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 first performance did not occur until 3 November 1946[2] at the Kirov Theatre with Boris Khaikin conducting.

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.


Role Voice type Premiere cast
3 November 1946, Leningrad
(Conductor: Boris Khaikin)
Don Jerome tenor Vladimir Ulianov
Don Ferdinand, son of Don Jerome baritone
Louisa, daughter of Don Jerome soprano Aleksandra S. Khalilejeva
The Duenna mezzo-soprano
Don Antonio tenor
Clara d'Almanza mezzo-soprano
Mendoza, a fish merchant bass Boris Frejdkov
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
Three Maskers
Two Lay Brothers


Act 1[edit]

Don Jerome intends his daughter Louisa to marry the wealthy 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]

Louisa's Duenna suggests that she and Louisa exchange clothes - the Duenna will then marry Mendoza and Louisa can elope with Antonio. Louisa finds her friend Clara hiding in a monastery from the ardour of her lover Ferdinand (Louisa's brother). Disguising herself now as Clara, she takes Mendoza to the house of Don Jerome to meet 'Louisa' (the Duenna in disguise); they agree to elope.

Act 3[edit]

Mendoza and Don Carlos unintentionally help Louisa elope with Antonio. Don Jerome is tricked into composing a letter that gives his permission for Louisa to marry Antonio. In a fit of jealousy, Don Ferdinand chases after Louisa and Antonio, after he mistakes Louisa for Clara.

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. Finally, Louisa and Antonio are united, as are Don Ferdinand and Clara. In addition, Mendoza ends up marrying Louisa's Duenna.


Recordings include:

Summer Night[edit]

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


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


Recent recordings include:


  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

External links[edit]