The Snow Maiden: A Forgotten Fairytale


I thought I'd start with something I already know something about, so that I at least make some sort of a good first impression.

Rimsky-Korsakov's opera 'The Snowmaiden' is coming to Opera North in Leeds this January, and as I'm fortunate enough to study music at the University of Leeds and to be among the first to be taking a module with Opera North itself studying opera and the performances they are putting on this season, this week's slice of musical cake is the orchestral suite from 'The Snowmaiden'.

The opera is an interesting one, as it's extremely popular in Russia, but almost unheard of (the Opera North production is only the second professionally staged production ever in the UK, and my project this year will be to explore why that is). The music evokes a sort of Russian folk style and the opera itself contains everything from magical creatures to gods and tsars and singing birds. The story follows a young lady, the Snowmaiden herself, who can never feel love due to her frozen heart (sound familiar?). I really love the music for this opera as it isn't refined and aloof, it's cheeky, fun, and raw. I hope you enjoy these four excerpts from it.

The introduction sets a magical, wintry tone for the opera. The dance of the birds then really displays the unrestrained fun that Rimsky-Korsakov has with the music. Tsar Berendey's procession again, while you might think it would be very regal and refine, is quite the opposite. Anyone who is familiar with Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' may find it quite familiar, as Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky worked closely together and their music, to me, really represents a certain grand 'Russianness'.  Finally, the dance of the tumblers is a great representation of the musical, characterful acrobatics that is played with all the way through the opera.

If you've enjoyed this music or found it interesting, it'd be really nice to see you in Leeds for one of the performances. Perhaps, while we may not have heard of this opera, the elements of its story that can be found in our popular culture today such as Disney's 'Frozen' show that what the opera deals with things which still resonate with us today, so I'm sure you'd enjoy the opera!

Link to Opera North's 'The Snow Maiden' page:

Benjamin JacksonComment