Christmas Eve (opera)

Christmas Eve (opera)

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Christmas Eve is an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in four acts with music and libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

. Composed between 1894 and 1895, Rimsky-Korsakov based his opera on a short story, "Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve (Gogol)
Christmas Eve , literally translated The Night Before Christmas, is the first story in the second volume of the collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol.-Plot:...

", from Nikolay Gogol's
Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist and novelist.Considered by his contemporaries one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of Surrealism...

 Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka
Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka
Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka is a collection of short stories by Nikolai Gogol, written from 1831-1832. They appeared in various magazines and were published in book form when Gogol, who had spent his life in Ukraine up to the age of nineteen, was twenty two. He put his early impressions and...

. The story had been used as the basis for an opera at least three times previously, including for Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

's Vakula the Smith
Vakula the Smith
Vakula the Smith , is an opera in 3 acts, 8 scenes, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, his Opus 14. The libretto was written by Yakov Polonsky and is based on Nikolai Gogol's story Christmas Eve . It was written for composer Alexander Serov, who died in 1871 leaving only fragments of an opera on the subject...


Performance history

The premiere took place on 10 December 1895 in St. Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...


The British premiere was in 1988 in London, with English National Opera
English National Opera
English National Opera is an opera company based in London, resident at the London Coliseum in St. Martin's Lane. It is one of the two principal opera companies in London, along with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden...

 conducted by Albert Rosen
Albert Rosen
Albert Rosen was a conductor associated with the Wexford Festival and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. He had a strong affinity with the works of Czech composers such as Smetana, Dvořák, Martinů and Janáček. He was Austrian-born and Irish-naturalised.-Biography:Albert Rosen was born in...



Role Voice type Premiere cast
St. Petersburg
10 December 1895
(Conductor: Eduard Nápravník
Eduard Nápravník
Eduard Francevič Nápravník was a Czech conductor and composer, who settled in Russia and is best known for his leading role in Russian musical life as the principal conductor of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg for many decades...

Tsaritsa , formerly spelled czaritsa , is the title of a female autocratic ruler of Bulgaria or Russia, or the title of a tsar's wife....

A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

Maria-Vilgelmina Piltz
Village-head baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

Vladimir Mayboroda
Chub, an elderly Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

bass Mikhail Koryakin
Oksana, his daughter soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

Yevgeniya Mravina
Yevgeniya Mravina
Yevgeniya or Evgenia Mravina , real name Yevgeniya Konstantinova Mravinskaya ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source...

Solokha, a widow, and by rumor, a witch contralto
Contralto is the deepest female classical singing voice, with the lowest tessitura, falling between tenor and mezzo-soprano. It typically ranges between the F below middle C to the second G above middle C , although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C or the second B above...

Mariya Kamenskaya
Vakula the smith
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut...

, her son
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Ivan Yershov
Ivan Yershov
Ivan Vasiliyevitch Yershov or Ershov , born November 8, 1867 - died November 21, 1943, was a Russian opera singer. He earned renown for his brilliant performances at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, performing some of the most demanding roles written for the dramatic tenor...

Panas, a crony of Chub bass Fyodor Stravinsky
Fyodor Stravinsky
Fyodor Ignatievich Stravinsky ) was a Russian bass opera singer and actor. He was the father of Igor Stravinsky and the grandfather of Soulima Stravinsky....

Deacon Osip Nikiforovich tenor Grigoriy Ugrinovich
Patsyuk, an old Zaporozhets, a sorcerer
Magician (fantasy)
A magician, mage, sorcerer, sorceress, wizard, enchanter, enchantress, thaumaturge or a person known under one of many other possible terms is someone who uses or practices magic that derives from supernatural or occult sources...

bass Nikolay Klimov
Devil tenor Mitrofan Chuprīnnikov
Chorus, silent roles: Lasses, lads, Cossacks of Dikanka. Witches, wizards, evil and good spirits. The figures of Kolyada and Ovsen. The morning star (Venus)
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows...

 and other stars. Court gentlemen and ladies. Lackeys


Time: 18th century

Place: The village of Dikanka, Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

; mid-air; a royal court
Noble court
The court of a monarch, or at some periods an important nobleman, is a term for the extended household and all those who regularly attended on the ruler or central figure...

Act 1

Tableau 1: Christmas Eve in the hamlet of Dikanka

The widow Solokha agrees to help the Devil steal the moon. The Devil is annoyed with Solokha's son Vakula, who painted an icon mocking him. The Devil decides to create a snowstorm to prevent Vakula from seeing his beloved Oksana. While the storm rages, Solokha rides up to the sky and steals the moon, while Oksana's father Chub and the Deacon are unable to find their way.

Tableau 2: Interior of Chub's house

Oksana is alone and lonely at home. She passes through several moods and the music follows her with gradually accelerating tempos. At one point, Vakula enters and watches her admiring herself. She teases him, and he says he loves her. Chub comes back out of the storm, and Vakula, not recognizing him, chases him out by striking him. Seeing what he has done, Oksana sends Vakula away in a miserable state. Young people from the village come around singing Ukrainian Christmas carols. Oksana realizes she still loves Vakula.

Act 2

Tableau 3: Solokha's house

Three men and the Devil wind up in three sacks at Solokha's hut after successively trying to seduce her, and Vakula winds up hauling the heavy sacks away.

Tableau 4: Vakula's smithy

Vakula puts down his sacks, except the one that contains the devil. Young men and women, including Oksana, arrive singing Kolyadki and having fun. Vakula, however, is bored and dejected. Oksana taunts Vakula one last time about the Tsaritsa's slippers. Vakula gives his farewell to the lads and to Oksana, exclaiming that he will perhaps meet them in another world. He leaves two bags which turn out to have the Deacon and Chub.

