Charodeyka (The Enchantress)
In 1885, Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky was made aware by his brother Modest of a new drama by the writer Shpazhinsky, who was popular at the time: it contained a love scene, said Modest, well suited to being set to music. In the end, though, Tchaikovsky found the two main female characters more interesting than the love scene. He asked the author to adapt the play to a libretto. However, Shpazhinsky’s text turned out too long, and the struggle to achieve a version that could be performed took two years. On 1 November 1887, Charodeyka was premiered in the Imperial Mariinski Theatre in Saint Petersburg.
Nastasya, known as Kuma, runs an inn on the riverbank. In the liberal atmosphere she has created there, her guests also include political and social outcasts who find refuge under her roof. Kuma has many suitors, but bestows her favours on no one. One day, Prince Yuriy passes by and she falls in love with him. However, she does not dare approach him. Kurlyatev, the ruling prince, is Yuriy’s father, and the hostelry with the critical minds it attracts are a thorn in his side. He wants to close it, but falls under the spell of Kuma’s charm himself and suddenly, instead of closing the inn down, is spending a lot of time there himself. The scheming Mamïrov tells the Princess, Prince Kurlyatev’s wife, about this, arousing her jealousy. When Yuriy hears of his father’s behaviour he determines to kill the woman who has cast such a spell on his father that he is neglecting his wife and his duties as ruler. Kurlyatev confesses his love to Kuma, but she rejects him. When Yuriy comes to her intending to kill her, she is able to convince him of her innocence, and he too falls in love with her. The couple is about to escape together when the Princess poisons Kuma, who dies in Yuriy’s arms. The Princess throws the dead body into the river. Prince Kurlyatev, searching for Kuma, kills his son in a fit of jealousy and is taken by madness.