The Maid of Orleans

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The Maid of Orleans (Орлеанская дева), in 4 acts and 6 scenes (TH 6 ; ČW 6), is Tchaikovsky's sixth completed opera, based on the historical legend of Joan of Arc. It was composed between December 1878 and March 1879, and orchestrated between April and August 1879, with revisions in December 1880, and September-October 1882.


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

There are twelve singing roles:

  • Joan of Arc (Иоанна д'Арк) — soprano or mezzo-soprano
  • King Charles VII (Король Карл VII) — tenor
  • Agnes Sorel (Агнесса Сорель) — soprano
  • Dunois (Дюнуа) — baritone
  • Lionel (Лионель) — baritone
  • Cardinal (Кардинал) — bass
  • Raimond (Раймонд) — tenor
  • Thibaut d'Arc (Тибо д'Арк) — bass
  • Bertrand (Бертран) — bass
  • Soldier (Воин) — 2nd bass
  • Lauret (Лоре) — 2nd bass
  • Angel (Ангел) — soprano.

The role of the Cardinal was originally an Archbishop (Архиепископ), but this was changed before the premiere at the insistence of the censor.

Movements and Duration

Tchaikovsky's original score contains an introduction and 23 individual numbers. The last two acts are each divided into two scenes. 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)
Andante con moto—Allegro vivo
Act I No. 1 Chorus of Maidens (Хор девушек)
Пока на небе не погас
Poka na nebe ne pogas
No. 2 Scene (Сцена)
Не подуше мне песни ваши игры
Ne podushe mne pesni vashi igry
Trio (Трио)
Пусть попрежнему свободно
Pust poprezhnemu svobodno
No. 3 Scene (Сцена)
Ответь же, Иоанна
Otvet zhe, Ioanna
No. 4 Chorus of People (Хор народа)
Allegro vivo
Вдали пожар
Vdali pozhar
Scene (Сцена)
Moderato assai
Боже! Помилуй короля и наш народ!
Bozhe! Pomniluy korolya i nash narod!
No. 5 Scene (Сцена)
Moderato assai
О братья и друзья
O bratya i druzya
No. 6 Hymn (Гимн)
Moderato assai quasi Andantino
Царь вишних сил
Tsar vishnikh sil
No. 7 Joan's Aria (Ария Иоанны)
Moderato assai—Andantino. Alla breve
Да, час настал!
Da, chas nastal!
No. 8 Finale (Финал)
Allegro moderato
Но силы будут ли
No sily budut li
Chorus of Angels (Хор ангелов)
Moderato—Allegro moderato e maestoso
Надеть должна ты латы боевые
Nadet dolzhna ty laty boyevye
Act II No. 9 Entr'acte (Антракт)
Allegro molto vivace (Tre battute)
No. 10 Chorus of Minstrels (Хор менестрелей)
Бегут года и дни бессменой чередою
Begut goda i dni bessmenoy cheredoyu
No. 11a Gypsies' Dance (Пляска цыган)
Allegro vivace
No. 11b Dance of the Pages and Dwarves (Танец пажей и карликов)
Allegro moderato
No. 11c Dance of the Clowns and Tumblers (Пляска шутов и скоморохов)
Allegro molto
No. 12 Scene (Сцена)
Доволен вами я!
Dovolen vami ya!
Duet (Дуэт)
О, молю, послешай: враг под Орлеаном
O, molyu, posleshay: vrag pod Orleanom
No. 13 Agnes's Arioso (Ариозо Агнессы)
Ужасная свершается судьба
Uzhasnaya svershayetsya sudba
Duettino (Дуэттино)
Lento con anima
Ах, с тобой и бедствия
Akh, s toboy i bedstviya
No. 14 Scene (Сцена)
Allegro moderato
Да здравствует
Da zdravstvuet
Cardinal's Narrative (Рассказ Кардинала)
Allegro moderato
Государь, за нас всевышний
Gosudar, za nas vsevyshny
No. 15 Joan's Narrative (Рассказ Иоанны)
Moderato assai quasi Andante—Moderato e semplice
Ты ль, дивная?
Ty l, divnaya?
No. 16 Finale (Финал)
Moderato assai maestoso quasi Andante
Должно молчать перед глаголом неба
Dolzhno molchat pered glagolom neba
Act III Scene 1 No. 17 Scene (Сцена)
Allegro vivo
Стой, стой, ты погиб!
Stoy, stoy, ty pogib!
Duet (Дуэт)
Allegro moderato
О Боже мой, зачем
O Bozhe moy, zachem
Scene 2 No. 18 March (Марш)
Marcia. Allegro moderato
No. 19 Scene (Сцена)
Andante ma non troppo
Воротимся, мой добрый Арк
Vorotimsya, moy dobry Ark
Duettino (Дуэттино)
Molto meno mosso
О, не губи молю тебя
O, ne gubi molyu tebya
No. 20 Finale (Финал)
Moderato—Allegro vivo
Тебя, зиждителя, творца
Tebya, zizhditelya, tvortsa
Act IV Scene 1 No. 21 Introduction (Интродукция)
Andante non troppo quasi Moderato
Scene (Сцена)
Andante non troppo quasi Moderato
Как! Мне, мне любовию пылать?
Kak! Mne, mne lyuboviyu pylat?
No. 22 Duet (Дуэт)
О, чудный, сладкий сон!
O, chudny, sladky son!
Scene (Сцена)
Moderato—Allegro vivace
Мне небо истину вещало
Mne nebo istinu veshchalo
Scene 2 No. 23 Final Scene (Финальная сцена)
Moderato assai. Tempo di Marcia funebre
Ведут! Ведут! Уж видно чародейку!
Vedut! Vedut! Uzh vidno charodeyku!

