OPERA IN FOUR ACTS
Libretto by Alexander Medwedew
The mentally ill Prince Myshkin has lost all grip on reality and has an unshakeable belief in goodness. On a train back to St. Petersburg after spending time in a sanatorium he makes the acquaintance of Rogózhin, a merchant, which signals the start of a tale of dependence, madness and murder. Weinberg’s final opera is based on the novel of the same name by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The plot is condensed, exaggerated and made theatrical without losing any of the psychological finesse of the literary original. In the face of this successful adaptation we can really only shake our heads in disbelief: How on earth was it possible that the works of the Russian composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919 – 1996) were forgotten? It is only in the last ten years that he is being rediscovered and regarded as the equal of his friend Dmitri Shostakovich. The Idiot, composed from 1986-1989, was given its world premiere in Mannheim in 2013, and now comes to Vienna for its Austrian premiere in a production directed by Russian Vasily Barkhatov. World literature on the opera stage.
In Russian with German & English surtitles
Introduction to the work 30 minutes before the performance
ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien
Arnold Schoenberg Chor (Leitung: Erwin Ortner)
Act I Prince Myshkin is on his way back to Russia after a long stay at a health resort in Switzerland. On the train to St. Petersburg he meets Rogózhin, the rich son of a merchant, who appears obsessed by the well-known courtesan Nastasya.
To mark her name day, Nastasya plans to hold a celebration at which she will reveal whom she intends to marry. Her former lover Totsky has given her a large dowry and would like to marry her to his secretary Gánya so that he can continue to see her with no complications. When Gánya asks Nastasya whether she would, in fact, like to marry him, she asks him to wait till the evening festivities.
Myshkin visits distant relations, General Epanchin and his family. He is fascinated by the daughter of the house, Aglaya, but at the same time irresistibly drawn to a portrait of Nastasya that Gánya, who is also there, shows him. Gánya proposes to Aglaya to avoid the arranged marriage to Nastasya, but she turns him down.
Act II Myshkin has moved into Gánya’s parents’ house. Nastasya invites everybody to the evening celebrations of her name day. She and Myshkin immediately feel attracted to one another. Rogózhin offers Gánya 18,000 roubles to give up Nastasya. Nastasya is indignant, feeling that she is being grossly undervalued, so Rogózhin increases his offer to 100,000 roubles. Gánya’s family now accuse her of being a prostitute. Myshkin is the only one who stands by her.
Nastasya celebrates her name day and asks Myshkin for his advice on whether she should accept Gánya’s proposal. When the prince advises against the marriage, she rejects her admirer. Rogózhin then brings her the 100,000 roubles he promised. Myshkin tells Nastasya that he is a wealthy heir as well and would like to marry her, but she does not want to cause his social ruin. Instead, she gives the money to Gánya and leaves the party with Rogózhin.
Act III Some time later. Shortly before her wedding to Rogózhin, Nastasya left him and began an affair with Myshkin. In the meantime, however, she has returned to Rogózhin and is living with him.
Myshkin and Rogózhin have a heart-to-heart. The prince insists that he only loves Nastasya out of pity, and the merchant says that Nastasya only has feelings for Myshkin. The two men declare their friendship. But only a few moments later, Rogózhin attempts to murder Myshkin on the street. Myshkin loses consciousness and Rogózhin runs off.
Nastasya is concerned for Myshkin’s well-being, but at the same time is jealous of Aglaya. The latter teases the slowly recovering prince because of his infatuation with the courtesan. When Myshkin shows his affection for her, Aglaya declares that she will on no account marry him.
However, Nastasya sends Aglaya a letter asking her to marry Myshkin. Aglaya is torn by indecision, but in the end urges Myshkin to marry Nastasya.
Act IV Myshkin proposes to Aglaya. Aglaya wants to clear the air with Nastasya, and asks Myshkin to go with her. The two women come to blows and the prince does not know what to do. The hopelessly love-struck Rogózhin bewails his fate.
Some time later, Rogózhin and Myshkin meet
again. Rogózhin invites the prince to his house where he shows him the dead
body of Nastasya whom he has just stabbed to death. The two men sit down on the
floor and embrace.