Iolanta, Tchaikovsky’s final opera, in Peter Sellars’ 2012 production at the Teatro Real in Madrid. Premiered in 1892, it is a one-act work based on the Danish play Kong Renés Datter (King René's Daughter) by Henrik Hertz, a romanticized account of the life of Yolande de Bar. It contains all aspects of the composer’s mastery: beautiful melodies, clear structure and genuine passion. Sellars paints this production as a spiritual quest in search of light.
Peter Sellars’ production premiered in January 2012 at the Teatro Real in Madrid. He combines in one show Stravinsky’s Perséphone with Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, placing the two works in dialogue with one another, and exploiting their common themes of light and darkness. Indeed, the female protagonists’ destinies seem to intersect: Iolanta, a young blind girl, is brought into the light through love, while Perséphone, driven by her love of humanity, journeys into the kingdom of shadows.
Iolanta is a young princess, who doesn’t know that she is blind. Her father, the king, has forbidden his people from telling her the truth. A young knight, Count Vaudemont, stumbles upon the princess’s hidden castle and falls hopelessly in love with her. As he declares his love, he realizes she is blind. Vaudemont begins passionately explaining to Iolanta what light and color are when they are discovered by the King. Aware that the princess is now aware of her blindness and that she has no intention of curing it, King René gives Iolanta an ultimatum: if she does not accept to be treated for her blindness, he will execute the young knight. Horrified by her father's words, Iolanta agrees in order to save her beloved. Once cured, she confirms with her own eyes that her beloved Vaudemont has been spared. Rejoicing, Iolanta sings the praises of love and God.
Photo: © Javier del Real
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