A complete performance of the opera lasts around 160 minutes.


The opera's libretto was compiled by Tchaikovsky, after Friedrich Schiller's tragedy Die Jungfrau von Orleans (1801) in a Russian translation by Vasily Zhukovsky, with additional material from Auguste Mermet's opera Jeanne d'Arc and Jules Barbier's drama of the same name [1].

During the summer of 1878 Tchaikovsky began to look for a subject for a new opera.

"Here I'm writing the Introduzione e Fuga. Both of them will go to make up a suite, which I want to do now in order to take a long break from symphonic music, and set about an opera. What shall it be? Romeo or Les Caprices de Marianne?", Tchaikovsky wrote in the summer of 1878 [2].

Many of the composer's statements dating from the summer and autumn of 1878 indicate his desire to find a plot for an opera that could inspire him. Ultimately a subject was found. On 21 November/3 December 1878 [3], Tchaikovsky writes to Nadezhda von Meck: "I am attracted by a new operatic subject, namely: The Maid of Orleans by Schiller [...] The idea of writing an opera based on this story came to me in Kamenka while I was leafing through Zhukovsky, who has translated Schiller's The Maid of Orleans. It has wonderful potential for music [...] I was pondering the subject before my last visit to Saint Petersburg, but now I am seriously interested" [4].

Intending to write the libretto himself, Tchaikovsky embarked on studying the story. The composer did not restrict himself to Schiller's drama only: he sought to incorporate a variety of historical and artistic sources [5]. On 6/18 December 1878 he told Nadezhda von Meck: "For the moment I have only Schiller's drama translated by Zhukovsky. Obviously the opera text cannot be based strictly on Schiller's scenario. There are too many characters, too many minor episodes. It requires a reworking, not just an abridgement..." [6]. "I want to burrow in catalogues and obtain a small collection of books on Jeanne d'Arc" [7]. "I'm thinking a very great deal about the libretto and can't yet make a definite plan. There's much that pleases me in Schiller, but I must admit I'm disturbed by his disdain for historical accuracy" [8].

Tchaikovsky developed the libretto concurrently with the music. After completing the first Act, he described the scenario of the opera to Nadezhda von Meck on 10/22 January 1879:

Act I. Peasant girls decorate the magical oak of Domrémy with wreaths and sing a chorus. Joan, her father and her prétendu [fiancé] enter. Her father says it is no time to sing and rejoice, when France is dying. "In such burdensome times," he says, "a woman should have a steadfast protector", and he proposes Joan to marry her prétendu, who loves her very much. Joan keeps silent. He presses on. The fiancé asks him not to compel her. Trio. Finally Joan says that God has chosen another destiny for her. The old man is angry suspecting (as in Schiller) that she might have entered into alliance with devilry. He casts reproaches and threats upon her. The glow of a fire is seen in the sky and sounds of alarm are heard. Peasants fleeing English soldiers appear with their wives and children, seeking refuge. One of them summarizes what has happened and the position in which France finds itself. Everyone believes they are destined to die. Joan makes a speech then, prophesying in ecstasy that Orleans is going to be free and France will be saved. Everyone is astonished and the chorus says that "there are no more miracles in our times". "There are miracles," she replies, "and one has just happened." Salisbury (the principal and most fearsome commander of the enemy) has been killed. No one dares to believe this. A warrior who struggled through the enemy's camp appears and confirms the news. An ensemble and a prayer. Everyone leaves. Joan is left alone. She decides that it is time to fulfil her calling. But she is suddenly filled with fear and anguish of parting with her homeland. The chorus of angels reaffirms her. She asks for this cup to pass from her. The angels inspire her with resolution and courage. She goes into her religious raptures again and makes the final decision.

Act II. In the castle of Chinon at the King's court. The weak but good-natured King sits with his Agnès and is engaged in listening to minstrels singing. When they are finished he expresses his delight and orders for the singers to be fed and "be given a golden chain each". Dunois tells him there are not only no chains but no gold at all in the treasury. The King is upset. Agnès leaves to collect her jewellery and give it to the cause. Dunois tries to instil into the King his duty to lead the army and fight. The King is ready even to fight but he is in love with Agnès and it is hard for him to part with her. Dunois reminds him of his duty in a harsh tone. Duet. The King is filled with enthusiasm and decides "to turn the court into a military camp". At this point one of the knights (Lebar le duc) appears and says that the battle is lost, and he comes to die at the feet of his King and show him that it is no time for songs, and they all must die for their motherland. But the King, losing hope in any possible success, wants to flee beyond the [River] Loire. Dunois reproaches him and leaves. The King is alone and in sombre reverie. Agnès enters. She tries to hearten him. Mutual declaration of love. Suddenly Dunois, the Cardinal and knights come running and tell him that a miracle has happened: a wondrous maid appeared and the battle was won. After that the enthusiastic cheers of folk are heard and Joan enters. In order to test her, the King seats Dunois instead of himself, but she is not fooled and addresses the real King. She then tells a story of her visions and how she was told that she is going to save France, but provided that earthly love would never touch her soul. Everyone believes in her. An ensemble is sung and then there's a loud finale.

'Act III. Scene 1. I still have not completely thought out this scene. Here she is to meet (according to Schiller) with Lionel or Montgomery (it does not really matter) and fall in love with him, as a result of which she will be unable to complete her destiny.

