The Love for Three Oranges

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The Love for Three Oranges
satirical opera by Sergei Prokofiev
25.02.1971. "L'amour des trois oranges". (1971) - 53Fi4137 (cropped).jpg
Native title
  • L'amour des trois oranges
  • Любовь к трём апельсинам, (Lyubov' k tryom apel'sinam)
LanguageRussian / French
Based onL'amore delle tre melarance
by Carlo Gozzi
30 December 1921 (1921-12-30)

The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33, also known by its French language title L'amour des trois oranges (Russian: Любовь к трём апельсинам, Lyubov' k tryom apel'sinam), is a satirical opera by Sergei Prokofiev. Its French libretto was based on the Italian play L'amore delle tre melarance by Carlo Gozzi. The opera premiered at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, on 30 December 1921.

Composition history[edit]

The opera was the result of a commission during Prokofiev's successful first visit to the United States in 1918. After well-received concerts of his works in Chicago (including his First Symphony), Prokofiev was approached by the director of the Chicago Opera Association, Cleofonte Campanini, to write an opera. Conveniently, Prokofiev had drafted a libretto during his trip to the US; he had based it on Carlo Gozzi's play in the Commedia dell'arte tradition, (which was itself based on Giambattista Basile's fairy tale "The Love for Three Oranges"). The eventual libretto was adapted by Prokofiev from Vsevolod Meyerhold's translation of Gozzi's play. The adaptation modernized some of the Commedia dell'arte influences and also introduced a dose of Surrealism. Due to Prokofiev's own scanty knowledge of English, and as Russian would have been unacceptable to American audiences, the initial version was set in French, with the possible assistance of the soprano Vera Janacopoulos, as L'Amour des trois oranges.[1]

The opera received its premiere performance on 30 December 1921 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, conducted by Prokofiev. It received its first Russian production in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) in 1926 and has since entered the standard repertoire of many opera companies.

Probably the best-known piece in the opera is the "March", which was used by CBS in the radio-drama series The FBI in Peace and War that was broadcast from 1944 to 1958.[2][3] It has also been used as a leitmotif for the FBI in films, e.g. The Brink's Job (1978). Prokofiev also quotes the march in act 2 of his ballet Cinderella (Op. 87).

Performance history[edit]

The initial criticisms of the Chicago production were generally harsh, e.g., "it left many of our best people dazed and wondering", "Russian jazz with Bolshevik trimmings" and "The work is intended, one learns, to poke fun. As far as I am able to discern, it pokes fun chiefly at those who paid money for it".[4] The newspaperman and author Ben Hecht, however, gave it an enthusiastic review: "There is nothing difficult about this music – unless you are unfortunate enough to be a music critic. But to the untutored ear there is a charming capriciousness about the sounds from the orchestra".[5][6]

The opera was not performed again in the United States until 1949 when the New York City Opera resurrected it. As staged by Vladimir Rosing and conducted by Laszlo Halasz, the production was successful. Life magazine featured it in a color photo spread. The New York City Opera mounted a touring company of the production, and the opera was again staged in New York for three successive seasons.[7]

The opera is now widely performed around the world. A 1988 production by Richard Jones for Opera North,[8][9] later seen at English National Opera, New York City Opera and elsewhere, used "scratch'n'sniff" cards handed out to the audience, suggesting various scents matching events in the staging (gunshots, Truffaldino's "wind", the aroma of oranges).


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
(en=Name used in productions in English,
fr=Name in original French production)
Voice type Premiere cast, 30 December 1921
Conductor: Sergei Prokofiev
King of Clubs (en) / Le Roi de Trèfle (fr), ruler of an imaginary kingdom bass James Francis
The Prince (en) / Le Prince (fr), his son tenor José Mojica
Princess (en) / Princesse (fr) Clarice, the king's niece contralto Irene Pavloska
Leandro (en) / Léandre (fr), the prime minister baritone William Beck
Truffaldino (en) / Trouffaldino (fr), the court jester tenor Octave Dua
Pantalone (en) / Pantalon (fr), the king's advisor baritone Désiré Defrère
Tchelio (en) / Tchélio (fr), a magician bass Hector Dufranne
Fata Morgana, a witch soprano Nina Koshetz
Princess (en) / Princesse (fr) Ninette, Orange No. 3 soprano Jeanne Dusseau [de]
Princess (en) / Princesse (fr) Linette, Orange No. 1 contralto Philine Falco
Princess (en) / Princesse (fr) Nicolette, Orange No. 2 mezzo-soprano Frances Paperte
Smeraldina (en) / Sméraldina (fr), Fata Morgana's servant mezzo-soprano Jeanne Schneider
Farfarello, a demon bass James Wolf
Cook (en) / La Cuisinière (fr), giant custodian of the three oranges bass Constantin Nikolay
Master of Ceremonies (en) / Le Maître de Cérémonies (fr) tenor Lodovico Oliviero
Herald (en) / Héraut (fr) bass Jerome Uhl
Advocates of Tragedy, Comedy, Lyric Drama, and Farce; Ten "Ridicules" (Cranks); little demons; courtiers, monsters, drunkards, gluttons, guards, servants, soldiers



