St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre


three one act operas


Conductor: Conductor: Mikhail Tatarnikov
The Lawsuit
Pavel Petrovich Burdyukov: Andrei Spekhov
Khristophor Petrovich Burdyukov: Andrei Popov
Alexander Ivanovich Proletov: Vladimir Moroz

Shponka and His Aunt
Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka: Andrei Serov
Aunt Vasilisa Tsupchevska: Elizaveta Zakharova
Grigory Grigorievich Storchenko: Andrei Popov

The Carriage
General: Andrei Serov
Chertokutsky, a landowner: Viktor Korotich
Chertokutsky’s Young Wife: Olga Pudova
Age category 12+


The Lawsuit
Music by Svetlana Nesterova

Shponka and His Aunt
Music by Anastasia Bespalova

The Carriage
Music by Vyacheslav Kruglik

Performed in Russian
The performance will have synchronised
English supertitles


Running time: 2 hours 55 minutes
The performance has two intervals

World premiere: 1 April 2009, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg


эскиз костюма


The Lawsuit
сomic opera after the tale of the same name by N. V. Gogol
Music by Svetlana Nesterova
Libretto by Vera Kupriyanova & Svetlana Nesterova

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Anton Kovalenko
Production Designer: Oleg Golovko
Lighting Designer: Yevgeny Ganzburg
Video by Anton Kovalenko
Choreographer: Anna Belich
Musical Preparation: Larisa Gergieva



The Lawsuit is a magnificent example of Gogol´s style: with vivid characters and an absurdist and, at the same time, realistic plot development. As in most of Gogol´s satirical works, here there are no positive characters. Foolishness, envy, tight-fistedness and cynicism – these are the principal traits of the protagonists.
When working on the libretto, we did not set ourselves the task of “contemporising” – his plots and images, even today, almost two centuries on, remain current. On the other hand, we have tried to make full use of the richness of Gogol´s language, bringing to life the original text to the utmost.
One of the main difficulties in writing the music was the creation of an integral composition, as Gogol´s Lawsuit is itself an unfinished work.
The opera is concentric in form. The overture introduces the main theme – a theme of mimicry, of scandal. The culmination comes in the central scene, where all gather to clarify their relationships. This scene is framed by two episodes with spoken dialogues. The outer sections of the opera are constructed around Proletov. And, if Proletov´s first arioso “What a villain, what a scoundrel is Burdyukov!” represents helpless malice, a desire to spoil things for his more successful roguish boss, then the final arioso “Stop, villain, stop! Now you will be mine!” is delight at the eventual chance to take revenge on an old acquaintance.
The opera is somewhat complicated to perform, it demands a huge range from the singers, it contains difficulties of rhythm and intonation. Apropos, the Mariinsky Opera Company is one of few ensembles for which music may be written without any technical limitations whatsoever.
Svetlana Nesterova

Pavel Petrovich Burdyukov is trying to force his elderly aunt who has lost possession of her faculties to sign her last will and testament, by which all of her property will go directly to him. The old lady merely makes indecipherable scrawls on the paper.

The senate chief secretary Prolyotov is overcome with envy of his more successful fraternity of fellow staff and superiors. He feels particular dejection and despondency when he learns from the newspapers of the successes of Pavel Petrovich Burdyukov, his old acquaintance. In his dreams, he unmasks the bribe-taker and scoundrel, stripping him of his rank and titles and even sending him to penal servitude.

Unexpectedly Prolyotov hears the footman speak the odious name: Burdyukov is waiting in the antechamber. He is dumbfounded. It turns out that Khristophor Burdyukov, Pavel Petrovich s younger brother, has come to Petersburg in the hopes of commencing a lawsuit against his relative regarding the inheritance. The chief secretary is delighted to have the opportunity to spoil things for Burdyukov senior – something of which he has only been able to dream. Khristophor Petrovich complains to Prolyotov that his brother compiled the will himself and deceitfully forced his aunt to sign it. The aggrieved younger brother is only left with a pile of old rags.

Events of the recent past become known through the inconsistent tale of a beggar.