Scene 2. The coronation in Rheims. March. The King publicly recognizes Joan's service and expresses belief in the power that is given to her from above. Her father appears then and says that she deceived everyone and that her powers come from hell, not from heaven, that she's a witch, etc. "If I am mistaken, let her publicly declare that she has an undoubtedly pure heart," he says. Everyone demands her to do so but she keeps silent, believing herself guilty. Three times the Cardinal asks her and three times lightning strikes when she does not answer. Everyone is dumbfounded and leaves. Joan is left alone. Lionel (or Montgomery), who changed alliances and pledged vows to the King out of his love, approaches her [9] and expresses his desire to be with her always. She flees him.

Act IV. Scene 1, Also not wholly thought out yet. It takes place in the woods. Lionel pursues Joan, who is fleeing him. He falls in love with her. When she curses him and dismisses him like her worst enemy, he turns her over to the English as an act of revenge.

Scene 2. In Rouen. Joan is lead to the fire. Lionel dies at the foot of the scaffold, struck by lightning. Joan is at the pyre. People slowly begin to realize that she is wrongly accused and start to protest. The execution is quickened. She mounts the scaffold. She is crestfallen, but the chorus of angels support her. The first tongues of flame appear at the bottom. Everyone screams in horror, the curtain falls.

This whole scene is set up nicely by Barbier, and I am going to borrow it from him" [10].

On 20 January/1 February 1879, the composer sent Modest Tchaikovsky the scenario of the opera in its final version. The amendments mainly concerned the last two scenes. In the second version, Lionel does not betray Joan in the first scene of Act IV, but instead tries to protect her with his blade and dies at the hands of Englishmen.


The action takes place in France in the early 15th century.

Act I. By a stream and a chapel in the village of Domremy, Joan's father, Thibaut, presses her to marry Raimond, but she refuses. Refugees enter, fleeing from the conquering English army. Joan prophesies the death of the English general, to the scepticism of the villagers, but her prophecy is confirmed by a soldier who has returned from Orleans. The voice of an angel tells Joan that she must lead France against her enemies. She bids farewell to her family and friends.

Act II. In a hall in the Chinon castle, King Charles VII of France is being entertained by dancers and tumblers. The knight Dunois presses the King to take action about the English, but the King cannot bring himself to leave Agnes Sorel. A dying warrior, Lauret, arrives with news of another defeat. Just as all begin to despair, the Cardinal arrives, telling of how an unknown girl has guided the army to victory. Joan is brought in, and she impresses the court with her story of divine inspiration, whereupon the King names her as commander of the French army.

Act III. Somewhere near the battlefield (Scene 1), Joan defeats Lionel, a knight from Burgundy who is fighting on the side of the English. She takes pity on him and spares his life. Unwillingly they fall in love. When Dunois appears, Lionel surrenders to him, and offers to fight for France. In the square before Rheims Cathedral (Scene 2), Thibaut interrupts the coronation ceremony to denounce Joan as an evil sorceress. When the Cardinal asks Joan whether she considers herself to be pure and holy, Joan feels guilty about her love for Lionel, and fails to defend herself. A violent storm breaks out, and the superstitious crowd interpret this as a sign from God that Joan is guilty. The King banishes her from the city.

Act IV. Lionel finds Joan hiding in the forest (Scene 1), and they declare their love. An angel appears and warns Joan that she will be punished for succumbing to earthly love. English soldiers suddenly appear, and they kill Lionel and capture Joan. At a square in Rouen (Scene 2), Joan is tied to the stake, and the fire is lit [11].


At the same time as his work on the libretto, Tchaikovsky set about composing music for a scene, taken "right from Zhukovsky" [12]. "It takes place in the King's court, starting from Joan's entrance" [13] .

On 5/17 December 1878 the composer told Nadezhda von Meck: "Today I've spent all morning and the all the time after lunch [...] on a new work! With apprehension and anxiety, but without timidity, I set about an opera!" [14].

On 6/18 December he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky: "The opera is begun!!! And rather successfully too. What a rich subject!" [15]. On 9/21 December the scene he had begun composing was finished.

Tchaikovsky told Nadezhda von Meck about his work on 10/22 December: "Despite the fact that I finished the initial scene with great success, I still feel uneasy. This is always the way with me, when contemplating a large and captivating work. It is very hard to describe this condition. I want to keep writing and writing [...] Thoughts flood my head, leaving no room to each other, driving me to despair in the face of my human infirmity [...] I wish I could just finish all of it right now with a single stroke of my pen!" [16].

On 26 December 1878/7 January 1879: "The stock of materials I need for Jeanne d'Arc is ready. I'm glad to have obtained Michelet's book; it gives me much useful information. As for Mermet's opera, I found its scenario rather poor, but there are two or three effective scenes I might make use of. In the end I came to the conclusion that although Schiller's tragedy does not coincide with historical truth, it surpasses all other artistic depictions of Joan in its depth of psychological realism" [17].

On 31 December 1878/12 January 1879: "Today I have already started and begun to write the chorus for the first act. The composing of this opera is going to be complicated by the fact that I do not have a finished libretto and did not even draw up a plan of the scenario. So far I have compiled a detailed program of the first act and am slowly writing the text, borrowing, of course, mostly from Zhukovsky, but using other sources too, especially Barbier, whose tragedy on "Joan's" story has many advantages. But either way, I have to write the words by myself, which does not come easily to me" [18].

On 1/13 January 1879: "The work is going well. A routine has evolved as follows [...] Compose the opera before dinner. After dinner take a long walk. After returning, I read and work on the libretto. I've surrounded myself with plenty of sources and am writing the libretto, the plan for which is already developed; in the evening I prepare for myself a specific scene, or the text of a chorus or aria, for the next morning. This way I will be progressing with both the music and writing in parallel" [19].

