17 May 2009

TCHAIKOVSKY: The Maid of Orléans — Moscow 1971

The Maid of Orléans: [Orleanskaya deva]: Opera in four acts

Music composed by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky to his own libretto after Friedrich von Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans (1801), tragedy translated by Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky, Jules Barbier’s Jeanne d’Arc and Auguste Mermet’s libretto for his own opera, after Barbier (1876), with various details adapted from Henri Wallon’s biography of Joan of Arc.

First Performance: 13/25 February 1881, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Principal Roles:
Joan of Arc Soprano/Mezzo-Soprano
King Charles VII Tenor
Agnès Sorel Soprano
Dunois, French knight Baritone
Lionel, Burgundian knight Baritone
Archbishop (Cardinal in first production) Bass
Raymond, Joan’s betrothed Tenor
Thibaut d’Arc, Joan’s father Bass
Bertrand, a peasant Bass
Lauret Bass
A Soldier Bass
Voice from the Angelic Choir Soprano

Setting: France, 1431


Act I

A forest near Domrémy

Thibaut, father of Joan, wants her to marry Raymond. Joan refuses, declaring that she must follow her divine destiny. Enraged, her father accuses her to be in league with the devil. News arrives that the English are devastating nearby villages. Joan inspires all to hope because Salisbury, the English commander, is destined to perish. When a soldier brings news of the death of Salisbury; all sing hanks to the Lord. Joan bids farewell to save France.

Act II

At the Castle of Chinon

The minstrels sing and gypsies dance to amuse King Charles VII and his mistress Agnès Sorel. The vassal Dunois informs the King that the royal treasure is exhausted. He urges the King to take arms. To the disdain of Dunois, Agnès offers him to contribute her own money to finance the war. The archbishop receives a report of a miracle — the French have won thanks to troops led by a young girl. Joan presents herself to the King, telling him her story. The King gives her command of the army.


Near Reims

Giovanna engages in a duel with Lionel, a Burgundian allied with the English. But when she is about to strike the deadly blow, Joan sees his face, evoking tender pity. They immediately fall in love. Lionel swears allegiance to the French cause. At the cathedral of Reims a great crowd forms to celebrate Charles’ coronation. Thibaut publicly accuses Joan of witchcraft. Dunois defends her and the archbishop questions her. Feeling guilty of her love for Lionel, Joan remains silent. Lionel implores her to run away; but she accuses him that his love has caused her downfall.

Act IV

In the forest

Lionel and Joan embrace. A choir of angels sings a warning to the girl: she has betrayed her divine mission She must therefore suffer before she receives salvation. An English contingent arrives, killing Lionel and capturing Joan.

At the old market of Rouen

The English condemn Joan to the stake for being a witch. Joan asks Dunois for a cross, which he gives her. As the fire consumes her, the celestial voices promise her a place next to God.

Click here for the complete libretto (Russian).

Click here for the complete text of Die Jungfrau von Orleans.

Click here for the complete score.