The Miserly Knight

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The Miserly Knight, also The Covetous Knight, (Russian: Скупой рыцарь, Skupój rýtsar’) is a Russian opera in one act with music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, with the libretto based on Alexander Pushkin's drama of the same name. It contains roles for five male singers, but no females. The composer decided essentially to set the Pushkin text as written, and had Feodor Chaliapin in mind for the role of the Baron,[1][2] however, Chaliapin withdrew from the production over artistic differences.

The first performance was on 24 January (11 January OS) 1906 at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, with the composer himself conducting, in a double-bill performance with another Rachmaninoff opera written contemporaneously, Francesca da Rimini.[3] The director was Vasiliy Shkafer.

Productions of the opera have been rare.[4] In addition, the characterization of the moneylender, who is identified in the story as being Jewish, has been criticized as anti-Semitic.[5][6]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice Premiere Cast
24 January 1906
 conductor: Sergei Rachmaninoff 
Baron (i.e., the knight of the opera's title)   baritone   Georges Baklanoff
Albert (Albyer), his son tenor Anton Bonachich
Ivan, servant (sluga) bass
Moneylender (Torgovyets) tenor Stepan Barsukov
Duke (Gyertsog) baritone Ivan Gryzunov

Synopsis[edit]

Place: England
The Middle Ages

Scene 1[edit]

Albert is a young knight who devotes himself to jousting and courtly pleasures, but is now deeply in debt as a result. His father, a very wealthy but equally frugal baron, refuses to support his son's lifestyle. Albert's ability to maneuver in society is now limited, and he tries to obtain a loan from outside his family. A money-lender denies Albert a loan, but instead offers Albert poison, to allow Albert to murder his father. Albert is appalled at such a suggestion. He resolves then to go to the Duke to make his appeal.

Scene 2[edit]

The Baron descends to his cellars, exultant now because he has accumulated enough gold to fill his sixth and final storage chest, and gloats before them. However, he realizes that if he died soon, his son Albert could then claim the fortune and fritter it away on his sensual pleasures.

Scene 3[edit]

Albert has appealed to the Duke for help in obtaining money from his father. Albert hides, as the Duke summons the Baron to a meeting. The Duke asks the Baron to support his son, but the Baron accuses Albert of wanting to steal from him. Albert then angrily reveals his presence and accuses his own father of lying. The Baron challenges Albert to a duel, and Albert accepts. The duke rebukes the father, and banishes the son from his court. However, stressed by this confrontation, the baron collapses fatally. As the Baron dies, his last request is not for his son, but the keys to his chests of gold.

Recordings[edit]

Audio

Video

References[edit]

External links[edit]