On 2/14 January 1879: "The libretto is going to be very good: it's not entirely based on Schiller. I borrowed a lot from Mermet and Barbier, and I came up with some things of my own. There are going to be very nice scenes. I will be writing carefully, but without haste" [20].

On 3/15 January 1879: "I worked very successfully on a scene from the first act of the opera, when the chorus of peasants appears, running from the pursuing Englishmen" [21].

On 4/16 January 1879: "I sat down to work. For some reason I made slow progress to start with, which then conversely grew very heated (Joan's arioso) and didn't notice how the time flew by..." [22].

On 5/17 January 1879: "I finished the big ensemble from the first act before the closing scene (Joan's solo, the chorus of angels)" [23].

On 7/19 January 1879: "I'm up to my neck in the opera. It has progressed so much that in a matter of three days I'm going to have finished the large first act. The work is going very easily..." [24].

On 9/21 January 1879: "The first act is finished [...] Before supper I sat and sweated over the scene between the King and Dunois, and fretted over rhymes" [25].

On 10/22 January 1879: "I'm writing the duet of Dunois with the King today... I dawdled over the second part of the text of King and Dunois' duet for three hours, but emerged victorious..." [26]. On this day he told Nadezhda von Meck that "The first act is completely ready" [27].

On 11/23 January, Tchaikovsky reported: "I have finished the duet, of which I'm very proud, but the second half gave me some trouble. You know that I've already finished the first act. Now I have the smaller first half of the second act left to write (the second half I did in Florence)..." [28].

At around this time, while working on the second act, Tchaikovsky took the decision to transfer the original final movement of his Suite No. 1, entitled Dance of the Lilliputians, to The Maid of Orleans, where it became the Dance of the Clowns and Tumblers (Act II, No. 11c) [29].

On 15/27 January: "I have completed two acts, and the remaining two are planned and thought out... Tomorrow I want to prepare some material for myself, meaning that I'm going to write the text of the third act's first scene (of fundamental importance)..." [30].

"If this opera won't be a masterpiece in general, it will be my masterpiece! Its simplicity of style is absolute. The forms are uncluttered. In a word, this is going to be the most dramatic contrast to Vakula", Tchaikovsky wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky on 17/29 January 1879 [31].

On 19/31 January: "I began the third act..." [32]

On 20 January/1 February, the composer described the whole scenario of the opera in a letter to Modest Tchaikovsky: "If you don't like the scenario, then please hide the fact from me, because it is too late to change anything" [33].

On 23 January/4 February: "I have finished the first scene of the third act and will proceed to the first scene of the fourth one tomorrow... I have come to the conclusion that opera must be the sort of music that is the most accessible of all. Operatic style should relate to symphonic and chamber music, like decorative paintings to academic ones. Of course it does not follow from this that operatic music should be the most banal or most vulgar. No! It is not about the quality of thoughts but the style, the means of expression" [34].

On 29 January/10 February: "I'm very pleased with myself. I have the first and the second acts fully ready, as well as the first scenes of the third and the fourth acts, and the introduction is almost ready" [35].

On 31 January/12 February: "Today I wrote the text for the second scene of the third act, and also began working on the music for it" [36].

On 3/15 February: "I have written the grand coronation march which starts the second scene of the third act" [37].

On 6/18 February, Tchaikovsky went to Paris where he continued his work.

On 10/22 February, the composer worked on the septet from Act III, which, in his words, presented "big technical obstacles. The first part of the septet is already done. If I am not mistaken, it is good" [38]. All through the following days he worked very intensively. According to the draft manuscript, the fourth act was finished on 17 February/1 March.

On 10/22 February he wrote: "All this time I have been pleasantly occupied with work, and successfully finished a big ensemble from the second scene of the second act" [sic] [39] .

On 19 February/3 March: "If nothing interferes then the opera will be finished in a week. I have written it remarkably quickly. The whole secret is to work every day and carefully. In this matter I impose an iron will on myself, and when there is no particular desire to work I always force myself to overcome my disinclination and become carried away" [40].

On 21 February/5 March the composition of the opera was finished [41].

In his letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 24 February/8 March, the composer wrote: "First let me inform you that the opera is completed. It happened three days ago and I myself did not expect that. You see, the last two days of my work I was in an extraordinarily favourable mood and the work progressed amazingly fast. The day before yesterday, yesterday and today I was engaged in reviewing and refining some details both in the opera and the suite. At this minute I have everything ready down to the smallest detail, and only have to sit down, arm myself with a pen and start writing the full score" [42] .

On 26 April/8 May 1879 Tchaikovsky reported from Kamenka: "I began the instrumentation of the opera today. It is a very large, but very pleasant task, not in the least onerous or demanding effort" [43]. Then work was interrupted. On 3/15 May, Tchaikovsky left for Brailov and was distressed that he "did a foolish thing in not taking the score along" [44]. Tchaikovsky's work on the full score resumed on 15/27 May when he returned to Kamenka [45]. The work progressed fervently. By 29 May/10 June the first act was finished, and on 30 May/1 June he began Act II [46]. By 16/28 June the score for the second act was completed [47]. Due to Tchaikovsky's visit to his ill friend Nikolay Kondratyev at Nizy, work was interrupted again. Tchaikovsky started the instrumentation of Act III again on 8/20 July, back in Kamenka [48]. Over the course of a week he orchestrated "the whole of the very complicated first scene of the third act" [49], and on 15/27 July he proceeded to Act II. By late July/early August, Tchaikovsky was still working in Kamenka on the third act, finishing it there in August, hoping in Simaki "to do the whole fourth and last act" [50]. Tchaikovsky actually orchestrated the fourth act in Simaki between 9/21 August and 21 August/2 September [51]. At the end of the first scene of Act IV there is the author's note: "(Simaki, 15 Aug. 1879)" [O.S.]. At the end of the opera on the manuscript full score is the composer's date: "(Started in Florence on 23 November 1879. Finished in Simaki on 23 August 1879)" [O.S.].

