Premiere of Sadko at the Bolshoi Theatre took place on 24 October 1906. Since then, it almost permanently remained in the repertoire (with an exception in the period from 1938 to 1949) right up until the last decades of XX Century.
Reasons for that are obvious. Opera was perfect for the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. First of all, from scenic and decorative point of view. Change of the sceneries from Novgorod feast and biddings to poetic landscapes of Lake Ilmen; vessels which were fleeing sea and ocean waters; fantastic sight of the seafloor and the finest music of Sadko have been inspiring artists to create sketches that became masterpieces without exaggeration. Magnificent decorations for the setting at the Bolshoi Theatre were created by K. Korovin and F. Fedorovsky. V. Vasnetsov, I. Bibilin, A. Benois and others have also been set designers for Sadko. Food for inspiration was literally everything: from typical characters in the crowd in Novgorod to the change in scenery of quiet and raging sea; fantastic transformations, swans into Princess, Volkhova into the river…A special pleasure for Korovin (avid fisherman) was to depict fish: “Fish is flapping its tail, playing in hands, it is alive! Oh, Boy! Then you are throwing – and you fish gold! It is burning, while merchants – so fool, ha ha ha, – they do not even realize what is going on, just standing there like fools! So neatly thought through, isn’t it? “…’’ ‘’Altitude, altitude is celestial, depth – down to sea and ocean’’. As Rimsky-Korsakov wrote, – what an opera!.. Korovin is thrilled with the piece’’. (V. Shkafer Forty years on the Russian opera stage).
Sadko is an absolute Rimsky-Korsakov’s masterpiece. Balance between melodious folk recitative, which opera heroes use to communicate with each other, and expressive solo numbers indicate master’s maturity. Perhaps, Rimsky-Korsakov has no other operas like this one that would contain that many ‘hits’: divertissement of arias of foreign guests, Varangian, Indian, Venetian; famous aria of Lyubava, Volkhova’s lullaby…Elegant and concise his orchestration is. Discreetly and gracefully, Rimsky-Korsakov reminds of Wagner’s findings (he admitted so numerous times), which is a special joy for a tempted viewer to guess the motifs of Rein Gold and Siegfried from Sadko. Sadko cast is an ideal match with the magnitude of the Bolshoi Theatre: grand, multi-figure choir, variety of solo singers voices… Georgii Nelepp and Vladimir Altantov were performing a part of Sadko on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre during XX Century; Volkhova – Antonina Nezhdanova, Valeria Barsova, Elena Katulskaya, Tamara Milashkina; Lyubava Buslayevna – Nadezhda Obukhova, Larisa Avdeeva, Irina Arkhipova, Tamara Sinyavskaya and Elena Obraztsova; the Varangian guest – Maxim Mikhailov, Mark Reizen, Alexander Vedernikov; the Indian guest – Dmitri Smirnov, Sergei Lemeshev and Ivan Kozlovsky, the Venetian guest – Pavel Lisitsian and Yuri Mazurok.
And yet, since 1984 Sadko did not appear on stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. Sadko himself – Nazhmiddin Mavlyanov and Lyubava – Ksenia Dudnikova speak about the details of his entrance un 2020.
Libretto by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Vladimir Belsky based on Russian bylinas
Conductor: Timur Zangiev
Director and Set Designer: Dmitri Tcherniakov
Costume Designer: Elena Zaitseva
Lighting Designer: Gleb Filshtinsky
Chief Chorus Master: Valery Borisov