Music with Ease > Other 19th Century Opera (Russian, English, Czech, etc.) > Ruslan and Lyudmila - Glinka
Ruslan and Lyudmila
(or: Russlan and Ludmilla)
An Opera by Mikhail Glinka
Michael Ivanovich Glinkas second opera is based upon one of Pushkins earliest poems. The poet had hardly agreed to prepare a dramatic version of his fairy tale for the composer when he was killed in a duel incurred owing to the supposed infidelity of his wife. As a result of his untimely end, Glinka employed the services of no less than five different librettists. This, of course, weakened the story.
The opera opens with an entertainment held by the Grand Duke of Kieff in honour of his daughter Lyudmilas suitors. Of the three, Ruslan, a knight, Ratmir, an Oriental poet, and Farlaf, a blustering coward, Ruslan is the favoured one. A thuderclap followed by sudden darkness interrupts the festivities. When this is over, Lyudmila has disappeared. Her father, Svietosar, promises her hand in marriage to any one who will rescue her.
The second act takes place kin the cave of Finn, the wizard, to whom Ruslan has come for advice. The knight hears that the abduction is the work of Tchernomor. The dwarf Finn warns him against the interference of Naina, a wicked fairy. He then starts out on his search. The next scene shows Farlaf in consultation with Naina. The fairy advises him to neglect Lyudmila until she is found by Ruslan, then to carry her off again. The next scene shows Ruslan on a battlefield. In spite of the mist he finds a lance and shield. When the atmosphere grows clearer he discovers a gigantic head, which by its terrific breathing creates a storm. Ruslan subdues the head with a stroke of his lance. Under it is the magic sword which will make him victorious over Tchernomo. The head then explains that its condition is due to its brother, the dwarf, and reveals to Ruslan the means to be made of the sword.
In the third act, at the enchanted palace of Naina, Gorislava, who loves Ratmir appears. When the object of her passion appears he slights her for a siren of Nainas court. Ruslan, too, is imperiled by the sirens, but he is saved from their fascination by Finn.
The fourth act takes place in the dwelling of Tchernomor. Lyudmila, in despair, refused to be consoled by any distraction. She finally falls asleep, only to be awakened by Tchernomor and his train. The arrival of Ruslan interrupts the ensuing ballet. Forcing Lyudmila into a trance, Tchernomor meets Ruslan in single combat. The knight is victorious, but unable to awaken Lyudmila from her sleep. He carries her off.
In the fifth act, Ruslan with a magic ring, the gift of Finn, breaks Tchernomors spell and restores Lyudmila to consciousness.