Advocates of Tragedy, Comedy, Lyric Drama, and Farce argue for their favourite form before the curtain goes up for a play. The Ridicules (Cranks) round them up and tell them they are to witness "The Love for Three Oranges".

Act 1[edit]

The King of Clubs and his adviser Pantalone lament the sickness of the Prince, brought on by an indulgence in tragic poetry. Doctors inform the King that his son's hypochondria can only be cured with laughter, so Pantalone summons the jester Truffaldino to arrange a grand entertainment, together with the (secretly inimical) prime minister, Leandro.

The magician Tchelio, who supports the King, and the witch Fata Morgana, who supports Leandro and Clarice (niece of the King, lover of Leandro), play cards to see who will be successful. Tchelio loses three times in succession to Fata Morgana, who brandishes the King of Spades, alias of Leandro.

Leandro and Clarice plot to kill the Prince so that Clarice can succeed to the throne. The supporters of Tragedy are delighted at this turn of events. The servant Smeraldina reveals that she is also in the service of Fata Morgana, who will support Leandro.

Act 2[edit]

All efforts to make the Prince laugh fail, despite the urgings of the supporters of Comedy, until Fata Morgana is knocked over by Truffaldino and falls down, revealing her underclothes—the Prince laughs, as do all the others except for Leandro and Clarice. Fata Morgana curses him: henceforth, he will be obsessed by a "love for three oranges". At once, the Prince and Truffaldino march off to seek them.

Act 3[edit]

Tchelio tells the Prince and Truffaldino where the three oranges are, but warns them that they must have water available when the oranges are opened. He also gives Truffaldino a magic ribbon with which to seduce the giant (female) Cook (a bass voice) who guards the oranges in the palace of the witch Creonte.

They are blown to the palace with the aid of winds created by the demon Farfarello, who has been summoned by Tchelio. Using the ribbon to distract the Cook, they grab the oranges and carry them into the surrounding desert.

While the Prince sleeps, Truffaldino opens two of the oranges. Fairy princesses emerge but quickly die of thirst. The Ridicules give the Prince water to save the third princess, Ninette. The Prince and Ninette fall in love. Several soldiers conveniently appear, and the Prince orders them to bury the two dead princesses. He leaves to seek clothing for Ninette so he can take her home to marry her, but, while he is gone, Fata Morgana transforms Ninette into a giant rat and substitutes Smeraldina in disguise.

Act 4[edit]

Everyone returns to the King's palace, where the Prince is now forced to prepare to marry Smeraldina. Tchelio and Fata Morgana meet, each accusing the other of cheating, but the Ridicules intervene and spirit the witch away, leaving the field clear for Tchelio. While Leandro and the Master of Ceremonies see that the palace is prepared for the wedding, Tchelio restores Ninette to her natural form. The plotters are sentenced to die but Fata Morgana helps them escape through a trapdoor, and the opera ends with everyone praising the Prince and his bride.

Arrangements of the music[edit]

Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33bis

Prokofiev compiled a 15–20 minute orchestral suite from the opera for concert use. The suite is in 6 movements:

  1. The Ridicules
  2. The Magician Tchelio and Fata Morgana Play Cards (Infernal Scene)
  3. March
  4. Scherzo
  5. The Prince and the Princess
  6. Flight

March and Scherzo from The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33ter

This is a transcription for piano solo prepared by the composer.