However, in the process of preparing the opera for the stage it was slightly amended, as Tchaikovsky explained to Eduard Nápravník in a letter of 11/23 December 1880:

Today I have sent you the full score (original) and a proof copy of the vocal-piano reduction containing my corrections. Might I trouble you to copy two significant changes I made in my score to the duplicate they have at the Directorate Office. I assume that you will probably find it convenient to have my manuscript to hand, and therefore I ask you to keep it as long as it pleases you. I have made the following changes:

1) in the duet of the King and Dunois, in accordance with your suggestion, I deleted the allegro and instead slightly extended the previous phrase:

2) In Act III I discarded the finale and the music around the time of the third thunderclap, and remodelled it:

Here are important changes. In the case of the E-major episode in the duet from the last act, after a long and tormented hesitation I preferred (considering Kamenskaya's voice) to disfigure the melody rather than to change its key. My sensibilities are vehemently opposed to the transposition of this passage. After all, Kamenskaya isn't the only singer, is she? We cannot, in my opinion, impose on Makarova to sing lower than it is written. If she is to sing the part, let her at least sing this passage as it is.

Generally speaking I have made every possible change in Joan's part for Kamenskaya, but I must tell you frankly that this was terribly difficult for me. It may very well be that I spent insufficient time reducing the number of high notes in her part. If so, then I ask you, dear friend, to make alterations yourself where you see fit. It will be easier for you than for me. For in the phrase we've talked about:

I couldn't think of anything else to replace it and therefore I confined myself to correcting the mistake you've pointed out in your list and rearranged the notes so that they would not be so high. Here, as in the duet from the fourth act, I could not come up with anything new. I am too accustomed to familiar patterns of modulations and harmonies to be able to successfully replace unsuitable passages with something new. It is better to let the contour of the melody be disfigured, than the essence of the musical idea itself which conforms to the modulation and harmony that I'm used to.

In ensemble of the third act I moved the B-major melody from Joan's part to Agnès's. All in all, I've done everything I can [52].

In 1880, when the opera was presented to the Directorate of the Imperial Theatres for performance, the censor would only permit its staging on condition that several alterations were made. Tchaikovsky wrote about this in a letter to Pyotr Jurgenson from 18/30 September 1880: "I'm sending you a document from the Censorship department that director Kondratyev sent me along with the libretto they've censored. You'll see what strange corrections they've requested but I was obliged to comply. I've made slight alterations to the words, and had to make a cut in the final scene [...] I've heard you were going to visit Saint Petersburg. Could you be so kind as to petition the chief printing office to allow me to change the Archbishop not to a Pilgrim but to a Cardinal; the Pilgrim makes no sense, and if there's a Cardinal in the opera La Juive, then they must allow me to have one too" [53]. In a letter of 14/26 October 1880, Pyotr Jurgenson sent Tchaikovsky the censor's permit, and in the second edition of the opera the Archbishop was replaced by the Cardinal [54].

According to his contemporaries, in the 1890s Tchaikovsky was going to revise the third and the fourth acts of the opera. In his recollections of Tchaikovsky, Vladimir Pogozhev mentions their discussion about alterations to The Maid of Orleans [55]. Ultimately the composer had no time to carry out this intention. Modest Tchaikovsky recalled: "Just before his demise, on the day his deadly illness began, Pyotr Ilyich talked much to me of his wish to change the last scene, to make it correspond to Schiller; for this purpose he bought Zhukovsky's complete works, but did not even have the opportunity to re-read the tragedy" [56].


The vocal-piano reduction was arranged by Tchaikovsky (Introduction and Act IV), Yury Messer (Acts I and II), and Iosif Kotek (Act III) [57].

Tchaikovsky's work was completed by 4/16 September 1879 [58], although at the same time he also corrected the vocal-piano reduction of the first act at the request of Yury Messer, which required a large number of corrections. On 4/16 September 1879, Tchaikovsky wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson [59] from Saint Petersburg that he was sending him the full score and arrangements of Acts III and IV, and Yury Messer's arrangement with his own corrections [60].

In September and October, while simultaneously proofreading other works, Tchaikovsky corrected the vocal-piano reduction of Act II made by Yury Messer. In early/mid-November the composer travelled abroad, where he remained until early/mid-March 1880, working on the composition of new works (the Piano Concerto No. 2 and Italian Capriccio). Only in May, while staying at Kamenka, did he resume proofreading of the vocal-piano reductions, hurrying to have the score ready for Eduard Nápravník by 1/13 August. On 18/30 July the proofs were sent to Pyotr Jurgenson [61].


The opera's opening night took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg at Eduard Nápravník's benefit performance under his baton on 13/25 February 1881, with soloists including: Mariya Kamenskaya (Joan), Mikhail Vasilyev III (King), Wilhelmina Raab (Agnes), Fyodor Stravinsky (Dunois), Ippolit Pryanishnikov (Lionel), Vladimir Mayboroda (Cardinal), Fyodor Sokolov (Raimond) and Mikhail Koryakin (Thibaut) [62].

