The Maid of Pskov

The Maid of Pskov (Псковитянка, Pskovityanka), is an opera in three acts by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by the composer, and is based on the drama of the same name by Lev Aleksandrovich Mey. The story concerns the Tsar Ivan the Terrible and his efforts to subject the cities of Pskov and Novgorod to his will. The original version of the opera was completed in 1872, and received its premiere in 1873 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The third and final version was completed in 1892, and is considered "definitive". This version was made famous by Shalyapin (Chaliapin) in the role of Ivan the Terrible. It was introduced to Paris in 1909 by Dyagilev under the title Ivan the Terrible, on account of the dominance of his role.

Rosa Newmarch has characterized the music for the solo singers as mainly of "'mezzo-recitative' of a somewhat dry quality, but relieved by great variety of orchestral color in the accompaniments".

Composition history

The first product of the composer's interest in this work was a lullaby composed in 1866. Rimsky-Korsakov then set to work in full earnest on an operatic treatment in the winter of 1867-1868.There are 3 versions of the opera. The original version was composed in the years 1868–1872, and received its premiere in 1873. The composer revised the opera in the years 1876–1877. Later he completed a final version in the years 1891–1892.

Performance history

The world premiere was given in St. Petersburg Premiere on 13 January (O.S. 1 January), 1873 at the Mariinsky Theatre, conducted by Eduard Nápravník. Other notable performances included those in 1895 in St. Petersburg's Panayevsky Theatre given by the Society of Musical Gatherings; In 1896 in Moscow the Russian Private Opera, conducted by Bernardi, with scenary by Korovin and Vasnetsov included Fyodor Shalyapin as Ivan the Terrible.

In 1909 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in a Sergey Dyagilev production, the opera was conducted by Nikolay Cherepnin and Shalyapin sang Ivan.


Role Voice type Premiere cast
St. Petersburg 1873
Premiere cast
St. Petersburg 1895
Premiere cast
Paris 1909

Tsar Ivan Vasilevich the Terrible bass Osip Petrov Mikhail Koryakin Fyodor Shalyapin
Prince Yuriy Ivanovich Tokmakov, the tsar's deputy and posadnik in Pskov bass Ivan Melnikov Mikhail Lunacharsky Kastorsky
Boyar Nikita Matuta tenor Vasilyev II Davïdov
Prince Afanasy Vyazemsky bass Sobolev

Bomely (Bomelius), royal physician bass
Mikhail Andreyevich Tucha, son of a posadnik tenor Orlov Vasilyev III Vasiliy Damayev
Yushko Velebin, courier from Novgorod bass Vasiliy Sharonov
Princess Olga Yuryevna Tokmakova soprano Yuliya Platonova Feodosiya Velinskaya Lidiya Lipkovskaya
Boyarïshnya Stepanida Matuta, Olga's friend soprano
Vlasyevna, wet-nurse contralto Darya Leonova Dore

Perfilyevna, wet nurse contralto

Guard's voice tenor
Chous, silent roles: ''Judges, Pskovian boyars, governor's sons, oprichniks, Muscovite Streltsī, maidens, people


Act 1

Princess Olga, daughter of Prince Tokmakov, is in the garden, as are two wet-nurses, who tell stories of the repressive behaviour of Tsar Ivan on Pskov's sister city, Novgorod. Mikhail Tucha, the leader of the uprising in Pskov, is beloved of Princess Olga, but she is betrothed to the boyar Nikita Matuta. After Tucha and Olga sing a love duet, Tokmakov and Matuta arrive. Tucha leaves quickly and Olga hides herself. Tokmakov tells Matuta that Olga is not his own daughter, but the child of his sister-in-law Vera Sheloga. He does not know who Olga's true father is.

Act 2

At the square of the Pskov kremlin, a messenger from Novgorod bears news that Tsar Ivan is about to deal the same fate to Pskov that he has to Novgorod. The townspeople are initially roused to defiance, but Tokmakov tries to calm the crowd and preach submission, saying that they are innocent of any treason and thus need not fear the Tsar. Tucha and his associates plan to rebel.

Act 3

Scene 1

The people of Pskov are in fear of the wrath of the Tsar. Olga sings of how she does not truly know of her parents. A crowd gathers and sings welcome to the Tsar.

Scene 2

At Tokmakov's residence, Tsar Ivan patronizes Tokmakov and his ideas of the city behaving independently of the Tsar. The Tsar then asks to be attended by Princess Olga. She enters, and they both react oddly at each other's appearance. When Tokmakov and Ivan are later alone in conversation, the Tsar asks about Olga and learns about the identity of her mother. Ivan is shaken to learn that Vera Sheloga is Olga's mother, and his attitude toward the city changes.

Act 4

Scene 1

In the forest, Olga and Tucha meet for a tryst. However, Matuta and his men appear, repulse Tucha and abduct Olga.

Scene 2

At a camp near the riverside, Ivan continues to think about Olga. He hears that Matuta has abducted her. Angry at this news, Ivan summons Olga, and addresses her as "Olga Ivanova", a hint as to her true father. Olga asks for protection from Matuta. Tsar Ivan says that she will be taken to Moscow, and he will choose her groom. He says that when Tucha is captured, he will live, but imprisoned. Olga continues to plead for mercy, and says that she has always worshipped him since she was young. Tucha and his forces attack the Tsar's camp. As they are repelled, Olga is fatally shot. At the end, over her body, Ivan reveals that he is, in fact, Olga's father.

Selected recordings

Audio Recordings (Mainly studio recordings)


  • 1947, Simon Sakharov (conductor), Bolshoy Theatre Orchestra and Chorus, Aleksandr Pirogov (Tsar Ivan), Elisabeta Shumilova (Olga), Georgi Nelepp (Mikhail Tucha), Alexander Peregudov (Yuri Tokmakov), Alexander Peregudov (Nikita Matuta), Mikhail Soloviev (Vyazemsky), Natalia Sokolova (Stepanida Matuta)
  • 1994, Valery Gergiev (conductor), Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre, Galina Gorchakova (Olga), Olga Korzhenskaya (Stepanida Matuta), Gennadi Bezzubenkov (Yuri Tokmakov), Vladimir Galusin (Mikhail Tucha), Nikolai Gassiev (Nikita Matuta), Vladimir Ognovenko (Tsar Ivan), Yevgeny Fedotov (Vyazemsky)



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