Friday, November 20, 2009

The Tsarina's Slippers: A Comic Fairy Tale Opera for Christmas

A Russian fairy tale suitable for the Christmas season!

It seems rather difficult to find 'Christmas fairy tales' but this one, based on the tale "Christmas Eve" by Nikolay Gogol is an operatic adaptation by Tchaikovsky. Gogol was/is a celebrated Russian writer who wrote magic realism, and is also credited with the story behind the piece "Night on Bare/Bald Mountain" which was animated by Disney for Fantasia. Gogol's stories are widely known and loved by many generations of Russians and his tales are also said to have had a profound influence on the celebrated literary writers Nabakov and Dostoevsky.

It's the first time this particular opera is being performed in London
Here's the write-up from the Royal Opera House in London, where it's to be performed from November 20th to December 8th, 2009:

Many of Tchaikovsky’s stage works are unjustly neglected outside Russia. Now one of the most charming of all, Cherevichki (The Tsarina’s Slippers*), comes to London for the first time, under the baton of Alexander Polianichko and with an almost entirely Russian cast. Based on a Christmas tale by Gogol that mixes realistic village comedy with fairytale fantasy, the plot describes how Vakula the blacksmith flies on the Devil’s back to St Petersburg to request a pair of little leather slippers worn by the Tsarina herself in order to win the hand of his beloved Oxana.

Apparently the more accurate meaning of the Russian word translated as 'slippers' is actually closer to 'dressy boots'. A criticism of the English presentation is that it's far too genteel. That and the fact that it's a comic opera that will be sung entirely in Russian with English subtitles - how to kill the timing! The French billed the opera as Les Caprices d'Oksana, which apparently sets a more appropriate and comedic tone, as the whims of the lady in question do indeed set things into comic motion.

Here's a wonderful promotional animated trailer for the new production:

You can read all about the story 'Christmas Eve' HERE on Wikipedia or HERE at the Royal Opera House's website and you can find more information about the performances HERE, also at the Royal Opera House's website.

LATE ADDITION: I just saw an article on the production which talks about how magical and delightful this comic opera is. You can read it HERE.


  1. I went to see this production last night and it was appalling. The characters were over the top and their singing was very poor. The combination of ballet and opera did not work well. Some of the designs were good, but at times tacky. This was particularly the case the giant golden slipper used to carry the characters at the end. I did not feel at the Royal Opera House, but more like a cheese West-End musical. The only good thing I have to say is that the conductor did a very good job.

  2. I also saw this and I loved it. It was fun and very entertaining. My children also thoroughly enjoyed it and judging by the applause at the end, so did most of the audience.