St Petersburg, Mariinsky II


opera by Rodion Shchedrin

Performed in Russian (the performance will have synchronised Russian and English supertitles)



Valery Gergiev

Lolita: Pelageya Kurennaya
Humbert Humbert: Petr Sokolov
Charlotte: Daria Rositskaya
Claire Quilty: Aleš Briscein

World premiere: 14 December 1994, Royal Swedish Opera (in Swedish language)
Premiere of this production: 3 October 2019, National Theatre, Prague
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 13 February 2020

Running time 2 hours 55 minutes
The performance has one interval

Age category 18+


Music and libretto by Rodion Shchedrin after Vladimir Nabokov’s eponymous novel

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Conductor: Sergey Neller
Stage Director: Sláva Daubnerová
Set Designer: Boris Kudlička
Costume Designer: Natalia Kitamikado
Lighting Designer: Daniel Tesař
Video Designers: Jakub Gulyás, Dominik Žižka
Musical Preparation: Irina Soboleva
Chorus Master: Pavel Teplov


Humbert Humbert, a 37-year-old European intellectual and literary critic, is attracted to young girls. After renting a flat in a small American town, he meets his landlady Charlotte Haze’s 12-year-old daughter, Lolita. A great passion towards the teenage girl overtakes him. So as to become closer to Lolita, Humbert marries her mother. Humbert’s journal, including a description of his true feelings towards Lolita, fall into Charlotte’s hands; shocked, she runs out of the house and is run over by a passing automobile. Custody over Charlotte falls unto Humbert, who under the pretense of caring for his stepdaughter undertakes a road-trip with her across America. Having gotten closer to Lolita, Humbert keeps her by his side with threats and gifts. Finding the right moment, Lolita runs away to the popular dramatist Clare Quilty, who in turn forces her to act in pornographic films. Humbert searches for Lolita but to no avail. Three years later he receives a letter from his already grown-up stepdaughter, requesting money: she is married, with child and in debt. Humbert goes to Lolita, hoping to get her back, but is rejected. After finding out that Quilty stole Lolita from him, Humbert finds his foe and murders him. For the corruption of a minor and murder, the criminal must stand before court. Awaiting his trial, the “white widowed male” writes his confession; however, before the trial, he dies from a stroke. Having given birth to a stillborn, Lolita too dies thereafter.

The collection of operas by Shchedrin staged at the Mariinsky Theatre will be complete with the addition of Lolita to the repertoire: here all of the maestro’s operas are performed. Written in 1992, the grand opera (the composer’s designation) Lolita has been staged on four occasions: the world premiere took place in Stockholm (1994), subsequently being mounted in Perm (2003), in Wiesbaden in Germany in 2011 and, at the Národní Divadlo (National Theatre) in Prague (2019). The latter production is the one being brought to St Petersburg. “The Prague production is the most successful of all, it ‘hears’ my score,” the composer believes, “and it is also the one that is closest to Nabokov’s novel in as much as, in addition to the plot (which, of course, has been retained), there one may find a thought-provoking accentuation that combines tragedy with tenderness. Nabokov himself called Lolita a book of great pathos and lamented the fact that critics were unable to grasp the tenderness with which it is filled. It is a magical text, in understanding which one cannot limit oneself to the storyline alone. If one clings to the plot, then many novels by Dostoevsky, too, are mere judicial chronicles or detective fiction... The important thing is how it is done, what surrounds it. And that is where the art springs from. The Prague production was achieved specifically with these artistic considerations in mind, and not in order to take and retell this seemingly erotic narrative. And so in it I see and sense a caring attitude to the tragic destinies of its characters.”

Pelageya Kurennaya, who sang the title role in Prague, adds that “Lolita is unlike either A Christmas Tale or The Lefthander, even although at times I can hear some echoes from them. It is an entirely different style, reminiscent of a thriller with elements of mysticism and instances of romance. At the very start of the opera, to Humbert’s words “Lolita, my sin, poor, tormented girl”, the chords sound like stabs to the heart; I hear them with a shudder... The opera has been staged by a fantastic director. Sláva Daubnerová has placed a revolving structure in the centre of the stage, so the scenes run flowingly from one to the next. Dimmed lighting is used, the spotlights are aimed at the protagonists, and everything around them is in some mysterious mist; it turned out to be a kind of 3D opera. Sláva sees Lolita as an angular yet gentle tomboy. For her, everything begins with a game, as she has known no father, she just needed the attention of someone new. In Act I and Act II Lolita appears as two different kinds of music. Initially there is the running and skipping friskiness; in Act II her voice has changed, lyricism has been added, there is cantilena and, at the very end of the opera, there is pain. Rodion Konstantinovich Shchedrin created characters which are completely different to one another in terms of music. Each has his own characteristic melos: Quilty, Charlotte, Humbert, Lolita... Not stepping back from the novel, the composer brought it into the genre of opera with such incredible talent that it would be impossible to imagine anything better.”

Musical materials provided by Schott Music GmbH & Co., Mainz (Germany)

Original production produced by the National Theatre in Prague (2019)

The theatre’s administration kindly asks patrons to note that under-18s will not be admitted to the auditorium

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The theatre's administration kindly asks patrons to note that under-18s will not be admitted to the auditorium.

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