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.

Background[edit]

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]

Roles[edit]

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.

Synopsis[edit]

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]

Sources[edit]

Notes[edit]

  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 Classiclive.org (see 'Sources').