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Prince Igor
An Opera by Aleksandr Borodin

Opera in four acts and a prologue by Borodin. Libretto suggested by Stassoff, written by the composer.

prologue takes place in the market-place of Poultivle where Igor, Prince of Seversk lives. Although implored to postpone his departure because of an eclipse of the sun, which his people regard as an evil omen, Igor with his son Vladimir Igoreivich departs to pursue the Polovtsy, an Oriental tribe, driven to the plains of the Don by Prince Sviatoslav of Kiev. Prince Galitzky, Igor’s brother, remains to govern Poultivle and watch over the Princess Yaroslavna. The first scene of the first act shows Galitzky a traitor, endeavouring to win the populace to his side with the help of Eroshka and Skoula, two deserters from Igor’s army. In the second scene of this act young girls complain to Yaroslavna about the abduction of one of their companions. They ask her protection against Galitsky. Yaroslavna has a scene with her brother and orders him from her presence. News is brought that Igor’s army had been defeated, that he and the young prince are prisoners, and that the enemy is marching upon Poultivle. The loyal Boyards swear to defend their princess.

second and third acts take place in the camp of the Polovtsy. Young Vladimir has fallen in love with Khan Konchak’s beautiful daughter, Konchakovna. He serenades in her tent. His father laments his captivity. Ovlour, a soldier of the enemy, offers to help him escape, but Igor refuses to repay the Khan’s chivalrous conduct in that manner. In the second act the Khan gives a banquet in honour of his captive. Oriental dances and choruses are introduced.

In the
third act the victorious Polovstians return with prisoners from Poultivle. Igor consents to escape. Konchakovna learns of the secret preparation for flight which Ovlour arranges by giving the army a liberal allowance of wine. After a wild orgy the soldiers fall asleep. When Igor gives the signal for flight, Konchakovna throws herself upon young Vladimir and holds him until his father has disappeared. The soldiers rush to kill him as in revenge for Igor’s escape, but the Khan is content to let him remain as his daughter’s husband.

In the last act the lamenting Yaroslavna is cheered by the return of her husband, and together they enter the Kremlin at Poultivle.

Borodin who divided his life between science and music wrote his opera piece by piece. Rimsky-Korsakoff wrote that he often found him working in his laboratory that communicated directly with his house. "When he was seated before his retorts, which were filled with colourless gases of some kind, forcing them by means of tubes from one vessel to another, I used to tell him that he was spending his time in pouring water into a sieve. As soon as he was free he would take me to his living-rooms and there we occupied ourselves with music and conversation, in the midst of which Borodin would rush off to the laboratory to make sure that nothing was burning or boiling over, making the corridor ring as he went with some extraordinary passage of ninths or seconds. Then back again for more music and talk."

Borodin, himself, wrote: "In winter I can only compose when I am too unwell to give my lectures. So my friends, reversing the usual custom, never say to me, ‘I hope you are well’ but ‘I do hope you are ill.’ At Christmas I had influenza, so I stayed at home and wrote the Thanksgiving Chorus in the last act if ‘Igor.’"

He never finished his opera. It was completed by Rimsky-Korsakoff and his pupil Glazounoff, and three years after his death received its first performance. Borodin never wrote down the overture, but Glazounoff heard him play it so frequently that it was an easy matter for him to orchestrate it according to Borodin’s wishes. The composer left this note about his opera: "It is curious to see how all the members of our set agree in praise of my work. While controversy rages amongst us on every other subject, all, so far, are pleased with ‘Igor.’ Moussorgsky, the ultra-realist, the innovating lyrico-dramatist, Cui, our master, Balakireff, so severe as regards form and tradition, Vladimir Stassoff himself, our valiant champion of everything that bears the stamp of novelty or greatness."

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Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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