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Cover to Deutschland Radio cast recording

Opera in three acts. Re-working of Kukuschka (1898) - (1905)
(Music by Franz Lehár: Libretto by Felix Falzari and Max Kalbeck)

Respectfully dedicated to Her Imperial and Royal Highness the Archduchess Carolina Maria

Weiner Volksoper - 1896 as Kukushka
Leipzig (As Tatjana) - 1906


Tatjana, daughter of a Volga fisherman, is loved at first sight by Alexis, a soldier. He defends her against Sascha, a Cherkessian who wants her, and then defends her father against the villagers who suspect the old man of witchcraft. In doing this he strikes the village elder, for which he is banished to the Siberian goldmines. Here Alexis meets Sascha again, who tries to kill him, but Alexis turns the tables and spares him. In gratitude, Sascha helps him escape. Tatjana arrives, ragged and exhausted, and follows Alexis into the steppe, where they die together in a snowstorm.

The score includes the exhilarating Russian Peasant Dances and the fine tenor aria 'Gedenke mein'.


The opera begins on the banks of the Volga in the 1840s


The soldier, Alexis, is escorting a convoy of prisoners bound for Siberia. From his guard post he gazes out over the broad, peaceful expanse of the Volga. The boat of the fisherman Sergey drops anchor not far from him. Feeling disturbed by the old man, Alexis tries to scare him away by threatening to open fire. Sergey's daughter Tatyana comes along. Alexis is fascinated and only has eyes for her. Tatyana is similarly attracted to the soldier; they feel they are meant for each other. But Alexis is due to leave for Kara the next day. Tatyana removes an icon from her necklace and gives it to him as a sign of troth.

Sasha, in love with Tatyana himself, has observed the scene and takes Alexis to task, provoking him to the extent that the soldier strikes him. The two men part as enemies.

In the third scene two peasants visit Sergey, whom the villagers credit with healing powers. One of them has a black tomcat under his arm. The animal is ailing and Sergey is to heal it – which he does by employing all kinds of magical tricks.

Fishermen, peasants and children appear in colourful traditional costumes and the boats are decorated, for it is St George's day, the day on which the sturgeon-fishing season begins. A festive mood prevails as the Volga is praised as the river of life. The dramatic action is resumed in the following two scenes. The fishermen cast their nets. Sergey appears and is credited as a bringer of bad luck by the fisherman, Dimitri. Sergey quits the scene to find another spot where he hopes to do some fishing undisturbed.

He harpoons a splendid specimen through the breast, causing a sensation and arousing envy. Nikushka and the others steal the fish and Tatyana tries to pacify her father. The fishermen have, in the meantime, begun hauling in their nets.

As Sergey prophesied when his sturgeon was taken from him, they have not caught a single fish.

This seems to prove that Sergey is in league with the devil. Nikushka tries to incite the crowd to throw him into the Volga. The Starosta, the Tsar's representative, observes the scene from a safe distance. Alexis appears and tries to end the uproar by protecting Sergey. The Starosta now intervenes, ordering Alexis to step aside and let the people's will prevail. The situation escalates and Alexis finally fires at and wounds the starosta. Alexis is banished to Siberia. He and Tatyana bid one another farewell before he is led away.


We are in Siberia and the gold mines of Kara. Sasha sings an old song of the steppes. Djerid enters. Sasha rues having been cast out by his tribe, for Alexis has besmirched his honour. Two other banished men, Pimen and Punin, are more stoical about their fate. Alexis is totally dejected; unable to put Tatyana out of his mind: he cannot come to terms with his lot. The others comfort him.

Sasha plans to restore his honour by murdering Alexis. He fails in his attempt, for Alexis grasps the situation in a flash. He snatches the knife from Sasha and turns it upon him. But instead of killing him, Alexis decides to be merciful and hurls the knife away. Now feeling indebted to Alexis, Sasha offers him his horse so that he might escape. Alexis flees.


A new convoy of prisoners has arrived in Kara. Tatyana too has travelled with it, driven by her need to find Alexis. The scene begins with loud activity. Soldiers appear and those returning home introduce a note of elation. Raisa, a peasant maid, takes leave of Dimitri, who is at last able to leave Kara. Tatyana appears, poorly dressed but happy in the belief that she is at last near the end of her search. She is given shelter by Nikolayev, Raisa's father. Raisa and Tatyana get to know each other. But now Tatyana learns that Alexis has long since fled. Sasha enters and confesses that he helped Alexis to escape, eventually agreeing to escort Tatyana through the steppes in search of Alexis.

The next scene takes us to the steppe, where we meet up with Alexis, whose horse has collapsed under him; in his exhaustion, he is tormented by shivering fits and hallucinations. He believes he can see Cossacks on the horizon. Suddenly Tatyana plunges into his arms with a heart-rending cry. The lovers embrace, laughing and crying at once.

Snow begins to fall, ever more heavily. Tatyana and Alexis are swallowed up by the snow and the night.

Adapted from the Trans!ation by I & M Berridge


3 Female, 2 Male, SATB Chorus.

Sets: 1


2.Picc 2.Ca 2. Bass Cl 2.CBsn/4231/Perc/Hp/Strings

Musical Numbers

  1. Prelude to Act 1
  2. Heda! Zurück von dart! (Alexis)
  3. Was suchst du hier? (Alexis)
  4. Macht keinen solchen Lärm (Sergej)
  5. Halloh! Nikuska, höher hinauf! (Dimitrij)
  6. Den traf ich gut! (Sergei)
  7. Ein Windstoss war's (Alexis)
  8. Prelude to Act 2
  9. Springe mein Ross, spring zu! (Sasha)
  10. Da seht nur, welchen Schatz ich bring (Pimen)
  11. Es ist Alexis! (Pimen)
  12. Genug! Jetzt geht an eure Arbeit (Pimen)
  13. Prelude to Act 3
  14. Seid Alle willkommen uns! (Peasant men & women)
  15. Die Ärmsten! welch weiten Weg sindsiegegangen (Raisa)
  16. Hier ist mein Haus, hier kannst du bleiben (Nikolajew)
  17. Zufall gab mein Leben in seine Hand (Sasha)
  18. Interludium
  19. lch komm' nicht welter (Alexis)


Language Version: G