The miller who was a wizard, a cheat and a matchmaker

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The miller who was a wizard, a cheat and a matchmaker
Ballad opera by Mikhail Sokolovsky
Title page of libretto opera 'Melnik, koldun', obmanshchik, cvyat' ' (1792).jpg
Titlepage of the libretto
Native title Russian: Мельник – колдун, обманщик и сват (Melnik – koldun, obmanshchik i svat)
Librettist Alexander Ablesimov
Language Russian
Premiere 31 January [O.S. 20 January] 1779
Maddox's Theatre, Moscow

The miller who was a wizard, a cheat and a matchmaker[1] (title in Russian Мельник – колдун, обманщик и сват [Melnik – koldun, obmanshchik i svat]) – is a Russian ballad opera in three acts with a libretto by Alexander Ablesimov that premiered on 31 January [O.S. 20 January] 1779. Its folksong-based music was long attributed to Yevstigney Fomin but is now considered to have been by Mikhail Sokolovsky, and others have contributed music to revivals.


The music for the opera is nowadays agreed to be by Mikhail Sokolovsky, although for a century it was mistakenly attributed to Yevstigney Fomin.[2] The opera was first produced at Maddox's Theatre, Moscow, on 31 January [O.S. 20 January] 1779. The opera was one of the most popular in eighteenth century Russia.[3] Sokolovsky's wife premiered the role of Aniuta, and his sister was in the chorus. Sokolovsky was a violinist at the theatre and much of the music was taken from Russian folksongs.[4] The librettist Ablesimov himself chose many of the folk melodies used.[5] The greater reputation of Fomin was probably responsible for the misattribution of the opera to him.[6] It is also believed that the overture to the opera may have been written by the Bohemian composer, working in Russia, Arnošt Vančura (d. 1802).[7]

The opera is one of the few of its kind which survived in performance in Russia into the nineteenth century. A 1915 revival in Moscow included folksongs arranged by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and there was a further revival in Paris in 1929, edited by Nikolai Tcherepnin.[8]


Role Voice Premiere 31 January [O.S. 20 January] 1779[9]
Ankudin, a peasant Zalyshkin
Fetinia, his wife soprano Mme. Sokolovskaya
Anyuta, their daughter soprano Yakovleva
Filimon, Anyuta's suitor Shusherin
Fadei, the Miller Ozhogin
Dancers, chorus: Anyuta's friends, etc.


The opera is set in a Russian village.

Act I: The miller Fadei prospers by exploiting his reputation amongst the peasants as a wizard. Filimon, who has consulted him to find his lost horse, decides to ask his help in winning Anyuta, whose parents cannot decide to whom to marry her; the mother seeks a nobleman, the father a farmer.

Act II: Filimon explains to Anyuta that he has enlisted Fadei's support. Fetinia, rating Fadei's skills as a fortune-teller, asks who Anyuta's husband will be. The miller sends her on a stroll and says that it will be a gentleman, the first person she will meet on her path. (Filimon, of course). Meeting Ankudin, Fadei assures him that his daughter's husband will be a working farmer. When Fetinia and Ankudin meet they quarrel over the apparently incompatible promises given to them by the miller.

Act III: At Ankudin's house, amidst Anyuta's friends, Fadei explains that as Filimon is both a landowner and an active farmer, he meets the requirements of both Ankudin and Fetinia. All are satisfied and everything ends happily.[10]



  1. ^ This is the translation used in both Findeizen and Grove Music Online – see 'Sources'
  2. ^ Taruskin, Sokolovsky
  3. ^ Findeizen (2008), 165
  4. ^ Taruskin, Sokolovsky
  5. ^ Findeizen (2008), 167
  6. ^ Taruskin, Fomin
  7. ^ Findeizen (2008), 170
  8. ^ Gozenpud, Опера Михаила Соколовского «Мельник»
  9. ^ Findeizen (2008), 166
  10. ^ Synopsis based on summary in (see 'Sources').