Tchaikovsky Research

Mazepa (Мазепа), also known as Mazeppa, is an opera in 3 acts and 6 scenes (TH 7 ; ČW 7), based on an historical poem by Aleksandr Pushkin. It was Tchaikovsky's seventh completed opera, composed and orchestrated between June 1881 and April 1883, with revisions in November and December 1883, March 1884, and October 1884.


The opera is scored for solo voices, mixed chorus, offstage military band (part of which consists of 4 trumpets (in F) and a military drum), and an orchestra comprising 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets (in A, B-flat), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in D, F), 2 cornets (in A, B-flat), 2 trumpets (in C, D, E-flat, E, F), 3 trombones, tuba + 3 timpani, triangle, tambourine, military drum, cymbals, bass drum + harp, violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.

There are eight singing roles:

  • Mazepa (Мазепа) — baritone
  • Kochubey (Кочубей) — bass
  • Lyubov (Любовь) — mezzo-soprano
  • Mariya (Мария) — soprano
  • Andrey (Андрей) — tenor
  • Orlik (Орлик) — bass
  • Iskra (Искра) — 2nd tenor
  • Drunken Cossack (Пьяный казак) — 2nd tenor.

Movements and Duration

Tchaikovsky's original score contains an introduction and 19 individual numbers. The first two acts are divided into two and three scenes respectively. The titles of numbers in Russian (Cyrillic) are taken from the published score, with English translations added in bold type. Vocal incipits are given in the right-hand column, with transliterations below in italics. The numbering, titles and tempo are taken from the first edition of the full score (published in 1899).

Introduction (Интродукция)
Allegro non troppo
Act I Scene 1 No. 1 Chorus of Maidens (Хор девушек)
Я завью, завью венок мой душистый
Ya zavyu, zavyu venok moy dushisty
Scene (Сцена)
Meno mosso
Здравствуйте, девушки, милые подруженки!
Zdravstvuyte, devushki, milye podruzhenki!
No. 2 Scene (Сцена)
Вам любы песни, милые подруженки
Vam lyuby pesni, milye podruzhenki
Mariya's Arioso (Ариозо Марии)
Allegro moderato
Какой-то, властью непонятной
Kakoy-to, vlastyu neponyatnoy
Duet (Дует)
Тебя с младенческих годов люблю
Tebya s mladencheskikh godov lyublyu
No. 3 Scene (Сцена)
Allegro moderato
Ну чествуешь, Василий, ты меня
Nu chestvuesh, Vasily, ty menya
No. 4 Chorus (Хор)
Moderato (Alla breva)
Нету, нету тут мосточка
Netu, netu tut mostochka
No. 4a Hopak (Гопак)
No. 5 Scene (Сцена)
Вот, хорошо, люблю!
Vot, khorosho, lyublyu!
Mazepa's Arioso (Ариозо Мазепы)
Мгновенно сердце молодое горит и гаснет
Mgnovenno serdtse molodoye gorit i gasnet
No. 6 Quarrel Scene (Сцена ссоры)
Allegro moderato
Мазела, ты меня смущаешь речью
Mazepa, ty menya smushchayesh rechyu
Scene 2 No. 7 Chorus (Хор)
Не гроза небеса кроет тучею
Ne groza nebesa kroyet tucheyu
Mother's Lamentation (Причитание матери)
Meno mosso
Где ты, моë дитятко
Gde ty, moyo dityatko
No. 8 Finale (Финал)
Moderato assai — Allegro moderato
Очнись от горя, Кочубей!
Ochnis ot gorya, Kochubey!
Act II Scene 1 No. 9 Dungeon Scene (Сцена в тюрьме)
Andante — Adagio — Andante non troppo
Так вот награда за донос
Tak vot nagrada za donos
Scene 2 No. 10 Mazepa's Monologue (Монолог Мазепы)
Andante — Andante molto sostenuto
Тиха украинская ночь
Tikha ukraynskaya noch
Scene with Orlik (Сцена с Орликом)
Допрашивал, пытал, но твëрд
Doprashival, pytal, no tvyord
No. 10a Mazepa's Arioso (Ариозо Мазепы)
Moderato — Andante molto sostenuto
О, Мария, Мария!
O, Mariya, Mariya!
No. 11 Scene of Mazepa with Mariya (Сцена Мазепы с Марией)
Andante con moto
Мой милый друг! Мария ты?
Moy mily drug! Mariya ty?
No. 12 Scene of the Mother's Appearance (Сцена появления матери)
Как блещут звëзды в небе
Kak bleshchut zvyozdy v nebe
Scene 3 No. 13 Folk Scenes (Народные сцены)
Allegro moderato
Скоро ли? Скоро ли?
Skoro li? Skoro li?
No. 14 Finale (Финал)
Уходи же!
Ukhodi zhe!
Act III No. 15 Entr'acte: The Battle of Poltava (Антракт: Полтавский бой)
Brillante, con fuoco
No. 16 Scene (Сцена)
Allegro non troppo
В бою кровавом
V boyu krovavom
Andrey's Aria (Ария Андрея)
Здесь дни текли чредой счастливой
Zdes dni tekli chredoy schastlivoy
No. 17 Scene (Сцена)
Allegro giusto
Невдалеке я слышу конский топот
Nevdaleke ya slyshu konsky topot
Duet (Дует)
Allegro moderato
Святой невинности губитель
Svyatoy nevinosti gubitel
No. 18 Scene: Onset of Mariya's Madness (Сцена появления безумной Марии)
Moderato assai quasi Andante — Moderato assai
Несчастный! видит Бог
Neschastny! vidit Bog
No. 19 Finale (Финал)
Andante con moto
Ушëл старик
Ushyol starik
[Mariya's Lullaby (Колибельная Марии)]
Andante non tanto
Спи, младенец мой прекрасный
Spi, mladenets moy prekrasny