Khristophor Burdyukov comes to see his failing aunt and finds her on her deathbed. The elder brother has established himself as master in his relation s house and declares that the will and testament have been compiled and signed by the old woman. As soon as the old woman dies the will is read out and Burdyukov junior discovers that he has been left with nothing. A real battle brews over the corpse of the dead woman. Khristophor Petrovich resolves to be off to the capital for justice, whither senate chief secretary Prolyotov is also headed for assistance.

Burdyukov junior indignantly points out an obvious absurdity in the will to his newly-appointed protector: instead of a signature there is the incongruous little word “fraudsters”. Prolyotov is satisfied: now he has come up trumps.

Left alone, Prolyotov gives free reign to his Schadenfreude. The thought that Burdyukov senior s treachery will be discovered brings him indescribable pleasure.

эскиз костюма   

Shponka and His Aunt
opera in one act
Music by Anastasia Bespalova
Libretto by Arkady Zastyrets after the tale of the same name by N. V. Gogol

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Alena Anokhina
Set Designer: Nikolai Slobodyanik
Costume Designer: Maria Lukka
Lighting Designer: Yevgeny Ganzburg
Choreographer: Anna Belich
Musical Preparation: Larisa Gergieva


Shponka… is my first major effort in the opera genre. Work progressed very quickly. In three months I had written all the basic material. The ease of writing was a result of the extremely high-quality libretto by Arkady Zastyrets. Initially it was terrifying to take a non-poetic text, but during the composition process I came to understand the full delight of working with prose.
The main musical material consists of citations from my works (I am quoting simply because the music is good, so why should it go to waste?) and genuine folk songs such as Oh, There Flew the Peacock, The Lizard Sits Beloved, Beloved and A Miracle under the Mountain, which I have had my eye on for some time, and, at last, I was given the chance to make good use of them. And thus the flavour – at times somewhat countrified.
My musical credo is for beautiful, extended melodies and an elastic, precise, vivid rhythm. And so in the opera there is a great deal of rhythmic, fast-paced, somewhat “pop” music (and just one slow piece). But that´s where the treasure lies: combining the incongruous.
I never write anything in an ordered way, I always start from where I am most gripped. I remember, reading the libretto for the first time, that I truly loved the ending: all the protagonists are brides! Especially Storchenko in a wedding dress – that was something else! And again, initially I wanted the aunt to be played by a man and sung by a baritone or bass. So that he could lift up Shponka in his arms when they meet! But, as some erudite persons told me, in theatre as well as in life there are insufficient men, and it´s simpler to give the role to a female voice. But still, I love the aunt, she is a catalyst for the whole plot in the opera, and each time always somewhat different.
Initially this story was loved for its unusual beginning and end: a beginning without a beginning and an end without an end – if you want to, then that´s how to take it… I don´t see any special scenes, “how that should be staged”, in the end I´m not a director. I trust completely the vision of professionals. It is, probably, very hard: the protagonists are constantly going from house to house, all the time eating or drinking something… But I know that the finale draws attention. The last dream is of particular importance, when the whirlwind begins, everything gets mixed up and the result is clear: the brides and Shponka. In the music for this scene I used a very famous rhythm from Queen´s We Will Rock You. Maybe we should try a joke like that – all the singers together should start to belt it out and sing, just imagine how it would rock!
Anastasia Bespalova

Retired thirty-eight year-old lieutenant Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka receives a letter from his aunt Vasilisa Tsupchevskaya, where, referring to her ill health, asks him to come and help with the property. Shponka sets off. On the way he stops at an inn where he meets one Grigory Storchenko. In conversing, it transpires that they are neighbours. Storchenko insistently invites Shponka to his house.

Arriving at his aunt´s, it turns out that she is in wonderful physical form and deceitfully chose merely to lure her nephew to deal with some paperwork that involves Grigory Storchenko. Finding out that Shponka has met him on the road, she sends Ivan Fyodorovich to the house of this irrepressible man, her loathsome neighbour.

Arriving at Storchenko´s, Shponka immediately attacks a generous lunch. At table, he becomes familiar with Grigory Grigorievich´s two sisters – Brunette and Fair-Haired.

