Prince Igor Opera


As Borodin’s only opera, Prince Igor is an important piece in the canon of Russian opera. It showcases many elements of traditional music, including its famous Polovtsian dances, as well as grand choruses, and incredibly beautiful vocal writing, in a story of war, religion, honor, and love. Ildar Abdrazakov as Prince Igor Svyatoslavich in ‘Prince Igor.’ (Courtesy the Met) Even when the opera performed is a masterpiece, a truly superb opera performance is exceedingly rare. “Prince Igor” was produced for the first time in America last evening at the Metropolitan Opera House, with a cast of characters that did ample justice to the Borodin opera, and with scenic effects that, including “specialties,” at times aroused to enthusiasm an overflowing attendance. Choruses are showcased in Prince Igor, and the Met Opera chorus is splendid, especially in the famous Polovtsian Dances, popularly known as the song “Stranger in Paradise” from the Broadway musical Kismet. And under Noseda’s energetic baton, the Met Orchestra renders the orchestral passages magnificently.

Opera Alexander Borodin 'Prince Igor' (opera in three acts with a prologue)
World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - established 1783
Running time: 3 hours 35 minutesPrince Igor Opera
The performance has 1 intermission
Schedule for Alexander Borodin 'Prince Igor' (opera in three acts with a prologue) 2021
Prince igor opera polovtsian dancesComposer: Alexander Borodin
Lighting Designer: Vladimir Lukasevich
Principal Chorus Master: IgorAndrei PetrenkoOpera
Musical Director: Maestro Valery Gergiev
Set Designer: Vyacheslav Okunev
Musical Preparation: Irina Soboleva
Choreography: Michel Fokine
Director: Irkin Gabitov
Revival Stage Director: Irkin Gabitov
Revival Designer: Vyacheslav Okunev
Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Opera in 2 act
Performed in Russian, with synchronised English supertitles
World premiere: 23 October , Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia
Premiere in Russia: 8 December 2001 Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, RussiaPrince igor opera plot
Premiere of this production: 8 December 2001, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia

Prince Igor (Knaz’ Igor) is an opera in four acts with a prologue by Alexander Borodin. The libretto, adapted by the composer from the East Slavic epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, centers on a 12th-century Russian prince (Igor Svyatoslavich) and his campaigns against the invading Polovtsian tribes. The opera was first performed in St.Petersburg on November 4, 1890. In the USA the opera was first produced at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, December 30, 1915. Borodin left the opera incomplete at his death in 1887. Composition and orchestration was completed posthumously by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov. According to the printed score, the opera was completed as follows: Rimsky-Korsakov orchestrated the previously unorchestrated passages from the Prologue, Acts 1, 2, and 4, and the 'Polovetsian March' which opens Act 3. Glazunov used what existing material was left to compose and orchestrate the rest of the third act; the often-repeated legend is that he also reconstructed and orchestrated the overture from memory after hearing the composer play it at the piano several times. (In his memoirs, Shostakovich quotes Glazunov as admitting to, in essence, writing the overture based on Borodin’s themes; this explanation appears to make more sense, because of the rather complex polyphonic nature of the overture, which would have made it virtually impossible to adequately render on the piano.) Both the Overture to Prince Igor and the 'Polovetsian Dances' (from Act II) are well-known concert standards. Together with the 'Polovetsian March', they form the so-called 'suite' from the opera.

Libretto by the composer based on Old Russian epos The Tale of Igor`s Raid
•World Premiere: 23 October (4 November) 1890, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg;
•Revival of the 1954 production: 8 December 2001, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg


The Prologue.

Prince Igor, who is about to start on a campaign against the Khan Konchak of the Polovtsians, refuses to heed the warnings of his wife and his people who interpret a recent eclipse as a bad omen. Prince of Galich (Kniaz Galitsky) bribes Skoula and Eroshka to encourage Prince Igor in his determination to depart as he himself wants to usurp Igor’s place. Igor unsuspectingly entrusts his wife to his care.


