The Maid of Pskov

The Maid of Pskov (Russian: Псковитя́нка, Pskovityanka), is an opera in three acts and six scenes by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by the composer, and is based on the drama of the same name by Lev Mei. 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".[citation needed] This version was made famous by Chaliapin in the role of Ivan the Terrible. It was introduced to Paris in 1909 by Diaghilev under the title Ivan the Terrible, on account of the dominance of his role,[1] and because of European audience's familiarity with his name.

The Maid of Pskov
Opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
The Veche Scene by Matvey Shishkov, design for the premiere
Native title
Russian: Псковитянка, Pskovityanka
Based ondrama by Lev Mey
1873 (1873)
Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

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".[2]

Composition historyEdit

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.[3] There are 3 versions of the opera. The original version was composed in the years 1868–1872, and received its premiere in 1873.[2] The composer revised the opera in the years 1876–1877. Later he completed a final version in the years 1891–1892.

Performance historyEdit

The world premiere was given in St. Petersburg 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. The Russian Private Opera performances in Moscow in 1896, conducted by Bernardi, with scenery by Korovin and Vasnetsov, included Feodor Chaliapin as Ivan the Terrible.

In 1909 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, in a Sergei Diaghilev production, the opera was conducted by Nikolai Tcherepnin and Chaliapin 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 Feodor Chaliapin
Prince Yuriy Ivanovich Tokmakov, the tsar's deputy and posadnik in Pskov bass Ivan Melnikov Mikhail Lunacharsky Vladimir Kastorsky
Boyar Nikita Matuta tenor Vasily Vasilyev II Aleksandr Davïdov
Prince Afanasy Vyazemsky bass Vladimir Sobolev
Bomely (Bomelius), royal physician bass
Mikhail Andreyevich Tucha, son of a posadnik tenor Dmitriy Orlov Vasilyev III Vasiliy Damayev
Yushko Velebin, courier from Novgorod bass Sobolev Vasiliy Sharonov
Princess Olga Yuryevna Tokmakova soprano Yuliya Platonova Feodosiya Velinskaya Lidiya Lipkovskaya
Boyarïshnya Stepanida Matuta, Olga's friend soprano Bulakhova
Vlasyevna, wet nurse contralto Darya Leonova Alina Dore
Perfilyevna, wet nurse contralto Olga Shryoder (Eduard Nápravník's wife)
Guard's voice tenor Pavlov
Chous, silent roles: Judges, Pskovian boyars, governor's sons, oprichniks, Muscovite Streltsy, maidens, people


Time: 1570
Place: Pskov; the Pechorsky Monastery; at the Medednya River

Act 1Edit

Scene 1

Princess Olga, daughter of Prince Tokmakov, is in the garden, as are two nannies, 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.

Scene 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 2Edit

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 3Edit

Feodor Chaliapin as Ivan IV and V. A. Eberle as Olga
(Russian Private Opera, 1896)

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.


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), M. Shegolkov [error on Operadis] (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)



  1. ^ Palmer, Christopher, "Prokofiev, Eisenstein and Ivan" (April 1991). The Musical Times, 132 (1778): pp. 179-181.
  2. ^ a b Newmarch, Rosa (cited in the article as "Mrs. Newmarch", "The Development of National Opera in Russia. Rimsky Korsakov" (1904-1905). Proceedings of the Musical Association, 31st Session: pp. 111-129.
  3. ^ Abraham, Gerald (1968). "Pskovityanka: The Original Version of Rimsky-Korsakov's First Opera". The Musical Quarterly. LIV (1): 58–73. doi:10.1093/mq/LIV.1.58. Retrieved 2007-10-05.


  • Abraham, Gerald (1936). "VIII.-- Rimsky-Korsakov's First Opera". Studies in Russian Music. London: William Reeves / The New Temple Press. pp. 142–166.
  • Layton, Robert (1997). Rimsky-Korsakov's First Opera, "The Maid of Pskov". Philips Classics. (Introductory notes to Philips Kirov/Gergiev recording)
  • Malkiel, Marina (1997). Synopsis. Philips Classics. (From the notes to the Philips Kirov/Gergiev recording)
  • "Pskovityanka / The Maid of Pskov, Ivan the Terrible". Opera Glass. Stanford University. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  • Rimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai (1982). The Maid of Pskov: An Opera in Four Acts; Vocal Score: First Version. The Complete Works of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (in Russian). Melville, N.Y.: Belwin Mills Publishing Corp. K5252.