A complete performance of the opera lasts around 150 minutes.


The original libretto was compiled by Viktor Burenin (1841-1926), and later revised by Tchaikovsky, after the narrative poem Poltava (Полтава) (1829) by Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837).

On 5/17 May 1881, soon after arriving at Kamenka, Tchaikovsky asked Karl Davydov to send him a previously unused libretto on the subject of Pushkin's poem Poltava: "I am feeling inclined to start an opera once again, and the subject of Poltava is greatly tempting to me" [1].

On 10/22 May, Karl Davydov forwarded Tchaikovsky the libretto, the author of which was Viktor Burenin [2]. However, the decision to write an opera had, it seems, not been firmly settled, since the libretto did not stir Tchaikovsky's interest [3], and he had set about other work (the All-Night Vigil, and editing Bortnyansky's church music).

"I do not know how long I will be disinclined to write anything", the composer wrote to Eduard Nápravník on 18/30 June 1881, "but if circumstances change and I am again seized with the urge to write then the thing which above all else stirs me to try my hand again at an opera is a libretto on the subject of Pushkin's Poltava" [4].

Two editions of the poem Poltava are preserved in Tchaikovsky's personal library (1869 and 1880), which contain notes characteristic of the composer's artistic processes. Tchaikovsky's chief concern was to preserve the moments of psychological drama — the scenes between Mariya and Mazepa, Mariya and her mother. The latter scene is significantly altered and expanded when compared with Pushkin's original. Real-life historical events served as the basis for the opera, depicting Peter the Great's Russia at the beginning of the 18th century. Tchaikovsky's work on the libretto ran in parallel with his composition of the music. This is evident from his Notebook No. 6, in which his notes for the text alternate with the musical sketches.


The action is set in the Ukraine in the eighteenth century.

Act I. In the garden of the Cossack Kochubey, overlooking the River Dnepr (Scene 1), Kochubey's daughter Mariya remains behind while the other girls sail down the river. She loves the elderly hetman Mazepa, but the cossack Andrey is in love with her. The peasants dance a hopak to honour Mazepa. Mazepa asks Mariya's father for her hand in marriage, but Kochubey says that Mazepa is too old for her and refuses his consent. After an argument, Mariya again declares her love for Mazepa and she leaves with him. Inside Kochubey's house (Scene 2), Kochubey sends Andrey to Moscow, to denounce Mazepa to the Tsar for conspiring with the Swedes.

Act II. In a dank dungeon beneath a palace at Belaya Tserkov, Kochubey is chained to a pillar (Scene 1). The Tsar does not believe Kochubey's accusations against Mazepa and delivers him and his comrades into Mazepa's hands. Orlik, Mazepa's henchman, tortures Kochubey, and demands to know where he keeps his treasure. Later, in a room in Mazepa's castle (Scene 2), Orlik tells Mazepa that Kochubey has not revealed his secret under torture. Mazepa decides that Kochubey must die the next day. Mariya enters, unaware of her father's fate, and Mazepa tells her of his plans to rule over an independent Ukraine. After they reaffirm their love, Mazepa leaves. Mariya's mother Lyubov appears, and tells her that Kochubey is to be executed. The following morning, in a field with a scaffold (Scene 3), a crowd has gathered to witness the execution. Mazepa watches on horseback as Kochubey and Iskra are led to the scaffold. Mariya and her mother arrive just as the axes fall.

Act III opens with a symphonic tableau depicting the Battle of Poltava. Mazepa's forces are defeated. In Kochubey's garden, now neglected and overgrown, Andrey and other Russian soldiers are pursuing fleeing Swedish soldiers. Andrey hides when he hears Mazepa and Orlik approaching. Andrey attacks Mazepa and is mortally wounded. Mazepa discovers Mariya wandering about in a daze, but he is forced to flee without her. Andrey dies in Mariya arms as she sings him a lullaby [5].


