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Photo: Catherine Ashmore
Kirov Opera 2001, David Freeman, dir

Prokofieff, Serge

The Fiery Angel (1919-23, rev.1926-7)

Duration: 125 minutes
Opera in five acts and seven scenes

Libretto by the composer after the novel by Valery Bryusov (R,E,F,G,I)

Scoring
Major roles: dramS,Bar; minor roles: 2M,3T,Bar,B; small roles: M,T,3B; chorus; 3(II,III=picc).2.corA.2.bcl.3(III=dbn)-4.3.3.1-timp.perc:BD/cyms/t.mil/tam-t/cast/tamb/tgl/bell(off stage)-2harp-strings .
Abbreviations (PDF).


Territory
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.



World Premiere
11/25/1954
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris
Conductor: Charles Bruck
Company: Jane Rhodes (Renata) / Xavier Depraz (Ronald)



World stage premiere
9/29/1955
Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Giorgio Strehler, director
Conductor: Nino Sanzogno
Company: Dotothy Dow (Renata) / Rolando Panerai (Ronald)

Roles

RUPRECHT, a knightBaritone
HOSTESS OF THE INNContralto
RENATASoprano
SERVANT AT THE INNBaritone
SORCERESSMezzo Soprano
JAKOB GLOCKTenor
AGRIPPA VAN NETTELSHEIM, a philosopherTenor
COUNT HEINRICHSilent role
MATHIASBaritone
THE DOCTORTenor
MEPHISTOPHLESTenor
FAUSTBaritone
THE INKEEPER AT COLOGNEBaritone
MOTHER SUPERIORMezzo Soprano
INQUISITORBass
TWO YOUNG NUNSSopranos
3 skeletonsSoprano/Tenor/Bass
3 neighboursBaritone/2 Basses
NunsChorus of Sopranos/Altos
Inquisitor's retinueChorus of Tenors/Basses


Time and Place
Germany, mainly Cologne, 16th century


Synopsis
Ruprecht, a 16th century mercenary, takes lodgings at an inn but is disturbed by a young woman in the next room. Renata tells how in her childhood she loved and was nurtured by a fiery angel called Madiel. Reaching the age of 16, she yearned for sexual as well as spiritual union but he then vanished for ever. In adulthood she thought she had found him again in the shape of Count Heinrich, but after a year of love he too vanished. Now she is tormented by demons. Ruprecht is drawn to Renata and, although she spurns his advances, he determines to help her. In Cologne, the pair attempt to conjure up the spirit of Heinrich with black magic learnt from occult books. Ruprecht seeks help from the magician Agrippa, who tells him the only true magic comes from the study of science. Heinrich appears in Cologne, and spurns Rentata for seducing him. Longing for vengeance, Renata sends Ruprecht to challenge him to a duel. But when she glimpses Heinrich she believes again that he is the fiery angel and tells Ruprecht not to harm him. In the ensuing duel Ruprecht lets himself be wounded and Renata, distraught, acknowledges her growing love. But when he recovers, she rejects him as an agent of the Devil and disappears. This quarrel has been witnessed by Faust and Mephistopheles, who invite Ruprecht to join them. Renata has fled to a nunnery to seek atonement. The novices become possessed by diabolic forces and an Inquisitor performs an exorcism. Renata pleads innocence but a frenzy mounts in the nuns. Ruprecht, Faust and Mephistopheles enter the nunnery unseen and watch the growing madness. Renata and the nuns attack the the Inquisitor and he condemns her to be burned at the stake.


Repertoire Note
The Fiery Angel, which occupied Prokofieff during the 1920s, combines aspects of The Gambler and The Love for Three Oranges, most noticeably the themes of obsession and magic respectively, but it inhabits a predominantly darker world, infused with an eroticism that hints at Scriabin. This blackness, unusual for Prokofieff, was partly the result of his interest in the cabalistic sciences, a fascination shared with many members of the Russian symbolist movement, including its central figure Valery Bryusov, author of the novel upon which The Fiery Angel was based. Throughout Prokofieff's stagework it is the psychological ambiguity of Renata, either a pure innocent or a demonic seductress, that drives the drama. Her true nature remains purposely unresolved even in the final convent scene when she is condemned to be burnt at the stake for concourse with the Devil. The role of Renata is vocally and theatrically demanding, and has attracted leading dramatic sopranos including in recent years Galina Gorchakova. Prokofieff's orchestral writing in The Fiery Angel is the most advanced for any of his operas. The composer lavished detailed attention on realising in colouristic terms the feverish intensity of the drama, whether hysterical, passionate or visionary.


Moods
Dramatic


Subjects
History, Magic/Mystery, Relationships, Religion, Literary


Recommended Recording
Galina Gorchakova/Sergei Leiferkus/Vladimir Ognovenko/Kirov Opera/Valery Gergiev
Philips 446 078-2 (2 CDs)

Click here to purchase this CD set from Amazon


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Fiery Angel Op37Study Score (hardback) - Hawkes Pocket Score 1262> Details
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