The Snow Maiden

A little-performed opera by Rimsky-Korsakov, by Opera North at the Grand Theatre, Leeds.

The music was lovely, the quality generally high and the video projections worked well. But what do I know? I attended the pre-show talk and learned that some of the music is in 11/4 time . . . which means absolutely nothing to me, and I have a lowering feeling that I wouldn’t be able to hear what it means even if I tried to learn. I can just about manage major and minor!

The pre-show talk also touched on the difficulty of staging an opera that dealt in mythical archetypes and folklore for an English audience that expects a bit of psychological realism and not too many outrages on feminism. This involved the production in some extreme knot-tying: a freezing garment production line (inventively handled but odd) spliced with a pagan obsession with seasons and fertility. Rather like the Greek deities, Father Frost and Spring Beauty had forgotten themselves (presumably at the spring equinox) and brought the Snow Maiden (born midwinter?) into the world. She was – despite the production’s best attempts – essentially a passive character and had to be cajoled from her frozen virginity to summer frolicking in the woods, which eventually melted her heart and killed her. There was an odd scene with Mizgir, her would-be lover: it sounded like an attempted rape but was staged to avoid the connotation that the Snow Maiden would love someone so foul.

So – enjoyable and definitely different.

  • Snow Maiden – Daisy Brown (understudy, who did it very well)
  • Lel – Heather Lowe (her/his lament for the Snow Maiden’s chill was beautiful)
  • Kupava – Elin Pritchard
  • Mizgir – Phillip Rhodes
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