Judging from Tchaikovsky's diary for 1881 [6], he spent most of June working on the opera. The evidence for this includes notes of parts of the text for Andrey's aria in Act I (No. 2), dated 8/20 and 10/22 June. Mariya's solo from the same scene (G minor, 3/2) was evidently composed at the same time, since the sketches for a preliminary version of this solo date from 13/15 May 1881 (the music was written to an extract from Canto V of Dante's Inferno, sketched on a printed copy of the Obikhod). On 15/27 June, a further sketch was made with the note "Trostyanka. Dances. Mazepa", and under it the note "See 4 March". The diary entry for the latter date (at the start of his work on the opera) contains sketches with the heading "For the storm". Evidently this sketch was conceived as the start of another work, but was used as the E-flat theme of the Hopak (No. 4 in the opera, grazioso). His diary entry for 23 June/5 July again includes musical sketches, similar to the opening of the quarrel scene (No. 6).

In a letter of 23 August/4 September–25 August/6 September, Tchaikovsky told Sergey Taneyev: "I was considering embarking on an opera; I have a decent libretto to hand, and I have already written four numbers in my spare hours. But they are all loathsome to me, and I can sense that this exertion of my will-power just sufficed for these four numbers and no more. That with regard to which Mr Cui has always been reproaching me for failing to do has come to pass, that is, I have started to adopt a critical attitude towards myself. And what do we see? As soon as this process began, the tap from which I had drawn so much music before (even if it was mediocre), when I was not yet self-critical, ran dry immediately" [7].

The composer quickly abandoned his work. "Mazepa displeases me, and it cannot engage me", he wrote in a letter of 3/15 October 1881 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky [8]. However, the composer continued to consider other possible subjects [9], before returning once again to Poltava.

At Rome in late November/early December 1881, Tchaikovsky began to compose music for the scene with Mazepa and Mariya (No. 11 in the opera) [10]. He later wrote about this phase of work: "One wonderful day I re-read the libretto and re-read Pushkin's poem, and was moved by the beauty of some of the scenes and verses to start on the scene between Mariya and Mazepa, which was preserved unchanged from the poem in the libretto... Although generally I composed steadily without having great feeling for the characters, I now realise that this was something successful after all. As far as Karl XII is concerned, I must disillusion you, my friend. He will not appear in my opera, since he only bears an indirect relation to the drama between Mazepa, Mariya and Kochubey" [11].

In Rome, Tchaikovsky regularly forced himself to write for several hours each day [12], but finding inspiration lacking, he discontinued work on the opera and resumed composition of the Piano Trio and other works [13].

It was only in May 1882 at Kamenka that the composer returned to the subject he had set aside. "I am in a mood for writing", he wrote to Adolph Brodsky, "and provided nothing intervenes I should be able work well" [14], but on 15/27 May in a letter to Modest Tchaikovsky he reported: "I'm working assiduously, but not with enthusiasm, and I'm not experiencing a twentieth of that inspiration and love for my creation that I usually feel" [15]. On 21 May/2 June in another letter to Modest, Tchaikovsky again referred to the opera: "I'm writing an opera, or in any case some scenes for Mazepa, which barely holds my interest. I am writing with difficulty. However, something of substance is emerging..." [16].

Returning to Kamenka in order to work on Mazepa, in early June Tchaikovsky left for Grankino, where he stayed until 25 July/6 August. At Grankino work was resumed, and in the course of the summer and early autumn the composer completed the rough sketches for the opera. The surviving notebooks and sketches and numerous references in his letters enable us to establish with some precision the course of work during this period. The composer amended the text of the libretto and his original outline sketches for the earliest scenes of the opera, supplementing them with freshly written material.

First came sketches for Act III: themes for Andrey's aria (No. 16) and the last scenes (Nos. 17, 18, 19). At the same time, the composer outlined the themes for the Introduction and the opening of the Chorus of Maidens (No. 1). In late May/early June (according to the author's date in his notebook) came sketches for the remaining scenes of Act I: themes for Finale (No. 8), Mariya's Arioso and her scene with Andrey (No. 2). Evidently, while continuing to make rough sketches, the composer was occupied with bringing them to their final form. On 24 June/6 July in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck we read: "I am working with as much zeal as possible; now the opera is coming along in such a manner that, provided I remain alive and healthy, I will be able to begin the instrumentation in the autumn" [17], and on 30 June/12 July he told her: "I am working very enthusiastically and punctiliously. I am gradually experiencing, if not a passion for my subject, then at least a warming towards the characters. Like a mother who feels a love for her children, even though they cause her worries, anxieties and agitations, I am already experiencing a paternal tenderness for my new musical offspring, which on many occasions has caused me moments of despondency and disappointment, and yet despite all this it is now taking shape and growing healthily" [18].