Returning to his aunt´s, Shponka meets her on her way back from a hunt and they start a talk from which the aunt learns that at lunch at Storchenko´s Ivan has fallen for the fair-haired maid. Instantly a plan begins to form in her mind: to marry her nephew off, and at the same time solve her problems. The aunt and Shponka set off for the Storchenkos.

At Storchenko´s house, the aunt arranges for Ivan Fyodorovich to be left alone with Fair-Haired. But, a man utterly at sea in affairs of the heart, the abashed Shponka is completely unable to carry an inappropriate talk about flies.

On the way home in the britzka, the aunt tries to convince her nephew of the need to marry. For Shponka these words come as a prison sentence. Once alone, he has a glass of vodka and falls asleep, suffering from thoughts of marriage.

These thoughts and events of a mad day do not abandon him even in his slumber. His aunt, Storchenko and his two sisters appear before Shponka in wedding dresses, and each of them proves: “It is I who am your wife!” The visions encourage Shponka and decisively call on him to wake up and marry.

эскиз костюма   

The Carriage
comic opera after the tale of the same name by N.  V. Gogol
Music by Vyacheslav Kruglik
Libretto by Vera Kupriyanova & Vyacheslav Kruglik

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Maxim Kalsin
Production Designer: Alexei Votyakov
Lighting Designer: Yevgeny Ganzburg
Designer-animator: Denis Demyanov
Choreographer: Anna Belich
Musical Preparation: Larisa Gergieva


The Carriage is a one-act comic opera based on the story of the same name by Nikolai Gogol. The basis of the recitative fragments comes from Gogol´s original text.
The opera is framed by orchestral variations (introduction and concluding remarks), binding together the form of the piece. Here we have a musical image of the town of B…: cheerless and boring, it is as if it brings together all that is bad of Russian provincial towns. And, if the introduction is to a large degree inventive in character, then the conclusion takes the same variations as a philosophical rendering of human vices. The same theme also characterises Chertokutsky – one of the “principal aristocrats of B… province”. Driven by a vainglorious wish to be accepted in the circle of officers as one of their own, he becomes entangled in a situation that fails utterly to correspond to his position as “the handsome landowner”. Put simply, Chertokutsky drinks himself senseless. This non-correspondence is underlined by the combination of seemingly incongruous instruments – the balalaika and the counter-bassoon. The carriage around which the action unfolds develops from an object of pride into the place of the protagonist´s disgrace. The final scene puts a full stop not just to the subject, but also symbolically, to this story of hypocrisy, worthlessness and lies.
Vyacheslav Kruglik

Officers of a regiment settled in the town and the landowner Chertokutsky, formerly also an officer, have been invited to lunch at the General´s house. During the feast, the General boasts of his new horse. In response, Chertokutsky lavishes praise on his own carriage, and for a time becomes the centre of attention. He invites the General and the officers to lunch at his estate the next day.

The guests sit down to play whist. During the game they drink champagne. Chertokutsky stands up to leave, but each time he returns to the table. Suddenly the game is at an end. Chertokutsky stands up with difficulty – the champagne has done its job. The officers have to assist him into his carriage. On the way home, the landowner even manages to fall face first into a patch of burdock.

Chertokutsky´s young wife awakes and delights in the beautiful morning and her own reflection in the mirror. The Chertokutskys´ serfs are taking care of all sorts of every-morning pastoral intermedia in order to sweeten their mistress´ temper. Suddenly the mistress of the house sees guests approaching. She rushes to waken her husband. She succeeds in rousing him with great difficulty. It transpires that the master and mistress are far from ready to receive guests. And how! Chertokutsky had returned at four in the morning without even thinking of giving orders for lunch. From fear and shame he hides in the barn. The General and the officers approach the coach house. A house-serf, following his master´s orders, says that there is no-one at home. The guests are disappointed. In order that the visit is not in vain, the General suggests he and the others take a look at the carriage without the master of the house.

He finds the coach to be most ordinary indeed, yet nonetheless decides to look inside – just in case there is something special there. And his expectations are justified, although in a most peculiar way: he discovers the master of the house inside.

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