Lefty is the most famous story by Nikolai Leskov. In Russia everyone, but everyone knows it. Leskov’s tale is an incredibly rich literary source for an opera plot. The plot of the tale itself is a grotesque exaggeration. What is it?
Is it a Biblical parable, a farcical fairground myth or an epic tale?
The characters are vivid, luscious and contrasting. The Russian Tsars Alexander I and Nicholas I, the Winter Palace, the British Court. A buffonade and a tragedy. Laughter through tears... But if you look a little deeper then you can clearly see the artistic contradistinctions of two kinds of life – the rational British and the irrational Russian.
And, finally, there is the protagonist. The cross-eyed illiterate artisan with “golden hands” from Tula. He is a condensed representation, I believe, of the most important and the most typical features of the Russian national character – innate talent, wit, self irony, indifference to human life and a pernicious love of alcohol. And the eternal Russian theme of power and the common man. The lack of need for genius in one’s own country...
This full-length two-act opera was composed for the opening of the new stage of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg (Mariinsky-II). Valery Gergiev, who turned sixty this year, is the Musical Director and Conductor. My score is dedicated to him.