Scene I is laid in the Galich Prince’s courtyard, where the people are welcoming him as their prince. A group of young women beg the prince to restore one of their friends whom he has carried off; but he frightens them away. Scene II. The young women appeal to Yaroslavna, Igor’s wife, who is lamenting Igor’s absence in Putyvl, and while they are relating the story, Galich Prince enters. Yaroslavna questions him as to the truth of their story and he only laughs. Word is brought that Igor and his son have been taken captive, and that an attack upon them is imminent.


The Polovtsian Camp: Vladimir, son of Igor, has fallen in love with Konchakovna, a daughter of Khan Konchak. She is sure her father will consent to the marriage, but Vladimir is doubtful if his father will. Konchak offers Igor freedom if he will promise not to wage war on him again, but he refuses.


Igor learns that an attack is to be made on his city. He escapes. He tries to persuade his son to accompany him, but Konchakovna clings to him, and the father leaves alone. When the Khan learns of Igor’s escape, he refuses to pursue, retains Vladimir as a hostage, and marries him to his daughter.


Igor arrives safely at the city Kremlin, and is welcomed with great rejoicing.
(Note: In the new production by the Kirov Opera under Valery Gergiev, recorded in 1995, a new Mariinsky Theatre edition of the music was used, and the acts were performed in the following order: Prologue, II, I, III, IV, so as to create more alternation between Russian and Polovetsian settings.)

The first Russian heroic-epic opera “Prince Igor” from the composer Alexander Borodin is a very unique musical work. Everything amazes in this opera: the music, as if conveying the depth of the Russian soul, and the plot, which is based on one of the oldest Russian manuscripts of works – “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign.” Work on the opera lasted for eighteen years (!), But Alexander Borodin never managed to finish it.

Borodin got the idea of writing an opera based on the ancient Russian manuscript – “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” from his friend – Vladimir Stasov. The composer got immediately enthusiastic about it, because he had always been interested in the history of ancient Russia and heroic images were present in many of his works.

It is amazing that to this day we don’t know the author o surprising that up to now the author of “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign.”At various times this handwritten manuscript was studied by historians, geographers, biologists, astronomers – and they all found something new and startling in it. Among the researchers there was even an opinion that if you at least once in your life “touch” “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” – it will never let you go. Maybe this was also the reason why Borodin took so many years to write his opera.

To fully feel the images and spirit of antiquity, Borodin took a trip around Putivel that is near Kursk. There he began researching ancient chronicles, stories and legends about Polovtzy, their music and songs.

That is why the libretto for the opera “Prince Igor” was created by the composer alone, together with the musical score, in order to emphasize special features of the literary source. This helped to bring the central image of Prince Igor to the image of folk heroes so loved by the composer.

Prince Igor Opera Plot

Borodin never finished his 18-year-old work on the opera. The unexpected death of the composer shocked his contemporaries.

The situation with the opera “Prince Igor” at the time of the composer’s death was not the best: only several parts were almost finished: the prologue, the first and the second acts. The music for the third and fourth acts was composed, but not completely recorded.

The fact that the opera still saw the lightwas due to the efforts of Borodin’s friends and students, who literally went sheet by sheet over his archives trying to find the passages to complete the work of genius. Great contribution to reconstruct and finish Borodin’s opera was made by Glazunov, who from memory recovered the missing musical episodes which Borodin played during musical evenings. Great assistance was also rendered by composer Rimsky-Korsakov, who orchestrated the second part of the opera, surprisingly keeping the musical style of Borodin.

It took nearly three years of continuous hard work and, finally, in 1890 the premiere took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. And this was only the first triumph among other triumphs that followed each staging of the opera.

The opera “Prince Igor” truly impressed the audience. Melodic performance, comparable with folk music, honesty of Russian musical tradition and the realism of characters – all of that ensured the popularity of Borodin’s opera.


Mariinsky Theatre performance

Part 1:

Part 2

P.S. Alexander Borodin, besides his musical career was primarily a scientist – a famous chemist.

Prince Igor Opera Composer

P.P.S. A very special scene in the first video at 1 hour and 21 minutes – for about 4-5 minutes – when they are trying to break the will of the captive prince…