In January 1882, the opera was withdrawn from the repertoire of the Saint Petersburg theatres. In September of the same year, the directorate approached Tchaikovsky with a request to transpose Joan's part for mezzo-soprano. Tchaikovsky had to return to work on the opera yet again [63]. The alterations were made by 7/19 October 1882. "I've spent ten days confined to my desk over this exhausting task," the composer wrote on 8/20 October to Nadezhda von Meck [64]. All the changes made were described by Tchaikovsky in a letter to Eduard Nápravník of 7/19 October 1882 [65]: the key of the chorus of angels singing with Joan was changed, as well as the orchestration of the first act's finale, Joan's narrative in the second act was abridged, some key changes were made in the first and the second duets of Joan with Lionel due to the transpositions of vocal parts (mainly Joan's), and the music in the scene of Joan's capture was shortened. In the same letter Tchaikovsky asked that the duet of Thibaut and Raimond in the third act should be restored. Eduard Nápravník accepted all the changes except for the restoration of Thibaut and Raimond's duet [66].

In this form, the opera lasted one more season before being taken off the stages of the Imperial Theatres [67]. Tchaikovsky himself wrote about the short-lived and unfortunate stage presence of the opera in a letter to Ivan Vsevolozhsky of 25 November/7 December 1887: "This opera was staged before your time, and was poverty-stricken. This apart, in default of a soprano I had to entrust the main role to Kamenskaya and disfigure many passages in the opera with cuts and transpositions. Kamenskaya strained her voice with an unsuitable part, and the opera was taken off for a year. When you joined the directorate, the opera was revived and you asked for the setting to be improved. As a consequence I had to make new cuttings and new disfigurements to the original score, so that it was presented not at all in the form in which it was written and intended. In the meantime, looking through The Maid of Orleans, I found it had the necessary ingredients for success, if the first edition were to be restored and a new, preferably beautiful setting were made" . The composer's wish was not fulfilled [68], and the opera was not resumed in its original version during his lifetime.

However, The Maid of Orleans was the first of Tchaikovsky's operas to be staged outside Russia. On 16/28 July 1882 the opera was staged at the Summer Theatre in Prague, in a Czech translation by Václav Novotný. The conductor was Adolf Čech, and the soloists: Irma Reichova (Joan), Václav Soukup (King), Helena Frommova (Agnes), F. Christal (Dunois), Josef Lev (Lionel), Adolf Kressing (Raimond), J. Chlumetsky (Thibaut), V. Mikolaš (Bertrand), V. Zapotocki (Lauret).

The complete opera was performed at the Tiflis Opera Theatre on 19/31 December 1886, in a production conducted by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov [69]. The same conductor gave the Moscow premiere on 3/15 February 1899, with members of Savva Mamontov's Private Opera company, including Yelena Tsvetkova (Joan), Vasily Shkafer (King) and Pyotr Olyonin (Dunois) [70].

Tchaikovsky conducted Joan's Aria (Act I, No. 7) at his concert at the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Society on 5/17 November 1888 (soloist: Mariya Kamenskaya), and in Warsaw on 2/14 January 1892 (soloist: Nina Fride) [71].

The first complete production of the opera in the United States was given at the Pioneer Theatre in Reno (Nevada) on 13 May 1976, in an English translation (as "Joan of Arc") by the Nevada Opera Company, conducted by Ted Puffer. A complete concert performance, in Russian, was given at Carnegie Hall in New York on 28 February 1990 by the Opera Orchestra of New York, the Yale Russian Chorus and New York Choral Society, conducted by Eve Queler [72]. In Britain, the first complete production took place at the Collegiate Theatre in London on 22 February 1978, with Guy Woolfenden conducting the University College Opera [73].


The vocal-piano reduction was ready for publication in August 1880 [74], but its distribution for sale was delayed at the insistence of Tchaikovsky himself [75]. On 31 August/12 September the composer wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "The Maid of Orleans is completely ready for printing, but I don't want it to come out before the first performance" [76].

In January 1881, a two-handed arrangement for piano by Eduard Langer appeared for sale, and in April the vocal-piano reduction was finally published [77]. In 1884 the vocal-piano reduction was published in a new version. Tchaikovsky wrote on 25 May/6 June 1881 to Pyotr Jurgenson about the corrections that were supposed to appear in the second edition, sending the copy with his corrections at the same time:

1st cut and correction — Act II, No. 12, between pages 166 and 173.

2nd cut and correction. Act III, No. 20. Finale, pages 370–407. These are two significant changes that I wish to keep. Apart from these, bearing in mind the circumstances of the Saint Petersburg's production, there were some cuts and re-ordering of parts made which were of only local significance.

And so everything else is left as before. But if you are to make a second edition you need to correct some misprints at the same time and, according to the requests of the censor, change the Archbishop to a Cardinal [...] It's necessary on pages 449, 450, 451, 452 where I've put the two footnotes and signs. That way we'll satisfy the theatrical censor, and avoid the need to abridge the music I value there [78].

The full score of the opera was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in 1899 with a supplement containing all the changes made by Tchaikovsky [79].

The full score and vocal-piano reduction were published in volumes 5 (1964) and 37 (1946) respectively of the composer's Complete Collected Works, edited by V. D. Vasilyev. They include the original versions of passages subsequently revised in later editions.


