Iolanta (1981) is the last opera by Pyotr Tchaikovsky which he wrote just a year before his death. It is rightfully considered to be one of his most inspiring works.
It is a romantic story of a blind girl totally unaware of her misfortune. She is happy living in a secluded world with her father. But their quiet wellbeing is interrupted by a young stranger, who is to be executed for this. Now only Iolanta’s love can save the young man from death and cure Iolanta herself.
Evgeny Samoilov, conductor of the Iolanta production:
«For me Iolanta is one of the most profound and subtle works by Tchaikovsky. It is a hymn to God, love and self-sacrifice for the sake of others. The opera is permeated with the idea of strength and fortitude. The characters have moral purity and nobility that our modern life lacks so much. The music is very dramatic, but at the same time it is light and shining. It is Tchaikovsky’s last opera, which reflects the rich experience and mastership of the composer of genius».
Gennady Shaposhnikov, stage director of the Iolanta production:
Iolanta’s father, King Rene, thinks her blindness to be God’s punishment and is devoured by guilt. Having lost almost all hope of helping Iolanta, he finds a doctor, but the true cure is Love. Iolanta sees light when she finds her love. This is the plot.
Initially, I wanted to make the production lighter, with more humour in it. I planned to arrange mise-en-scenes in a comic way. But the dramatic concept of the music is more complicated and profound than the pretty simple plot. Then my story began to become more symbolic, soaring up above everyday life, as it happens with Iolanta’s feelings when she awakens from a hypnotic dream.
There are two principal themes in the production: Solitude and Love as the salvation from solitude. The glittering greenhouse built by the king for his daughter turned out to be a cage. And the pylons – the razors protecting the greenhouse from the outer world – are pointed spears of Iolanta’s secluded world that threatens to destroy the made-up harmony. King Rene loses his daughter when she meets her love. One can feel sadness in the production. It is not necessary, however, to show sadness through tears or try to soften it by humour. It’s very important to tell the story beautifully. I want to make the finale joyous. God is Love. And Love is Joy and Happiness.
Victor Gerasimenko, designer of the Iolanta production:
It is the dramatic concept of music and not the libretto that I value most in the opera. Tchaikovsky’s opera is more powerful and fascinating than the written text. It contains vivid images which we can reveal through metaphors, scenery, reinforced musical parts. I have constructed some kind of a tower, a detached construction secluded from the world, and divided it in two parts. The lower part is the real material world, while the top part is the spiritual world. The costumes are also different: colourful for the real world and white for the top world. The two worlds cannot exist separately from each other. And in the finale they unite. The colourful world is shown through special glasses and when the construction becomes integrated, the artists will give their glasses to Iolanta to try them on. But she won’t accept them, because the colour of our life is individual for each of us.