World Premiere: Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, 1892; Royal Opera House, Budapest, 1918
Iolanta, Tchaikovsky’s final opera was commissioned by St. Petersburg’s Imperial Theatres as part of a double bill with a new ballet—which became The Nutcracker. Although Iolanta, unlike its companion piece, has remained relatively unknown outside of Russia, it is prime operatic Tchaikovsky and overdue for discovery by the world at large. Bluebeard’s Castle is Bartók’s only opera and is an intense psychological journey, a powerful drama of inner emotion, and a tour de force for two singers (and the orchestra). In it, the bride Judith prods Bluebeard to open seven doors, each of which reveals an aspect of Bluebeard’s life, material possessions, and, by extension, his mind.