In three acts by ANTON RUBINSTEIN
Text after the Russian of ALFRED OFFERMANN.
This opera of the great Russian musician has an entirely national
character. The great features of Rubinstein's work are most fertile
imagination and an immense power of expression, which however sometimes
almost passes the permitted bounds, although the forms are perfectly
mastered and the fanciful
ubject is well calculated to afford it room
for play. It is taken from the celebrated poem of Lermontoff, and
it treats of the devices, by which Satan seeks to ensnare the immortal
souls on earth.
The plot is laid in Grusia in the Caucasus.
The first scene represents a wild and lonely country, in the raging
storm voices are heard of good and bad spirits alternately. The
Arch-Fiend appears, weary of everything, even of his power. He curses
the world; in vain he is warned by the Angel of Light to cease his
strife against Heaven; the Demon's only satisfaction lies in opposition
to and battle with all that is loving and good.
He sees Tamara, daughter of Prince Gudal, who expects her bridegroom,
the Prince of Sinodal, and full of admiration for her loveliness he
wooes her. Tamara, frightened calls her companions and they all return
to the castle, but the words of the stranger, whom she has recognized
by the halo of light surrounding him, as a being from a higher world,
vibrate in her ears: "Queen of my love, thou shalt be the Empress of
The following scene shows Prince Sinodal, encamping for the night with
his suite; the roughness of the way has delayed his coming to Tamara.
Near the camp is a chapel, erected in memory of one of his ancestors,
who was slain there by a ruffian and the Prince's old servant
admonishes him to pray for his soul. To his destruction he postpones
it till morning, for during his sleep the Demon brings up his enemies,
the Tartars, and the Prince's caravan is robbed and he himself killed.
In the second act Tamara stands ready to receive her bridegroom, whose
coming has been announced to her by a messenger.
Tamara's thoughts are with the stranger, though against her will, when
an escort brings the dead body of Sinodal. While the poor bride is
giving vent to her sorrow and her father seeks to comfort her by
offering religious consolation, she again hears the voice of the Demon,
whispering soft seductions to her. At last she feels that her strength
is failing before a supernatural power, and so she begs her father to
let her enter a monastery. After offering many objections he finally
consents, for in truth his thoughts are only of avenging his children.
In the third act the Demon, who really loves Tamara, and regrets his
wickedness, seeks to see her. The Angel of Light denies him the
entrance, which however he finally forces. Passionately he invokes
Tamara's pity and her love and she, rent by unutterable feelings
implores Heaven's aid, but her strength gives way, and the Demon
embraces and kisses her. At this moment the Angel of Light appears,
and Tamara is about to hasten to him, when with a loud cry she sinks
down lifeless. Satan has lost; despairing and cursing all, he vanishes
and a thunder-bolt destroys the cloister, from amid the ruins of which
the Angels bear the poor love-tortured Tamara to Heaven.