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

  • Full score of the Introduction and Acts I and II (Ф. 88, No. 39a) [view].
  • Full score of Acts III and IV (Ф. 88, No. 39b) [view].
  • Vocal-piano arrangement of the Introduction by the composer (Ф. 88, No. 40) [view].
  • Vocal-piano arrangement of Acts I and II by Yury Messer, with Tchaikovsky's annotations (Ф. 88, No. 40a) [view].
  • Vocal-piano arrangement of Act III by Iosif Kotek, with Tchaikovsky's annotations (Ф. 88, No. 40b) [view].
  • Vocal-piano arrangement of Act IV by the composer (Ф. 88, No. 40b) [view].
  • Vocal-piano arrangement, revised version of the aria and chorus (Act I, No. 8) for mezzo-soprano (Ф. 88, No. 41) [view].
  • Libretto for the whole opera (Ф. 88, No. 42) [view].


See: Discography


The opera was dedicated to Eduard Nápravník (1839–1916), chief conductor of the Imperial Theatres in Saint Petersburg.

Related Works

Act II, No. 10. The Minstrels' Chorus (Act II, No. 10) includes the French song 'Mes belles amourettes', which Tchaikovsky also used as the Old French Song (No. 16) from the Children's Album (1878).

Act II, No. 11c. Dance of the Clowns and Tumblers was the original final movement of Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 1 (1878-79), with the working title Dance of the Liliputians.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Jules Barbier's drama Jeanne d'Arc, in 5 acts, 7 scenes with music by Charles Gounod was first performed in Paris on 8 November 1873 [N.S.]. According to Félix Clément (1822–1885), this drama represented events with historical accuracy. Among the musical numbers, Clément highly rated the chorus of refugees, the soldiers' chorus, and the funeral march — see Félix Clément & Pierre Larousse, Dictionnaire des opéras (Dictionnaire lyrique) (1897 edition, revised by Arthur Pougin), p. 604. Auguste Mermet's opera Jeanne d'Arc, in 4 acts, 6 scenes, was first performed in Paris on 5 April 1876 [N.S.].
  2. See Letter 900 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 21 August/2 September 1878.
  3. The original gives an incorrect [N.S.] date of "2 December".
  4. Letter 973 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 November/3 December 1878; see also Letter 966 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 13/25 November 1878.
  5. See Letter 968 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 November 1878; Letter 976 to Nadezhda von Meck, 23 November/5 December 1878; Letter 1016 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 11/23 December 1878; and Letter 1008 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 6/18 December 1878.
  6. Letter 1007 to Nadezhda von Meck, 6/18 December 1878.
  7. See Letter 1007 to Nadezhda von Meck, 6/18 December 1878.
  8. Letter 1013 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22 December 1878.
  9. "This isn't too implausible because Schiller, in accordance with history, has the Duke of Burgundy go over from the English to be on the King's side" — footnote by Tchaikovsky.
  10. Letter 1065 to Nadezhda von Meck, 10/22 January 1879.
  11. From The Tchaikovsky Handbook. A guide to the man and his music, vol. 1 (2002), p. 47.
  12. See Letter 1007 to Nadezhda von Meck, 6/18 December 1878.
  13. Letter 1013 to Modest Tchaikovsky,10/22 December 1878.
  14. Letter 1005 to Nadezhda von Meck, 5/17 December 1878. For more about the work on this scene, see Letter 1008 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 6/18 December [1878; Letter 1010 to Nadezhda von Meck, 8/20 December 1878; and Letter 1011 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 8/20 December 1878.
  15. Letter 1007 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 6/18 December 1878.
  16. Letter 1012 to Nadezhda von Meck, 10/22 December 1878; see also Letter 1013 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22 December 1878.
  17. Letter 1038 to Nadezhda von Meck, 26 December 1878/7 January 1879; see also Letter 1035 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 22 December 1878/3 January 1879.
  18. Letter 1049 to Nadezhda von Meck, 31 December 1878/12 January 1879.
  19. Letter 1050 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 1/13 January 1879.
  20. Letter 1051 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 2/14 January 1879; see also Letter 1961 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 7/19 January 1879.
  21. Letter 1057 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 4/16 January 1879.
  22. Letter 1057 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 4/16 January 1879.
  23. Letter 1059 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 6/18 January 1879.
  24. Letter 1061 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 7/19 January 1879; see also Letter 1062 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 7/19–8/20 January 1879.
  25. Letter 1064 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 9/21 January 1879.
  26. Letter 1066 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22–11/23 January 1879.
  27. Letter 1065 to Nadezhda von Meck, 10/22 January 1879.
  28. Letter 1066 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22–11/23 January 1879.
  29. Evidence for this substitution only came to light in 2009 when the autograph score of the original Dance of the Lilliputians, bearing the date "Florence, 27 November 9 December 1878", was auctioned in London — see and also Aleksandr Komarov's article on the Tchaikovsky Open World website (in Russian).
  30. Letter 1070 to Nadezhda von Meck, 15/27 January 1879.
  31. Letter 1071 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 17/29 January 1879 (original wrongly dated 16/28 January); see also Letter 1069 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 14/26 January 1879.
  32. Letter 1074 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 19/31 January 1879.
  33. Letter 1077 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 20 January/1 February 1879.
  34. Letter 1080 to Nadezhda von Meck, 23 January/4 February 1879.
  35. Letter 1088 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 29 January/10 February 1879; see also Letter 1089 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 January/11 February 1879.