On 5/17 July the composer wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "This week I hope to complete the rough sketches for a second act of the opera [19], but there is still one whole enormous act in three scenes still to write" [20]. I hope to finish this work by early autumn, and then travel abroad to some peaceful corner — Clarens, for instance — and make a start on the instrumentation" [21]. On 13/25 July he reported: "Today I completed a second third of the opera, i.e. one out of three acts" [22].

Returning from Grankino to Kamenka on 25 July/6 August, Tchaikovsky continued working on Mazepa. "I am far from writing with the same facility as before; rather, I am doing so slowly, cautiously, and without exhilaration and enthusiasm", he wrote to Sergey Taneyev [23].

During late July/early August, the composer's notebooks show that he worked on the dungeon scene. After a trip to Moscow (between 5/17 August and 20 August/1 September), the composer wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky from Kamenka on 23 August/4 September, reporting that he had resumed his work on the opera: "I've already managed to write very successfully the introduction to the second act" [24]. "After a successful start I think that in four more weeks the opera will be completely ready in draft", he wrote two days later to Nadezhda von Meck [25]. From late August/early September, Tchaikovsky simultaneously worked on the opera and the Six Pieces, Op. 51 for piano [26].

"My work is progressing", the composer noted on 9/21 September in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck, "but I cannot hide the fact that I am very tired" [27]. "I have assigned myself such an improbably difficult task (to write the remaining three scenes of the opera, and at the same time six pieces for piano)", we read in a letter to Modest Tchaikovsky of 10/22–13/25 September, and further on in the same letter: "I'm going all out to finish the rough sketches of the opera" [28]. Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck about his work on the opera: "Never have I had such difficulties with a large scale composition as with this opera. I do not even know whether this is due to my waning talents or, possibly, I have become more strict with myself... I used to give myself up to the task of composition with such ease and naturalness, like a fish swimming in the water or a bird flying through the air. But no longer. Now I have become a person who takes a costly and heavy burden upon himself, that must be carried through to the bitter end. And I will carry it through..." [29].

On 15/27 September the composer wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "I have finished composition of the opera and am setting about the orchestration. In my opinion this will be a good opera" [30].

Two days later he told Modest Tchaikovsky: "Now I have completely finished the sketches for the opera and piano pieces, and have set about the instrumentation of the opera. This task is pleasant, and not difficult" [31]. After several days he wrote to him again: "I've started orchestrating the opera. There is a good effect in the introduction (where I have Mazepa furiously galloping on his horse!) [32]. "I have been working a great deal recently", the composer told Eduard Nápravník in a letter of 21 September/3 October. "The urge to write has returned to me, and I hope in the spring to submit the opera Mazepa to the Directorate of Theatres" [33].

Tchaikovsky remained at Kamenka until mid/late November, where he orchestrated Act I. Initially he worked with ease and enthusiasm [34]. Between 1/13–7/19 October he had to spend time revising The Maid of Orleans, which made him extremely tired, and the pace of work on the instrumentation of Mazepa slowed. "I very much want to finish the first act of Mazepa at Kamenka, but am unlikely to do so — for some reason this work is taking me longer than before" [35].

In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck on 3/15 November, Tchaikovsky wrote: "My work is gradually moving forward; in a few days I hope to finish the full score of the first act of the opera, which comprises three sections in all". Later in the same letter Tchaikovsky expressed very interesting ideas which reveal his attitude to the genre of opera: "I will not say, like you and many others, that opera is the lowest class of musical art; on the contrary, it seems to me that in combining so many disparate elements to serve a single purpose, opera may be one of the richest musical forms. But I feel that I am personally more inclined towards symphonic form. At least, I certainly feel that I have more freedom and independence when I am not subservient to the rigours and constraints of theatrical conventions" [36]. On 13/25 November the composer told Anna Aleksandrova-Levenson: "I have worked a great deal over the last three months, and my opera has come on markedly. I hope to finish it by the spring" [37].

In mid/late November, Tchaikovsky travelled to Moscow, where he completed the instrumentation of Act I [38]. "I've finished my work at last" [39], he wrote in a letter of 12/24 December to Nadezhda von Meck, "and tomorrow evening I leave, completely exhausted to the point of foolhardiness" [40]. During a short stay in Saint Petersburg, according to Modest Tchaikovsky, the composer was busy "copying out" Mazepa [41].

Evidently, work on the opera continued while Tchaikovsky was abroad. In a letter to Lev Davydov of 25 December/6 January, the composer made the following request: "Please instruct Stepan to find my yellow notebook, which I have had with me the whole summer during my travels. It contains almost the whole of my opera, and is essential to me. Send this notebook to Jurgenson, who will forward it to me wherever I am stopping, since I don't yet know myself where I will be going. Please do all this quickly, since without this notebook my opera is lost" [42].

