New Productions

Igor Strawinsky
1882 – 1971

Igor Stravinsky’s Theater of the Grotesque

Opéra-bouffe in one act
Libretto by Boris Kochno after Alexander Puschkin’s The Little House in Kolomna First performed June 3rd 1922, Opéra/Salle Garnier, Paris
(Winfried Radeke 2002 edition)
sung in German

Burlesque scenes in four pictures by Igor Stravinsky and Alexandre Benois
First performed June 13th 1911, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris
(Piano four hand edition)

Pastorale (various editions)


Stravinsky wanted to feel music, to see how it came into being: his music is never abstract, there is no »mystery«, all is laid ba ...
Stravinsky wanted to feel music, to see how it came into being: his music is never abstract, there is no »mystery«, all is laid bare, right down to the bones. »I believe that music, by its very nature, is unable ›to express‹ something, whatever it might be«, he said. Many of his works elude the expectations of its genre and avoid being classified. His short chamber opera Mavra is such a work. The librettist Boris Kochno extracted a grotesque passage from Puschkin’s rhymed story Das Häuschen in Kolomna/The Little House in Kolomna: a cook, employed for many years by Parascha’s widowed mother, has died; the mother is grief-stricken. Parascha persuades her that a new domestic help should be employed and secretly engages her lover, a hussar, who disguises himself as a cook, calling himself Mavra. They are looking forward to sharing nights under the same roof but her mother surprises him while he is shaving, and he runs away. The end.
      In Mavra Stravinsky continues the tradition of Italian-Russian belcanto, but the trivial story line prevents it from reaching stylistic heights. The »beautiful singing« is quasi in quotation marks, and classical dramaturgy ignored completely: the central quartet does not reflect a climax in the story but is a hymn of praise to the dead cook. Stravinsky’s version of »grand opera« - irony ad absurdum. Andrea Schwalbach will bring this »Anti-Oper«, in a version for reduced orchestra, to the stage with other works by Stravinsky, including his pioneering ballet Petruschka. The similarities found when comparing Mavra and Petruschka, both title figures try to break away from the roles allotted them, reflects the composer’s own unrestrained desire for freedom. »Stravinsky’s music is freedom music, the setting free of the body: unconventional movement. Petruschka tries to escape his puppet body, the moor his identity, Parascha her domestic idyll. Petruschka’s world crashes into the allegedly homely world of Mavra. Something new must come of it.« (Andrea Schwalbach)


Petrushka »During Shrovetide rejoicings. The puppets Petrushka, the Ballerina and the Moor execute a wild dance. The ...
Petrushka »During Shrovetide rejoicings. The puppets Petrushka, the Ballerina and the Moor execute a wild dance. They are imbued with human emotions and passions, Petrushka even more than the others. He feels his slavery bitterly, his exclusion from ordinary life, his ugliness and his ridiculous appearance. He seeks consolation in the love of the Ballerina and is on the point of believing himself successful. But the lovely creature only flees in terror in the face of his extraordinary behaviour. The Moor’s life is quite different. He is foolish and evil, but his wealthy appearance seduces the Ballerina, who uses all her wiles to try and captivate him and finally succeeds. Just as the love scene begins, Petrushka, mad with jealousy, arrives, and is thrown out at once by the Moor. The Shrovetide fair is at its height. Suddenly cries are heard: The rivalry between the Moor and Petrushka has ended by taking a tragic turn. The Moor kills Petrushka with one blow from his sabre. The wretched Petrushka dies in the snow.« (Extract of the original notes from the 1912 edition)
    The Pastorale is a song without words. There are versions of it accompanied by piano, by wind quartet and the vocal melody was also adapted, with Stravinsky’s help, for solo violin.
     Tilimbom is a song Stravinsky made several arrangements of (with orchestra, small ensemble and piano). »Tilimbom« is onomatopoeic and, in German, sounds something like »Ding dang dong«. The song is about fire: the goats’ stall is going up in flames, all the animals hurry to try and put out the fire and the cat is ringing the fire bell.
     Mavra Parasha longs for love. She is attracted to Basil, a rugged hussar. They arrange to meet in the evening. Parasha’s mother is at her wits’ end because her long serving cook Thekla has died. Parasha must find her a new one. Their gossipy neighbour Petrovna sympathises with Parasha’s mother’s wretchedness. Parasha soon returns with a new servant, who calls herself Mavra and asks for less wages than her predecessor. Parasha’s mother is delighted to have found such a person. But Mavra is the hussar in disguise, who is looking forward to spending the night with Parascha. When her mother catches him shaving, the game is up.

With generous support from the Frankfurt Patronatsverein - Sektion OperSponsorenlogo Frankfurter Patronatsvereins - Sektion Oper

Saturday 09.06.2012 20:30 h

Further performances

Bockenheimer Depot

Pre-booking and Pricing


Karsten Januschke
Andrea Schwalbach
Stage and Costume Designer
Nora Johanna Gromer
Lighting Designer
Jan Hartmann
Malte Krasting

Anna Ryberg
Mutter von Parascha
Merja Mäkelä
Sharon Carty
Basil, ein Husar
Martin Mitterrutzner

Katrin Schyns
Albi Gika
Martin Mitterrutzner

Anna Ryberg

Sharon Carty

* Member of the Opera Studio

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