The Oprichnik

The Oprichnik or The Guardsman (Russian: Опричник, Oprichnik) is an opera in 4 acts, 5 scenes, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) to his own libretto after the tragedy The Oprichniks (Russian: Опричники) by Ivan Lazhechnikov (1792–1869). The subject of the opera is the oprichniks. It is set in Ivan the Terrible's court during the oprichnina times (1565–1573).

Tchaikovsky worked on the opera from February 1870 - March 1872. It includes music from his early opera The Voyevoda (1869). The work is dedicated to the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich Romanov. It was given its premiere performance at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on 24 April 1874, followed by the Moscow premiere on 16 May 1874 at the Bolshoi Theatre.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, St. Petersburg
24 April (12 April O.S.) 1874
(Conductor: Eduard Nápravník)
Premiere cast, Moscow
16 May (4 May O.S.) 1874
(Conductor: Eduard Merten[1])
Prince Zhemchuzhnïy bass Vladimir Vasilyev Demidov
Natalya, his daughter soprano Wilhelmina Raab Smelskaya
Molchan Mitkov, the bridegroom of Natalya bass V. F. Sobolev
Boyarïnya Morozova, the widow mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Krutikova Kadmina
Andrey Morozov, her son tenor D. A. Orlov Aleksandr Dodonov
Basmanov, a young oprichnik contralto V. M. Vasilyev Aristova
Prince Vyazminsky baritone Ivan Melnikov Radonezhsky
Zakharyevna soprano Olga Shreder (Schröder)
Chorus, silent roles: People


Source: Tchaikovsky Research

  • Strings: Violins I, Violins II, Violas, Cellos, and Double Basses
  • Woodwinds: Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets (1 in B-flat, 1 in A), 2 bassoons
  • Brass: 4 Horns (in F), 2 Trumpets (in D, F, and C), 3 Trombones, Tuba
  • Percussion: Timpani, Triangle, Cymbals, Bass Drum
  • Other: Harp


Apollinary Vasnetsov (1856-1933) The street in the town: the set to the opera The Oprichnik by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1911, paper, water-colour, coil, 52 x 83,2 cm. A.A. Bakhrushin Theatrical Museum, Moscow

Act 1Edit

No. 1 — Scena
No. 2 — Chorus of Maidens
No. 2a – Natalya's Song
No. 3 — Scena & Chorus
No. 4 — Scena & Chorus
No. 5 — Recitatives
No. 5a – Basmanov's Arioso
No. 6 — Natalya's Arioso
No. 6a – Chorus of Maidens

Act 2Edit


No. 7 — Scena & Morozova's Aria
No. 8 — Scena & Duet
No. 9 — Prelude, Scena & Finale
No. 9a – Prince Vyazminsky's Aria
No. 9b – Andrey's Aria

Act 3Edit


No. 10 - Chorus of People
No. 11 - Recitatives, Chorus of Boys & Duet
No. 12 - Scena
No. 12a-Natalya's Arioso
No. 13 - Finale

Act 4Edit

No. 14 - Wedding Chorus
No. 15 - Dances of Oprichniks & Women
No. 16 - Recitatives, Chorus & Duet
No. 17 - Chorus & Scena
No. 18 - Scena & Quartet
No. 19 - Closing Scena

Note: The entr'acte to Act II may have been written and scored by Vladimir Shilovsky.[1]

Derived worksEdit

Arrangements by the composer

  • Numbers from the opera for voices with piano accompaniment (1873)
  • Funeral March on Themes from the Opera The Oprichnik (1877, lost)


  • 1948, Alexei Korolyov, Natalya Rozhdestvenskaya, Vsevolod Tyutyunnik, Lyudmila Ivanovna Legostayeva, Dmitri Tarkhov, Zara Dolukhanova, Konstantin Polyaev, Antonina Kleschtschova, Moscow Radio Choir and Orchestra, Aleksander Orlov (conductor). Melodiya, reissued Pristine Classics
  • 1980, Vladimirov, Milichkina, Nikitina, Matorin, Kuznetsov, Kotov, Klyonov. Gennady Provatorov (conductor), Chorus and Orchestra of the Central Television and Radio of the USSR.
  • 2003, Vassily Savenko (Prince Zhemchuzhny), Elena Lassoskaya (Natalia), Dmitri Ulyanov (Molchan Mitkov), Irina Dolyenko (Boyarina Morozova), Vsevolod Grivnov (Andrei Morozov), Alexandra Dursseneva (Basmanov), Vladimir Ognovienko (Prince Vyazminsky), Cinzia de Mola (Zakharyevna) Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Dynamic, reissued Brilliant.


  1. ^ Eduard Merten became 2nd conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre shortly before 1870. He was "a talented pianist and composed romances, but was completely inexperienced as a conductor" (Kashkin, Erinerrungen, 64, 66) Edward H. Tarr, East Meets West; The Russian Trumpet Tradition from the Time of Peter the Great

External linksEdit