Betrothal in a Monastery

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Betrothal in a Monastery (original Russian title Обручение в монастыре), Op. 86 is an opera by Sergei Prokofiev, his sixth with an opus number. The libretto, in Russian, was by the composer and Mira Mendelson (his companion in later life), after Richard Brinsley Sheridan's ballad opera libretto for Thomas Linley the younger's The Duenna.

Prokofiev began the work in 1940, and it was in rehearsal that year, but World War II halted production of the opera.[1] The composer revised the score in almaty in 1943. The first performance did not occur until 3 November 1946[2] at the Kirov Theatre with Boris Khaikin conducting. The producer was I. Shlepianov.

Commentators have noted that, given the context of its creation in the 1940s in the Soviet Union, this opera lacks any particular political or social comment, except perhaps for a scene involving drunken monks.[3]

Performance history[edit]

In recent years, the opera has been performed in 1989 at the Wexford Festival, in 2006 at the Glyndebourne Festival and at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Spain in 2008.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast
3 November 1946, Leningrad
(Conductor: Boris Khaikin)
Don Jerome tenor V. Ulyanov
Don Ferdinand, son of Don Jerome baritone
Louisa, daughter of Don Jerome soprano Alexandra Khalilejeva
The Duenna mezzo-soprano N. Velter
Don Antonio tenor
Clara d'Almanza mezzo-soprano
Mendoza, a fish merchant bass Boris Freidkov
Don Carlos, friend of Mendoza baritone Gheorghij Nikolajevich Orlov
Padre Augustin bass
Father Elustaf tenor
Father Chartreuse bass
Father Benedictine bass
Lauretta soprano
Rosina soprano
Lopez tenor
Pablo
Pedro
Miguel
Three Maskers
Two Lay Brothers

Synopsis[edit]

Act 1[edit]

Don Jerome intends his daughter Louisa to marry the vain, wealthy and ugly fish merchant Mendoza. However, she loves instead Antonio, who is poor, though noble in spirit. Furthermore, Don Ferdinand, son of Don Jerome and prone to fits of jealousy, wants to marry Clara d'Almanza, who is a virtual prisoner of her stepmother.

Act 2[edit]

Don Jerome locks up Louisa in her room to force her to marry Mendoza. Louisa's nurse (the Duenna) provokes the fury of Don Jerome by pretending to be a messenger between Antonio and Louisa. Jerome dismisses her - but the Duenna exchanges clothes with Louisa who makes her escape in this disguise.

By the quayside - where fisherwomen are praising the quality of the fish caught in Mendoza's boats - Louisa encounters her friend Clara, who has also run away from home and intends to seek sanctuary at the monastery. Louisa asks to borrow Clara's name for a day - Clara assents. Enter Mendoza and his courtly friend Don Carlos. Mendoza is recognized by Louisa but he has never seen her. She therefore approaches Mendoza claiming to be Clara and asks him to take her under his protection and find Antonio with whom she is in love. Mendoza is attracted by this idea as a means to rid himself of his rival Antonio by marrying him off to 'Clara'. Don Carlos escorts 'Clara' to Mendoza's house.

Mendoza visits the house of Don Jerome to meet 'Louisa' (the Duenna in disguise); whilst 'Louisa' is not as young and beautiful as Mendoza had been led to believe, her dowry is sufficient attraction. they agree to elope that evening.

Act 3[edit]

The mystified Antonio arrives at Mendoza's house; while he is offstage meeting 'Clara', Mendoza and don Carlos congratulate themselves on their cunning. Still unwitting, they agree to help the pair get married.

Don Jerome is rehearsing spme mamteur musicians (A trio of trumpet, clarinet and bass drum). He receives two messages- one from Mendoza saying he has eloped with Louisa, which delights him, and another from the real Louisa, which he does not read carefully, asking for his blessing on her marriage. He sends back his consent with both messengers and arranges for a great feat later that evening to celebrate.

At the monastery, Clara meets with Antonio and Luisa and laments her apparent loss of Ferdinand. Enter Ferdinand , who mistaking Clara for a nun exclaims that he is chasing his false friend Antonio who has run off with his beloved Clara. Clara is secretly overjoyed at this demonstration of Ferdinand's passion.

Act 4[edit]

The act opens with a drinking song for the monks in the monastery where the marriages are to be performed. The monks then switch to a hymn that extols fasting and abstinence, to a tune that is a slower variant of the earlier drinking song. Enter Mendoza and Antonio who by lavish bribery gain the monks consent to marry them to their loves. Enter Ferdinand who challenges Antonio to a duel, but the genuine Clara arrives and Ferdinand now understands the true situation. The three marriages are agreed.

At Don Jerome's feast, the host is increasingly amazed, exasperated and infuriated as the successive arrival of the newly-weds makes it clear that his plans have gone completely awry. He is slightly compensated by the likely size of Clara's dowry. He sings a drinking song, accompanying himself on a set of tuned glasses.

Recordings[edit]

Recordings include:

Summer Night[edit]

Summer Night (Op. 123) is an orchestral suite with music drawn from Betrothal in a Monastery.

Movements[edit]

The suite, lasting around 20 minutes, consists of five movements:

  1. Introduction: Moderato, ma con brio
  2. Serenade: Adagio
  3. Minuet
  4. Dreams (Nocturne): Andante tranquillo
  5. Dance: Allegretto

Recordings[edit]

Recent recordings include:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas, "The Duenna. A Lyric-Comic Opera in Four Acts, Nine Scenes" (June 1955). Notes (2nd Ser.), 12 (3): 484-485.
  2. ^ Law, Joe K. (2000). "Betrothal in a Monastery. Sergei Prokofiev". Opera Quarterly 16 (2): 319–322. doi:10.1093/oq/16.2.319. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  3. ^ Tom Service (2006-07-25). "Betrothal in a Monastery/Glyndebourne". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  4. ^ Recordings of Betrothal in a Monastery on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk

External links[edit]