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Music Text

Libretto by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko based on Pushkin's poem 'The Gypsies' (R)

Scoring

S,A,T,Bar,B; chorus
2.picc.2.corA.2.2-4.2.3.1-timp.perc:tgl/tamb/cyms/BD-harp-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
5/9/1893
Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
Conductor: Ippolit Altani
Company: Bolshoi Opera

Roles

ALEKO Baritone
YOUNG GYPSY Tenor
OLD GYPSY Bass
ZEMFIRA Soprano
OLD GYPSY WOMAN Contralto
Chorus of gypsies chorus SATB
Time and Place

A camp of gypsies

Synopsis

A band of gypsies has pitched its tents for the night on the bank of a river. Beneath a pale moon, they light campfires, prepare a meal and sing of the freedom of their nomadic existence. An old gypsy tells a story. Long ago, he loved Mariula who deserted him for another man, leaving behind Zemfira, their daughter. Zemfira is now grown up, has her own child, and lives with Aleko, a Russian who has abandoned civilisation for the gypsy life. Hearing this story, Aleko is outraged that Zemfira’s father took no revenge on Mariula. But Zemfira disagrees. For her, as for her mother, love is free, and she herself has already tired of Aleko’s possessiveness and now loves a younger gypsy, one of her own people. After dances for the women and the men, the gypsies settle down to sleep. Zemfira appears with her young lover, whom she kisses passionately before disappearing into her own tent to look after her child. Aleko enters and Zemfira taunts him, singing about her wild lover. Alone, Aleko broods on the catastrophe of his relationship with Zemfira and the failure of his attempt to flee the ordinary world. As dawn comes, he surprises Zemfira and her lover together. In a torment of jealousy he kills them both. All the gypsies gather, disturbed by the noise. Led by Zemfira’s father, they spare Aleko’s life but cast him out from them for ever.

Moods

Dramatic, Romantic

Subjects

Literary, Relationships

Recommended Recording
cd_cover

Sergei Leiferkus/Maria Guleghina/Anatoly Kocherga/Ilya Levinsky/Anne Sofie von Otter/Gothenburg Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Neeme Järvi
Deutsche Grammophon DG 453 4532

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