Opera in four acts by Franco Alfano (1875–1954)
Libretto by Cesare Hanau based on the novel Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy, sung in Italian with English Surtitles
First performed at the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele, Turin, Italy on 30 November 1904
Franco Alfano is remembered today less for his own operas than for his role in completing another composer’s work – Turandot, left unfinished at the time of Puccini’s death. But there is more to his output than that would suggest, more even than his own ten or so operas would indicate, since he paid closer attention to the fields of orchestral and chamber music than many of his contemporaries. Risurrezione, the opera that brought Alfano his first taste of fame, premiered in Turin in 1904 (the same year as Puccini’s Madama Butterfly). Its Russian subject matter – the opera is based on Tolstoy’s last great novel, Resurrection – anticipates a fashion in early 20th-century Italian opera; see also Giordano’s Siberia and Fedora.
Risurrezione tells of the young aristocrat, Nekhlyudov, who while serving on a jury recognises the prostitute Katerina Maslova as the young girl he had once seduced, and how he rejects his former life and follows her to Siberia, trying to undo past wrongs. Tolstoy’s complex critique of Russian society was particularly unsparing in its gaze on the Orthodox Church, so much so that it led to the writer’s formal excommunication, and the first complete Russian text was actually published in England. Ironically, given the adaptations that have been made of his work for the lyric stage, Tolstoy hated opera because he thought it superficial (in War and Peace he set the scene of Natasha’s undoing at an opera performance). But he even became critical of his own works, such as that panoramic novel and Anna Karenina, and began to see art as serving a social purpose: Resurrection was something of a manifesto. Little of that comes through in Alfano’s adaptation, and his opera concentrates on the drama of personal relationships. But he does so in a manner that makes it easy to understand how the opera quickly became a hit in operatic capitals from Paris to Chicago, containing as it does such hits as ‘Dio pietoso’, a one-time favourite of the legendary Mary Garden and other sopranos since.
21 October performance generously supported by
Act 1 - 27mins
Pause - 2mins
Act 2 - 21mins (50mins)
Interval – 30 minutes
Act 3 - 40mins
Pause - 2mins
Act 4 - 25mins (67mins)
|Anne Sophie Duprels
|Medea's Dead Brother
|Laura Margaret Smith
|Henry Grant Kerswell
|Niamh White/Megan Moran
|Opera in four acts, Libretto by Cesare Hanau, Sung in Italian
It is Easter Eve at the country villa of Sofia lvanovna in Russia. As the servants prepare for Sofia and her nephew, Prince Dimitri, to return from Mass, Katiusha, who as a baby was rescued by Dimitri’s aunt and raised by her, sings of the beauty of the perfumed night and anticipates Dimitri’s return after an absence of three years. A choir singing ’Christ is Risen’ signals the end of Mass and Sofia and Dimitri’s return. After Sofia retires to bed, Dimitri seduces Katiusha, taking her innocence. He then leaves for war against the Turks.
Several months later at the train station of a small town in Russia, it is night and snow is falling. Katiusha and her friend Anna are waiting for the train which Dimitri will be taking that night. Thrown out of the house when it was discovered that she was pregnant, Katiusha tells Anna that if she doesn’t see Dimitri she will throw herself in front of the train. As peasants laugh and joke in the train station, Katiusha prays for Dimitri to rescue her, but then sees him running to the train with another woman and is unable to reach him. In despair, she remains alone in the cold and empty station.
In the women’s prison in Moscow, Katiusha, who has become a prostitute, has been falsely condemned to twenty years in Siberia for poisoning one of her clients. Amid the din of the prisoners, the Capo Guardiano enters for roll-call of those going to Chapel. He is followed by Dimitri who informs Katiusha that he sat on the jury which condemned her and has now come to rescue her. She tells of the night at the train station when she tried to reach him and how, mercifully, her baby died. He is stunned by the change in her, but out of honour asks her to marry him and before leaving gives her a photograph of herself taken as a young girl in his Aunt’s garden. As she falls asleep sobbing, Katiusha remembers the distant days of her youth and happiness.
It is Easter. The sound of bells and a chorus is heard in the distance from an encampment of political exiles in Siberia. One of the prisoners, Simonson, who has fallen in love with Katiusha, sings of the brotherhood of man and when Dimitri enters asks for his consent to marry Katiusha which Dimitri leaves up to her. After Simonson joins the others, Dimitri shows Katiusha the pardon he has obtained for her and again asks her to marry him, but she refuses. When he asks her if she feels nothing for him, she reveals that she has loved him throughout her shame and misery and loves him still, but she will marry Simonson. Dimitri is overjoyed to find her restored to the Katiusha he remembered, redeemed through her love as he, too, is reborn through his loyalty to her. As the chorus sings ’Christ is Risen, Hosanna’ they say goodbye, but with their hearts forever united in love.