Betrothal in a Monastery is a lyric-comic opera written by Prokofiev on the eve of World War II.
Betrothal in a Monastery is a lyric-comic opera written by Prokofiev on the eve of World War II, in 1940, based on the plot by Richard Sheridan. The composer wrote the libretto himself, strengthening the lyrical component of the play and emphasizing the strength of the feelings of young lovers who will certainly triumph over any plans of the practical and serious older generation.
Like many of Prokofiev’s works, Betrothal in a Monastery is part of the golden musical fund of the 20th century. In the opera, lyric and comic principles coexist on equal terms. Sparkling humor, which inevitably makes one recall Rossini (especially since the action of Duenna takes place in Seville), here side by side with gentle melody, arias are interspersed with songs.
It is interesting to note that the Stanislavsky Theater was going to stage the opera immediately after it was written, but the war confused all creative plans. As a result, in 1946 the Mariinsky Theater (then known as Kirov Opera) staged this production. The plot of Betrothal in a Monastery, a comic opera by Sergei Prokofiev, based on “The Duenna”, a play by Richard Sheridan, is well known to the audience. In the theatre, known for its unusual director's approach, the plot of the Sheridan’s play is interpreted as a funny story about the everlasting conflict of generations, a conflict between academic style and innovation.
“I wanted my actors, who are mostly young people, to have a rest of the tragedy and to play themselves. We have moved the action into an educational institution, perhaps it is the St. Petersburg Theatre Academy that I love so much. What we made is like a joke, something similar to a students’ party where acting and reality are connected organically. It starts like a kind of acting studies as a form of existence. Then it becomes a bright feast of theatre performance that gradually begins to dominate reality. This performance requires the singers to have virtuoso plastics ability, dancing and fencing skill close to those of drama actors,” production director Yuri Alexandrov says.
Square in front of Don Jerome’s house. A fish merchant Mendoza promises the venerable nobleman a huge profit in joint trade. The deal will be sealed by the hand of Jerome’s daughter Louisa, who will become Mendoza’s wife. Don Jerome describes with delight the beauty of his daughter. But Mendoza is no less eloquent about the merits of various fish, which are demonstrated by his servants.
Jerome’s son, fervent Ferdinand, dreams of the beautiful and wayward Clara. Antonio is passionately in love with Louisa. Twilight brought him under the window of his beloved. The date of the lovers is interrupted by the voice of an angry Jerome. It seems to the worried Jerome that there is no worse misfortune than the custody of an adult daughter. He decides to immediately marry Louisa to Mendoza.
Louisa dreams of happiness with Antonio. The bridegroom, chosen by the father, instills in her a feeling of disgust. But the stubborn old man vowed not to let his daughter out of the house until she did his will. Ferdinand tries in vain to protect his sister, Jerome is hard to convince. Duenna comes to the rescue. Having agreed with the pupil, she acts out a secret transmission of a love message from Antonio. Jerome intercepts the letter and in anger orders the nanny to leave the house. On this, the women’s plan was built: in Duenna’s dress, Louisa eluded her father.
There is a brisk fish trade on the Seville waterfront. Mendoza is pleased - things are going well. Carlos does not share his friend’s enthusiasm. He dreams of items worthy of a knight: gems, weapons, gold.
The charming fugitives, Louisa and Clara, who also left their home, but from an evil stepmother, are developing a plan for further action. Clara is angry with Ferdinand and expects to find shelter in the monastery of St. Catherine. And Louisa, calling herself the name of her friend, asks Mendoza, who approached, to find Antonio. Mendoza believes that in this way he will be able to distract the young man’s attention from Don Jerome’s daughter.
Mendoza looks forward to meeting her fiancée. Jerome’s tale of his daughter’s beauty adds to the impatience of the fishmonger. But Louisa for some reason is capricious and does not want to meet with the groom in the presence of her father, Jerome is forced to leave.