At the end of December/beginning of January, Tchaikovsky left for abroad. In early/mid-January, he reported to Nadezhda von Meck from Paris: "I have begun to work with great enthusiasm and during my two days here I have written for six hours each day" [43]. While awaiting an answer from Eduard Nápravník to his letter concerning possible changes and cuts to the libretto of the opera [44], the composer put aside the instrumentation of Act II, and moved on to Act III, writing on 11/23 January: "My work is going very well, and I have almost orchestrated half an entire act" [45].

However, the speed of work soon slowed. In a letter to Sergey Taneyev of 2/14 February, the composer lamented: "The orchestration of Mazepa is going at a snail's pace. In five weeks I have barely managed to score three fifths of one act" [46]. This is corroborated by a letter to Pyotr Jurgenson of 26 February/10 March 1883: "All my available time must be devoted to the opera, which strains me terribly. However, I am in a good frame of mind, notwithstanding my pains in giving birth to my offspring" [47].

In March, Tchaikovsky received a commission to compose a cantata Moscow and the Coronation March, and proceeded to compose these works; the full scores of the new compositions, together with the completed Act III of Mazepa were sent to Saint Petersburg on 26 March/7 April [48].

As he neared the end of the work, so the strain increased: "I am governed by an overwhelming desire to finish the opera", we read in a letter to Modest Tchaikovsky of 9/21 April 1883 [49]. "I'm writing now with a feverish haste, and am extremely tired, but the work is going quickly", the composer told his brother two days later, and on 16/28 April he reported that he had finished the full score and the piano arrangement [50].

On 28 April/10 May he wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "Tomorrow, the 29th [O.S.], I will be sending you by express delivery the following parts of Mazepa: 1) A revised ending to the eighth scene and opening of the ninth scene in the first act — in other words, the point where I divided the first act into two scenes. The alterations are minor, involving just a few bars. These changes need to be inserted into the piano arrangement; I have written them on separate sheets, which can be pasted into the score. 2) The libretto for the opera Mazepa in the form in which it should be printed. 3) The whole of the second act, which is divided into three scenes. The piano arrangement is written on the bottom of the full score, except in the third scene where there was insufficient space, and it, i.e. the arrangement, has been done separately, leaving space for the voice parts to be inserted. And so now my opera Mazepa is entirely finished, and in your hands. For two years I have sat over it, and it has caused me a great deal of trouble. I entrust its future fate to you" [51].

It seems that at the first rehearsals Tchaikovsky fulfilled a request from Bogomir Korsov, performing the role of Mazepa, that he should write an additional arioso for Mazepa to text by Vasily Kandaurov (Act II, Scene 2, No. 10a), to be performed in Moscow [52].

There appear to have been two versions of this arioso. Tchaikovsky's notebook for 1883 contains a note dated 30 November/12 December: "Left Ivan's for Jurgenson's (not home) and to Korsov's. The latter rejected my arioso, requiring a love melody". Nikolay Vilde, son of an artist at the Maly Theatre, later wrote of this: "I remember meeting Tchaikovsky at the dress rehearsal of Mazepa, and recall that he had written an additional arioso "O, Mariya" at Korsov's request. I remember... Korsov rejected the number... which Tchaikovsky had brought rolled up in his hands... Tchaikovsky unrolled the manuscript and sat at the piano... and can still remember its theme. It began with the words "I will subdue with the sounds of death", but it did not satisfy Korsov. "Not that", he said. "It needs to be something amorous which depicts the feelings of Mazepa and Mariya, and needs love and passion". "I will think about it...", said Tchaikovsky. And a few days later... the arioso "O, Mariya" was ready" [53].

In March 1884, a month after the opera's premiere, Tchaikovsky decided "to make some slight changes" to the scoring of Mazepa [54]. On 26 March/7 April the composer, having completed the changes, wrote about them to Eduard Nápravník: "I have made the following changes: 1) At the end of the first scene in Act I, after Mazepa's words "So men, to your horses" [«Эй люди, на коней»], I have made a shorter ending in E major in order not to hold up the action, which suffers here from an excess of music... 2) In the second scene of Act II, I have made an enormous cut in the scene between Mazepa and Mariya (here Mazepa's part is not only cut, but is practically written afresh... Mariya also has something new, but very brief). 3) In the last number of Act III the lullaby has been somewhat lengthened, and it now concludes the opera" [55].

Further on in this same letter, Tchaikovsky touched on the scene with the Drunken Cossack, which had been criticised by Eduard Nápravník: "Regarding the Drunken Cossack, I assure you that with a good performance this will not seem inappropriate, and in any case I would not want to make a change here, since I feel deeply that this whole number is constructed in such a rounded manner that making cuts or alterations would render it meaningless". On 1/13 April, Tchaikovsky wrote to Sergey Taneyev: "I have made three important changes in Mazepa. One of them you will be upset about — but I had to do this to for the sake of the staging" [56].

