
To see Light the glory of the Universe?
What does it mean “to see”?
Impression: What I most liked about this opera was its pure, candescent light. It was almost tangible; the word light was present in the text, half of the stage was illuminated, then the whole (the dark half was Iolanta’s abode before she regained her sight), and most of all, the powerful voices of the actors were rich, deep, full of passion and beauty—the music literally lit up my soul. After reading passages of A Song of Ice and Fire and watching Game of Thrones, I was ready for anything to happen: either a Shakespeare-style massacre or an individual but tragic death. However, the end was happy, with everyone getting what they wanted… but this didn’t seem superficial or deus-ex-machinated, as I like to call it.
The characters learned from their mistakes, became better human beings, the main characters found love. It was a natural progression from hardship to reward, and as the spectator, I found this to be a wonderful experience.
Another quote from the opera:
After the Count describes the nature of light to Iolanta, she sings these words:
Your words are so sweet.
I do not know what is going on.
I have never felt so happy.
But you are not right. No, no, no.
Knight, I do not need light
To give eternal praises to God.
God’s blessing is infinite,
It knows no bonds.
God, blessed and invisible,
Is present in a hot day,
In sweet aromas,
In sounds and within myself.
Can one see the chirping of a bird
In a rose bush?
Or a sweet purl of rapid waters
In a sandy river?
Of course, text can’t express the full effect that I saw on stage. But trust me, it was… fascinating.
The moral of this post is, if you’re ever in Moscow and want a great show, you might want to visit the Bolshoi.
Also, this is the first time I’ve seen an opera. Have you? Do you have any favorites? Feel free to comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Till next time!