Rimsky-Korsakov, The Snow Queen (Opera North)

I’ve just seen Opera North’s production at The Lowry, Salford of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden, part of a trio of fairy-tale operas that the company are touring with—you can still catch them if you’re quick. There’s a trailer here.

I’m fascinated by the ways that fairy tales can be reworked and remediated in all sorts of forms. Rimsky-Korsakov’s work is based on a play by Ostrovsky that takes Russian fairy tales of a snow maiden, Snegurochka as its raw material. The opera (and, I think, the play) adds a mythic, ritualistic dimension to the folkloric tales and suggests an allegory of physical desire that is entwined with the cycle of the seasons.

The music is beautiful and colourfully orchestrated, full of Romantic lyricism and folkloric dance elements. The production design was fabulous, with efflorescences of ice crystals, foliage, and flowers being projected onto the set. And the programme includes illuminating essays by Marina Frolova-Walker (on the music and its background), Sophie Schuenemann (on the folkloric tradition and its vicissitudes through Stalin and since), Susan Godsil (on psychoanalysis and folktales), and George Hall on editions of Ostrovsky’s play and performances of the opera. And here’s some extracts and audience reactions.

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