The changes in Act I affected the finale to the Quarrel Scene (No. 6), where a significant cut was made (from bar 221). In the second scene of Act II, Tchaikovsky shortened the scene between Mariya and Mazepa (No. 11), which required some alterations to the music. In its first version, the whole scene was conducted as a dialogue. The new version culminated in a more dramatic duet — Molto ritenuto — Moderato: "You are everything to me" («Ты мне всего»). Leaving Mariya's part untouched, the composer joined it to Mazepa's part, preserving the preceding words, which were now set to new music. However, from bar 13 the entire scene was written afresh, as a result of which it was shortened by 69 bars. In Act III, Tchaikovsky changed the Finale (No. 19), abandoning the end of the scene with Mariya's impulsive suicide, and concluding the opera with the lullaby which Mariya sings over Andrey's body.

In October 1884, Bogomir Korsov pressured Tchaikovsky into making a further small change to the scene between Mazepa and Mariya (replacing some bars of Mariya's recitatives to Mazepa with the words: "Is it your father or your husband who is dearest to you?" («Отец или супруг тебе дороже») )[57]. This change was included in the Moscow production that autumn, and in a letter of 5/17 January 1885, Tchaikovsky suggested to Eduard Nápravník that it should also be made in the Saint Petersburg production, but it is not known whether Nápravník complied with this request.


After scoring each act the composer made the vocal-piano reduction. In a letter of 26 March/7 April to Pyotr Jurgenson, Tchaikovsky reported that the arrangement of Act III was ready (without the parts for soloist and chorus), and he was working on Act II [58]. The whole vocal-piano reduction was completed on 3/15 May 1883 [59].


On 19 February/3 March 1883, Max Erdmannsdörfer conducted the Hopak (Act I, No. 4a) at a special Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow.

The complete opera was staged for the first time at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre on 3/15 February 1884, conducted by Ippolit Altani, with soloists: Bogomir Korsov (Mazepa), Pavel Borisov (Kochubey), Aleksandra Krutikova (Lyubov), Emiliya Pavlovskaya (Mariya), Dmitry Usatov (Andrey), Otto Führer (Orlik), Petr Grigoryev (Iskra) and Aleksandr Dodonov (Drunken Cossack).

The first production in Saint Petersburg took place just three days later, on 6/18 February, with Eduard Nápravník conducting the following soloists: Ippolit Pryanishnikov (Mazepa), Ivan Melnikov (Kochubey), Mariya Kamenskaya (Lyubov), Anna Laterner (Mariya), Mikhail Vasilyev III (Andrey), Fyodor Stravinsky (Orlik), Konstantin Kondaraki (Iskra), and Vasily Vasilyev II (Drunken Cossack).

Tchaikovsky attended the rehearsals and premiere in Moscow, but left the next day to travel abroad. The first performance to incorporate the composer's changes to the Quarrel Scene (Act I, No. 6), the Scene with Mazepa and Mariya (Act II, No. 11) and the Finale (Act III, No. 19), was the revival at the Mariinsky Theatre on 10/22 September 1884, with Eduard Nápravník conducting once more.

At the Tiflis Opera Theatre on 19 November/1 December 1885, Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov conducted a performance of the opera with soloists: Vladimir Alennikov II (Mazepa), S. Molchanovsky (Kochubey), Mariya Davydova (Lyubov), Varvara Zarudnaya (Mariya), Pyotr Lody (Andrey), Aleksandr Puzanov (Orlik), and Zeltser (Iskra).

A touring Russian Opera company, conducted by Giuseppe Truffi, performed Mazepa in England in 1888, at the Alexandra Theatre in Liverpool on 25 July/6 August (and one subsequent performance), and then at Comedy Theatre in Manchester on 15/27 August (which was followed by four subsequent performances at the same venue). The company went on to perform the complete opera twice at the Grand Theatre in Birmingham between 5/17 and 10/22 September, the "Prison Act" (presumably Act II) at the Cardiff Grand Theatre and Opera House on 20 September/2 October, and gave extracts at concerts in the Royal Albert Hall in London daily from 26 September/8 October and 1/13 October [60]. The first complete production in London was given by the English National Opera at the Coliseum Theatre on 20 December 1984, conducted by Mark Elder.

In the United States, Mazepa was first produced at the Boston Opera House on 14 December 1922. The first complete performance in New York may have been as late as 1 May 1998, in a Kirov Opera production at the Metropolitan Opera House, conducted by Valery Gergiev.


During the summer of 1883, Tchaikovsky left Moscow for his brother Anatoly's dacha at Podushkino, where he corrected the proofs of the opera. On 14/26 July he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky: "I'm busy with the proofs... I've now developed an unhealthy obsession with the misprints and errors which disfigure the majority of my compositions. I'm doing all three sets of proofs myself in an enormous rush, so that I am ready to leave at the beginning of August [N.S.] [61]. Throughout July, the composer was weighed down with the enormous burden of proof-reading [62]. The proofs were completed at the end of July/beginning of August [63].