Duenna enters, disguised as Louisa. Mendoza, stuttering with excitement, asks the beauty to throw back her veil and ... is speechless: the bride is too scary and old! Immediately, the clever Duenna goes on the offensive: she admires Mendoza’s beard, his courageous appearance. Flattery bewitches the groom, he is ready to ask Jerome’s blessing. But Duenna further weaves her cunning intrigues: Mendoza must steal her from her parents’ house. He agrees to everything. Indulging in romantic dreams, he does not even notice the return of Jerome, congratulating him on his victory.
The hours pass slowly for Louisa waiting for Antonio. But then Mendoza introduces her lover. The joy of young people is limitless. The deceived Mendoza is also pleased, thinking that he has got rid of the opponent. He enthusiastically tells new friends about his bride and her impending abduction. Louisa and Antonio support him slyly. Their hearts are full of love and they are happy.
Don Jerome enthusiastically plays music, playing a love minuet with his friends. But the game is not going well. Jerome cannot understand why her daughter secretly fled with the man destined for her husband. Carlos brings a letter from Mendoza asking him to forgive and bless him. A message with a similar request is brought by a boy from Louisa. Jerome is surprised at his daughter’s eccentricity - why not write to them together? - and blesses both, ordering a gala dinner in honor of the newlyweds.
Clara wanders lonely in the old abandoned garden of the convent: is she really destined to stay among the nuns forever? Ferdinand runs in with a drawn sword. Mendoza told him about the betrayal of his beloved, and he decided to take revenge on Antonio. Blinded by jealousy, Ferdinand does not recognize Clara, who appeared before him in monastic attire. And Clara finally believed in the sincerity of Ferdinand’s feelings and after him leaves the humble abode, wanting to join her fate with her beloved.
In a drunken revelry, life goes on in a men’s monastery. The sudden appearance of clients forces the monks to turn to the singing of pious psalms: it was Antonio and Mendoza who came with a request to marry them with their beloved. The ringing of coins from the purse dropped by the petitioners had a magical effect: the abbot agrees to carry out the wedding ceremony.
Guests are coming to the festively lit house of Jerome. And the owner has no time for them: there are still no young people, and Ferdinand has disappeared somewhere. But then a happy Mendoza appears. At this moment, Jerome with horror recognizes Duenna in her. Louisa and Antonio did not hesitate to show up, instead of explaining, holding out a letter from their father with consent to the marriage. No sooner had Jerome recovered from amazement than Ferdinand and the nun fell to their knees before him. The father was completely confused, but suddenly he recognizes Clara, one of the richest girls in Seville. Having suffered a loss on his daughter’s marriage, he compensates for it by marrying his son. And let the fooled Mendoza go away with the nanny. With a light heart, the merry host opens the wedding feast.
Passion and turmoil in one of the theatrical universities of our vast country - in the midst of a rehearsal of a new production Betrothal in a Monastery. The finishing touches are made - vocals and stage movement are honed, trying on historical costumes interspersed with short smoke breaks and dancing lessons, led by everyone’s favorite, the charming Professor Carlos.
Excitement gripped not only students and professors, but also representatives of the so-called technical staff, or rather, a lady - Duenna, dreaming of changing a mop and doormat for a cozy nest in a company with some oligarch! She will play the main role in our performance!
Confusion and excitement seized the first person of the institution - the rector of the institute, Mr. Jerome - after all, a sponsor loomed on the horizon, and even if Mr. Mendoza has a dubious reputation and he does not understand anything in theatrical business, but is engaged in the fish trade or something else ...
So why not combine creativity and business into a joint venture?! And to strengthen friendship and business, you can become related, all the more so since Mr. Jerome’s daughter, lovely Louisa and the guy Ferdinand are students of the educational institution…
By a strange coincidence, life situations in an amazing way intersect with the plot twists and turns of the future performance.
But the dear viewer will figure it out!
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