Act 3

Tableau 5: Inside Patsyuk's house

Patsyuk makes magic vareniki
thumb|right|Varenyks with [[curd]]Varenyky are a kind of stuffed dumpling associated with Ukrainian cuisine. Variants are also found in Moldovan, Mennonite, Belarusian, Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish cooking. They are believed to originate from Chinese and Siberian influences, although sometimes...

 jump into his mouth. Vakula has come to request assistance from him. Patsyuk advises him that in order to obtain the help of the devil, he must go to the devil. Vakula puts down his sack, and the devil jumps out and tries to get his soul in exchange for Oksana. Vakula, however, grabs him by his neck, and climbs on his back. He forces the devil to fly him to St. Petersburg.

Tableau 6: Space. Moon and stars

We witness the charming "Games and Dances of the Stars". This is followed by the "Diabolical Kolyadka" in which Patsyuk, riding a mortar, and Solokha, on her broom, attempt to stop Vakula. He succeeds, however, in getting through, and the lights of St. Petersburg become visible through the clouds.

Tableau 7: A palace. A sumptuous room, brightly lit

The Devil puts down Vakula in the tsaritsa's court and disappears into the fireplace. Vakula joins a group of Zaporozhian Cossacks who are petitioning the tsaritsa. A chorus sings the tsaritsa's praises in a magnificent polonaise
The polonaise is a slow dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time. Its name is French for "Polish."The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska, and the two dances have a common origin....

. The tsaritsa addresses the Cossacks. Vakula requests the tsaritsa's boots to the music of a minuet, and his wish is granted because its unusual and amusing nature. The Devil takes Vakula away as Russian and Cossack dances commence.

Tableau 8: Space. Night

Vakula returns home on the devil's back. We witness the procession of Kolyada (young girl in a carriage) and Ovsen (boy on a boar's back). On approaching Dikanka, we hear church bell's and a choir.

Act 4

Tableau 9: Christmas Day. Courtyard beside Chub's house

Oksana listens to some women exchanging gossip about Vakula, who is believed to have committed suicide. Alone, Oksana sings an aria expressing her regret that she had treated Vakula harshly, and wishing for his return. He appears with the boots, followed by Chub. Vakula asks Chub for Oksana's hand in marriage. Chub assents. Vakula and Oksana sing a duet. Other characters enter and ask Vakula about his disappearance.

Epilogue: In memory of Gogol

Vakula announces that he will relate his story to the beekeeper Panko the Gingerhead (i.e., Gogol), who will write a story of Christmas Eve. There is general rejoicing.

Principal arias and numbers


Act 1

Act 2

Act 3
Scene 2
Games and dances of the stars
  1. Mazurka
    The mazurka is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with accent on the third or second beat.-History:The folk origins of the mazurek are two other Polish musical forms—the slow machine...

  2. Procession of the Comet
  3. Khorovod
    Khorovod is a Slavic art form, a combination of a circle dance and chorus singing, similar to Chorea of ancient Greece.- External links :*...

  4. Csárdás
    Csárdás is a traditional Hungarian folk dance, the name derived from csárda . It originated in Hungary and was popularized by Roma music bands in Hungary and neighboring lands of Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Burgenland, Croatia, Ukraine, Transylvania and Moravia, as well as among the Banat...

     and shower of shooting stars
Diabolic Kolyadka
Scene 3
The polonaise is a slow dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time. Its name is French for "Polish."The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska, and the two dances have a common origin....

 with chorus

Act 4

Related works

  • Tchaikovsky: The opera Vakula the Smith
    Vakula the Smith
    Vakula the Smith , is an opera in 3 acts, 8 scenes, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, his Opus 14. The libretto was written by Yakov Polonsky and is based on Nikolai Gogol's story Christmas Eve . It was written for composer Alexander Serov, who died in 1871 leaving only fragments of an opera on the subject...

  • Tchaikovsky: The opera The Slippers
    Cherevichki [alternative renderings are The Little Shoes, The Tsarina's Slippers, Les caprices d'Oxane, and Gli stivaletti] is a comic-fantastic opera in 4 acts, 8 scenes, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was composed in 1885 in Maidanovo, Russia...


Christmas Eve, Vakula the Smith, and The Slippers, are all based on the same story by Gogol.


Audio Recordings (Mainly studio recordings)
  • 1948, Natalya Shpiller (Oksana), Lyudmila Ivanovna Legostayeva (Tsaritsa), Nina Kulagina (Solokha), Dmitriy Tarkhov (Vakula), Pavel Pontryagin (Devil), Sergey Migay (Village-Head), Sergey Krasovsky (Chub), Vsevolod Tyutyunnik (Panas), Aleksey Korolyov (Patsyuk), Sergey Streltsov (Sacristan).,Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Radio Chorus, Nikolai Golovanov.
  • 1990, Yekaterina Kudryavchenko (Oxana), Yelena Zaremba (Solokha), Vladimir Bogachov (Vakula), Stanislav Suleymanov (Chub), Maksim Mikhaylov (Panas), Vyacheslav Verestnikov (Village-Head), Vyacheslav Voynarovsky (Devil), Alexey Maslennikov (Sacristan), Boris Beyko (Patsyuk), Olga Tiruchnova (Tsaritsa) Moscow Forum Theatre, Yurlev Academic Choir, Mikhail Yurovsky.