The piano arrangement was published by Jurgenson in August 1883, and it omitted the additional arioso for Mazepa (Act II, No. 10a) [64]. Jurgenson issued the choral parts in July 1883, and the full score of the Hopak (Act I, No. 4) separately in December 1883.

The posthumous edition of 1899 by Pyotr Jurgenson (full score and vocal-piano reduction), described on the title page as "Second edition, corrected by the author" [65], only includes the three cuts made by Tchaikovsky in March 1884; the change suggested by Bogomir Korsov in October 1884 was not included.

The full score and vocal-piano reduction of Mazepa were published in volumes 6 (1969) and 38 (1968) respectively of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by V. D. Vasilyev. They include the original versions of the scenes revised by the composer after the opera's premiere.


The Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow holds the following manuscript scores:

  • Full score of the Introduction and Act I (ф. 88, No. 30a) [view]
  • Full score of Act II (ф. 88, No. 30b) [view]
  • Full score of Act III (ф. 88, No. 30v) [view]
  • Vocal-piano arrangement of the Introduction and Act I (omitting the voice parts) (ф. 88, No. 31) [view]
  • Vocal-piano arrangement of Act III (omitting the voice parts) (ф. 88, No. 32) [view]
  • Vocal-piano arrangement, printed first edition (Jurgenson, 1883) with Tchaikovsky's corrections and revisions made in 1884 (ф. 88, No. 33) [view]
  • Libretto for the whole opera (ф. 88, No. 34) [view]

A sketch for some additions to Mariya's part in the scene with Mazepa (Act II, No. 11) is preserved in National Library of Russia (ф. 384) [view]


