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Sadko. opera-Bylina in 7 Scenes (3CD) ¤w¨ì³f
There are two works in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov¡¦s musical heritage that have the same name Sadko. First,
it is a musical tableau for orchestra (1867), and second, it is an opera-bylina (1896).
Sadko, a famous hero of a Russian bylina (epic tale), and his adventures attracted artists time and again.
Among them were music critic Vladimir Stasov who once advised Mily Balakirev to set the story to music,
Modest Mussorgsky, Ilya Repin and Rimsky-Korsakov.
To the composers of the New Russian School (The Five), the character of Sadko appeared attractive for
several reasons. He was one of the examples of the Russian folklore as a representative of the culture
of Novgorod liberties, a bearer of freedom-loving and at the same time constructive ideas. The creation of works
on this topic allowed a possibility to develop principles of musical thinking that were close to popular peasant
music simultaneously opening a way for application of results of the search in the sphere of a new musical
In his youthful work, Rimsky-Korsakov confined himself to an episode from the bylina which described
the events that happened with Sadko at sea.
Almost 30 years later, the composer returned to the subject of the epic hero. In his conversation with Vassily
Yastrebtsev (on 7 June, 1894), Rimsky-Korsakov expresses his desire to get down to the opera Sadko and,
in any case, to ¡§outline the libretto, but there¡¦s one delay ¡V there are no folk collections of Rybnikov, Kirsha
Danilov and Kireyevsky at hand.¡¨
The action dated in the bylina to 11th or 12th centuries was shifted in the opera to a semifantastic/semihistorical
period when Christianity was just emerging in Novgorod and heathen beliefs were still vigorous enough.
All the events in the story take place in Novgorod and in Ocean-Sea. Twelve years divide Scenes 4 and 5.
According to the initial idea, the opera was supposed to begin with a meeting of Sadko and the Sea Princess
on the shore of Lake Ilmen. However, the script underwent changes as the composer worked on the opera.
In particular, as it was recommended by Stasov, Scenes 1 and 3 appeared, as well as the crowd piece from
The final version of the opera was finished in the autumn of 1896, presented the next year for view
of the Directorate of Imperial Theatres, rejected and relayed to Savva Mamontov¡¦s Moscow Private Opera.
The premiere in Moscow took place on 26 December, 1897.
The Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg staged the opera for the first time on 26 January, 1901.
The recording of Sadko featured on these three discs is archival or the so-called historic. Its special value
is about the fact that it was one of the best recordings put on tape by the outstanding music director Boris
Pokrovsky who realized it for the USSR Bolshoi Theatre in 1949. For this recording, the director himself,
Nikolai Golovanov, the conductor, Fyodor Fedorovsky, the art director, Nikandr Khanaev and Georgy Nelepp,
the performers of the main part, Vera Davydova as Lyubava, Elizaveta Shumskaya and Natalia Shpiller
as Volkhova were awarded the Stalin Prize of the First Degree. At that time, it was one of the most honourable
decorations, which was later given the same status as the USSR State Prize