  36. Letter 1090 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 31 January/12 February 1879.
  37. Letter 1092 to Nadezhda von Meck, 3/15 February 1879 (original wrongly dated "2/15 February").
  38. Letter 1103 to Nadezhda von Meck, 10/22 February 1879.
  39. Letter 1104 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22–11/23 January 1879 — Tchaikovsky mistakenly wrote "second act" instead of "third act"; see also Letter 1103 to Nadezhda von Meck, 10/22 February 1879.
  40. Letter 1115 to Nadezhda von Meck, 19 February/3 March–20 February/4 March 1879.
  41. See Letter 1117 to Lev Davydov and Letter 1118 to Modest Tchaikovsky, both 22 February/6 March 1879.
  42. Letter 1119 to Nadezhda von Meck, 24 February/8 March 1879.
  43. Letter 1164 to Nadezhda von Meck, 26 April/8 May 1879.
  44. Letter 1176 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 9/21 May 1879.
  45. See Letter 1178 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 15/27 May 1879, and also Letter 1183 to Nadezhda von Meck, 16/28 May 1879.
  46. See Letter 1192 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 28 May/9 June 1879, and Letter 1193 to Nadezhda von Meck, 29 May/10 June–30 May/11 June 1879.
  47. See Letter 1207 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 15/27 June 1879.
  48. See Letter 1228, 9/21 July 1879, and Letter 1231, 15/27 July 1879, to Modest Tchaikovsky.
  49. See Letter 1231 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 15/27 July 1879.
  50. See Letter 1239 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 July/11 August–31 July/12 August 1879.
  51. See Letter 1259 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 21 August/2 September 1879, and Letter 1244 to Nadezhda von Meck, 8/20–9/21 August 1878.
  52. Letter 1643 to Eduard Nápravník, 11/23 December 1880.
  53. Letter 1596 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 18/30 September 1880.
  54. Klin House-Museum Archive (ref. a4, No. 6142).
  55. Vladimir Pogozhev, Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1924), p. 83–84.
  56. Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 3 (1902), p. 310–311.
  57. See Letters 1217, 1258 and 1273 to Nadezhda von Meck, 27 June/9 July, 16/28–17/29 August, and 27 August/8 September–28 August/9 September 1879; also Letters 1224 and 1272 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 4/16 July and 27 August/8 September 1879.
  58. See Letter 1285 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 4/16 September 1879.
  59. Letter 1285 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 4/16 September 1879.
  60. Apparently on 31 August/12 September; see Letters 1276 and 1277 to Nadezhda von Meck, 29 August/10 September–31 August/12 September and 30 August/11 September 1879.
  61. See Letter 1514, 17/29 June 1880, and Letter 1540, 18/30 July 1880, to Pyotr Jurgenson.
  62. On 26 December 1880/7 January 1881, Eduard Nápravník had already conducted an unspecified "Arioso" from the opera at a Russian Opera concert in the Mariinsky Theatre. This was most probably Joan's Aria (Act I, No. 7).
  63. See Letter 2125 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 3/15 October 1882; Letter 2130 to Sergey Taneyev, 8/20 October 1882; Letters 2116 and 2119 to Nadezhda von Meck, 22 September/4 October–24 September/6 October and 28 September/10 October–8/20 October 1882; and a letter from Mariya Kamenskaya to Tchaikovsky, 14/26 September 1882, naming the wanted changes — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  64. Letter 2119 to Nadezhda von Meck, 22 September/4 October–24 September/6 October 1882.
  65. Letter 2126 to Eduard Nápravník, 7/19 October 1882.
  66. See letter from Eduard Nápravník to Tchaikovsky, 17/29 October 1882 — Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin.
  67. The opera was performed in its original form on the stages of private theatres. Its premiere on the Soviet stage was in 1942 in Saratov (with Joan as a soprano), then in 1945 in Leningrad on the stage of the State Academic Opera and Ballet (Mariinsky) Theatre, with Joan as a mezzo-soprano.
  68. Letter 3148 to Ivan Vsevolozhsky, 25 November/6 December 1887.
  69. Ippolitov-Ivanov's wife, Varvara Zarudnaya, had performed Joan's Aria (Act I, No. 7) at the 3rd Russian Musical Society concert in Tiflis on 5/17 December 1882.
  70. The Hymn (Act I, No. 6) had already been heard in Moscow at the 4th Arts and Industry Exhibition concert on 6/18 June 1882, with chorus and orchestra of students from the Moscow Conservatory, conducted by Ippolit Altani. Mariya Korovina had also performed Joan's Aria (Act I, No. 7) at the 10th Russian Musical Society symphony concert in the city on 8/20 February 1886, conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer.
  71. Two further performances of extracts took place in Kiev during the composer's lifetime: The Chorus of Maidens (Act I, No. 1) was heard at a choral concert of the Russian Musical Society on 14/26 December 1882, and Joan's Aria (Act I, No. 7) was heard at the 2nd RMS symphony concert on 2/14 March 1885.
  72. Joan's Aria (Act I, No. 7), the ballet music (Act II, No. 11), and the Finale and Chorus of Angels from Act I (No. 8) had been given their American premiere at a New York Symphony Society concert at Carnegie Hall on 7/20 November 1910, with Sara Anderson as Joan, conducted by Walter Damrosch.
  73. On 22 August/3 September 1902, Henry Wood had conducted Luisa Sobrino in Joan's Aria (Act I, No. 7) in a promenade concert at the Queen's Hall in London, which was the first of many concert performances of this extract.
  74. Passed by the censor on 16/28 August 1880.
  75. See Letter 1514, 17/29 June 1880, and Letter 1572, 29 August/10 September 1880, to Pyotr Jurgenson.
  76. Letter 1571 to Nadezhda von Meck, 26 August/7 September–31 August/10 September 1880.
  77. Passed by the censor on 16/28 August 1880.
  78. Letter 1767 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 25 May/6 June 1881.
  79. Passed by the censor on 16/28 January 1899. The vocal-piano reduction was reprinted the same year, retaining the same plate numbers used for the edition of 1880; the censor's date for this vocal-piano reduction is also 16/28 January 1899.