In French

In Russian

  • 1970: The Love for Three Oranges [ru][11]
  • 2004: Alexey Tanovitsky (King of Clubs), Andrey Ilyushnikov (the Prince), Nadezhda Serdjuk (Princess Clarissa), Eduard Tsanga (Leandro), Kirill Dusheschkin (Trouffaldino), Vladislas Sulimsky (Pantalone), Pavel Schmulevich (the magician, Chelio), Ekaterina Shimanovitch (Fata Morgana), Sophie Tellier (Linetta), Natalia Yevstafieva (Nicoletta), Julia Smorodina (Ninetta), Yuriy Vorobiev (the Cook), Alexander Gerasimov (Farfarello), Wojciek Ziarnik (Herald), Juan Noval (Master of Ceremonies), Michel Fau (The Diva). EuropaChorAkademie & Mahler Chamber Orchestra, conducted Tugan Sokhiev. Stage Direction, Philippe Calvario. Coproduction Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2004, Teatro Real de Madrid. DVD Tugan Sokhiev Bel Air Classics. Russian subtitles.

In English

  • 1989: Opera North,[8][9] Mark Glanville (King of Clubs), Peter Jeffes (the Prince), Patricia Payne (Princess Clarissa), Andrew Shore (Leander), Paul Harrhy (Trouffaldino), Alan Oke (Pantalone), Roger Bryson (the magician, Chelio), Maria Moll (Fata Morgana), Lesley Roberts (Linetta), Victoria Sharp (Nicoletta), Juliet Booth (Ninetta), Richard Angas (the Cook), Mark Lufton (Farfarello), Stephen Dowson (Herald), Terry Whan (Acrobat), Maria Jagusz (Smeraldina). Chorus Opera North & English Northern Philharmonia, conducted David Lloyd-Jones. Stage Direction, Richard Jones.


Year Cast: (King of Clubs,
The Prince,
The Princess,
Fata Morgana
opera house and orchestra
1961 Viktor Ribinsky,
Vladimir Markhov,
Lyutsia Rashkovets,
Boris Dobrin,
Yuri Yelnikov,
Ivan Budrin,
Gennady Troitsky,
Nina Polyakova
Dzemal Dalgat,
All-Union Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra
(Performed in Russian)
CD: Melodiya
Cat: 100194
1989 Gabriel Bacquier,
Jean-Luc Viala,
Hélène Perraguin,
Vincent Le Texier,
Georges Gautier,
Didier Henry,
Gregory Reinhart,
Michèle Lagrange
Kent Nagano,
Lyons Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Live performance in French)
Cat: 358694-2; Virgin Classics,
Cat: 58694
DVD: Arthaus Musik
Cat: 100404
1997/98 Mikail Kit,
Yevgeny Akimov,
Larissa Diadkova,
Alexander Morozov,
Konstantin Pluzhnikov,
Vassily Gerelo,
Vladimir Vaneyev,
Larissa Shevchenko
Valery Gergiev,
Kirov Theater Orchestra and Chorus
(Performed in Russian)
CD: Philips,
Cat: 462 913-2
2005 Bruce Martin,
John MacMaster,
Deborah Humble,
Teddy Tahu Rhodes,
William Ferguson,
Warwick Fyfe,
Jud Arthur,
Elizabeth Whitehouse
Richard Hickox,
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and Opera Australia Chorus
(Performed in English)
CD: Chandos Records
Cat: CHAN 10347

Recordings of the Suite[edit]



  1. ^ Pisani 1997, p. 490 and n. 13.
  2. ^ Pisani 1997, p. 496.
  3. ^ Bergman, Elizabeth. "The FBI March by Sergei Prokofiev". Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  4. ^ Pisani 1997, pp. 491–492, 495.
  5. ^ Ben Hecht, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, Bibliobazaar, 2006 (1922), p. 93.
  6. ^ "Ben Hecht and Prokofiev's Love of Three Oranges", introduction by Florice Whyte Kovan and Hecht's "Fantastic Lollypops, by Ben Hecht".
  7. ^ "The Love for Three Oranges: A Slaphappy Fairy Tale Makes a Smash-Hit Opera", Life, 2 October 1950.
  8. ^ a b Leeks, Stuart, ed. (2003). Opera North @ 25. Leeds: Opera North. p. 58.
  9. ^ a b "The Gambler grabs you and doesn't let go" by Tom Service, The Guardian, 5 February 2010, and correction from 3 March 2010
  10. ^ The Love for Three Oranges: the Glyndebourne version, Frank Corsaro, Maurice Sendak. Bodley Head, 1984, 119 pages
  11. ^ The Love for Three Oranges (1970) at IMDb
  12. ^ Recordings on


  • Pisani, Michael V. (Winter 1997). "'A Kapustnik' in the American Opera House: Modernism and Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges". The Musical Quarterly. 81 (4): 487–515. JSTOR 742283.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]