See: Discography

Related Works

  • Act I, No. 2. The Duet for Mariya and Andrey (bars 145–160 & 179–194) uses a theme which Tchaikovsky had previously set to the words Nessun maggior dolore. This is also heard in the orchestral introduction to Andrey's Arioso (Act III, No. 16, bars 48-51), and in Mariya's Lullaby (Act III, No. 19) after the words «Я девоцкой гуляла у нас в саду густом» [66].
  • Act I, No. 4. The chorus is based on the Ukrainian folksong 'There is no crossing, there is no ford' (Нету хода, нету брода).
  • Act I, No. 6. The Vivacissimo section of the Quarrel Scene includes a variant of the Ukrainian folksong 'It's already spring' (А вже весна)
  • Act II, No. 9. The orchestral introduction to the Dungeon Scene uses the theme from June (No. 6) of The Seasons [67],
  • Act II, No. 11. This scene (bars 146–150) includes quotations from the Act II Mazurka and 'Glory' (Славься) themes from Mikhail Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar.
  • Act II, No. 13. The Crowd Scenes include the Ukrainian folksong 'Hey, worrying makes me thirsty' (Гей, же, та и журба мене сушыла). The Drunken Cossack's song (bar 150) is set to the Russian folk tune 'To the end of the street' (Вдоль улицы ы конец).
  • Act III, No. 15. The Battle of Poltava entr'acte includes quotations from the Russian hymns 'Glory to God in the highest' (Уж как слава Тебе Боже на небеси) and 'God, preserve thy people' (Спаси, господи, люди твоя), as well as the 'Glory' (Славься) chorus from Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Letter 1740 to Karl Davydov, 5/17 May 1881.
  2. See letter from Karl Davydov to Tchaikovsky, 10/22 May 1881 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  3. See Letter 2034 to Nadezhda von Meck, 29 May/10 June 1882.
  4. Letter 1786 to Eduard Nápravník, 17/29 June 1881.
  5. From The Tchaikovsky Handbook. A guide to the man and his music, vol. 1 (2002), p. 54–55.
  6. Preserved only in a copy of the diary made by Modest TchaikovskyKlin House-Museum Archive.
  7. Letter 1839 to Sergey Taneyev, 23–25 August/4–6 September 1881.
  8. Letter 1860 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 2/14–3/15 October 1881.
  9. These rejected ideas included Romeo and Juliet and Vanka the Steward.
  10. See Letter 1906 to Nadezhda von Meck, 1/13–4/16 December 1881.
  11. See Letter 2034 to Nadezhda von Meck, 29 May/10 June–3/15 June 1882.
  12. See Letter 1906 to Nadezhda von Meck, 1/13–4/16 December 1881.
  13. See Letter 1912 to Nadezhda von Meck, 14/26–15/27 December 1881, and Letter 1918 to Eduard Nápravník, 26 December 1881/7 January 1882.
  14. Letter 2013 to Adolph Brodsky, 4/16 May 1882.
  15. Letter 2021 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 15/27 May 1882.
  16. Letter 2025 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 19/31 May–21 May/2 June 1882.
  17. Letter 2051 to Nadezhda von Meck, 24 June/6 July 1882.
  18. Letter 2055 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 June/12 July 1882.
  19. Evidently Tchaikovsky had in mind Act III, completed after the first act.
  20. i.e. Act II.
  21. Letter 2057 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 June/12 July 1882.
  22. Letter 2061 to Nadezhda von Meck, 12/24–13/25 July 1882.
  23. Letter 2071 to Sergey Taneyev, 28 July/9 August 1882.
  24. Letter 2085 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 23 August/4 September 1882.
  25. Letter 2084 to Nadezhda von Meck, 22–25 August/3–6 September 1882.
  26. See Letter 2090 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 30 August/11 September 1882.
  27. Letter 2101 to Nadezhda von Meck, 9/21 September 1882.
  28. Letter 2103 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22–13/25 September 1882.
  29. Letter 2107 to Nadezhda von Meck, 14/26 September 1882.
  30. Letter 2108 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 September 1882.
  31. Letter 2109 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 17/29 September 1882.
  32. Letter 2112 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 20 September/2 October 1882.
  33. Letter 2114 to Eduard Nápravník, 21 September/3 October 1882.
  34. See Letter 2118, 28 September/10 October 1882, and Letter 2123, 1/15–4/16 October 1882, to Modest Tchaikovsky.
  35. See Letter 2137 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 18/30 October 1882.
  36. Letter 2149 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 October/10 November–3/15 November 1882.
  37. Letter 2159 to Anna Aleksandrova-Levenson, 13/25 November 1882.
  38. See Letter 2168, 2/14 December 1882, and Letter 2171, 8/20 December 1882, to Modest Tchaikovsky.
  39. i.e. the orchestration of Act I.
  40. Letter 2173 to Nadezhda von Meck, 12/24–13/25 December 1882.
  41. Tchaikovsky sometimes used the term "copying out" for his work on making the arrangement for voices with piano.
  42. Letter 2177 to Lev Davydov, 25 December 1882/6 January 1883.
  43. Letter 2189 to Nadezhda von Meck, 3/15–5/17 January 1883. See also Letter 2188 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 3/15 January 1883.
  44. See Letter 2182 to Eduard Nápravník, 29 December 1882/10 January 1883.
  45. Letter 2195 to Nadezhda von Meck, 11/23 January 1883.
  46. Letter 2216 to Sergey Taneyev, 2/14 February 1883.
  47. Letter 2230 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 26 February/10 March–1/13 March 1883.
  48. See Letter 2248 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 25 March/6 April 1883.
  49. Letter 2258 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 9/21 April 1883.
  50. See Letter 2260, 11/23 April 1883, and Letter 2266, 16/28 April 1883, to Modest Tchaikovsky.
  51. Letter 2280 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 28 April/10 May 1883.
  52. See the reviews of the Moscow production in Московские ведомости, 9/21 February 1884, and Санкт-Пемербургские ведомости, 7/19 February 1884.
  53. Nikolay Vilde, Возобновление и воспоминание (1917), pp. 4–5.
  54. See Letter 2455 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 16/28 March 1884.
  55. Letter 2458 to Eduard Nápravník, 26 March/7 April 1884. In the original ending, Mariya was watched by a crowd as she rushed into the river.
  56. Letter 2459 to Sergey Taneyev, 1/13 April 1884.
  57. Act II, No. 11, bars 261 to 265. See Letter 2564 to Bogomir Korsov, 8/20 October 1884.
  58. Letter 2250 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 26 March/7 April 1883.
  59. See Letter 2285 to Nadezhda von Meck, 3/15 May 1883.
  60. The same opera company were also giving Anton Rubinstein's The Demon, Glinka's A Life for the Tsar and Verdi's Rigoletto, which alternated along with Mazepa from night to night. For this reason, it has not always been possible to determine which operas were being performed on specific dates, or the cast members for each role. See, for example, the advertisement for the Royal Albert Hall concerts in The Times [London]], 22 September 1888 [N.S.], page 1, col. 5. At promenade concerts in the Queen's Hall, London, Henry Wood conducted the Hopak (Act I, No. 4a) on 16/28 September 1899, and the Battle of Poltava (Act III, No. 15) on 4/16 August 1904, both of which were advertised as being their first performances in England, although it is possible that the organisers were unaware of the earlier Russian Opera tour.
  61. Letter 2310 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 14/26 July 1883.
  62. See letters to Modest Tchaikovsky, Nadezhda von Meck and Pyotr Jurgenson from July 1883.
  63. See Letter 2321 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 1/13 August 1883.
  64. Passed by the censor on 27 July/8 August 1883.
  65. Passed by the censor on 28 August/9 September 1899.
  66. We are most grateful to Mr Simone Mantelli for identifying the quotation in the finale.
  67. We are most grateful to Mr Jean-Jacques Bärtschi for bringing this to our attention.