Music: Vissarion Shebalin
Libretto: Abram Gozenpud after William Shakespeare’s comedy of the same name
Music Director and Conductor: Dmitri Jurowski
Author of artistic concept and Chief Stage Conductor: Irina Gaudasinskaya
Production Designer: Timur Gulyaev
Lighting Designer: Igor Yakushev
Stage Movement: Olga Danilova-Pavlova
Assistants to Stage Director: Igor Bondarenko, Nikolai Natsybulin
2 hours 30 minutes
The Taming of the Shrew by Vissarion Shebalin is one of the best lyric-comic operas of the 20th century. Based on the famous comedy of the same name by the great British playwright William Shakespeare (1593), the opera reveals the fullness and integrity of such a feeling as love, shows the beauty and dignity of the human person in all its versatility.
The plot circles around two characters: young and proud-hearted Katherine and Petruchio. Both of them have unconventional personalities outmatching their entourage in mind and spirit. Katherine is in the status of a “marriageable bride”. Her father is actively looking for suitors, but none is a match for her. Under the guise of obstinacy, she fights for the true, genuine feeling of love, her feminine dignity. In turn, Petruchio is a brave and courageous adventurer, audacious in his decisions. At the beginning of the action he sees in Katherine only the wealth that he will receive if he marries her. But later on, as the protagonists pass all the trials, they find themselves deeply in love with each other.
The Taming of the Shrew is the only opera written by Vissarion Shebalin (1902-1963). The concept was conceived during the war in Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg), where the composer was evacuated to in 1941. The literary critic Abram Gozenbud, who worked at that time in Sverdlovsk as the literary director at the Musical Comedy Theater, took up the libretto of the opera. Gozenpud used to work as a translator of Shakespeare’s work, which benefited the libretto – he was able to preserve the traits and the spirit of the Shakespearian comedy. Shebalin liked the libretto very much, but the music was not written quickly, the opera was completed only in 1955. The Taming of the Shrew was first performed in a concert version by the Soviet Opera Ensemble of the All-Union Theater Society in 1955. The premiere took place on the stage on May 25, 1957 in Kuibyshev (now Samara). The Bolshoi Theater staged The Taming of the Shrew literally a month later; then the opera was staged in Leningrad, Kyiv and in many foreign theaters.
Characters (the spelling of the characters’ names is given according to the libretto of the opera)::
• Petruchio, a nobleman from Verona
• Baptista Minola, a rich merchant
• His daughters: Katherine and Bianca
• Suitors to Bianca: Lucentio and Hortensio
• Petruchio’s servants: Grumio and Curtis
• Biondello, Baptista's servant
• Guests, servants and cooks
The action of the opera takes place in Padua in the age of the Renaissance.
Street in front of Baptista Minola's house in Padua. It’s night. Hortensio and Lucentio, who are in love with Minola's younger daughter Bianca, quarrel over a flower she has thrown. A duel begins, but it is interrupted by a scandal that breaks out in the house. It was perpetrated by the elder daughter of Baptista, the obstinate Katherine. Neighbors and servants come running to the noise. Minola is desperate from the constant quarrels in the house and dreams of finding teachers who could soften Katherine's temper by means of the right upbringing. The suitors, interrupting one another, ask for the hand of Bianca, but the merchant is adamant: the elder daughter will marry first. He promises to give Bianca to one of them if they help find teachers and a groom for Katherine. Bianca comes out onto the balcony and flirts with Hortensio and Lucentio. Hearing their cooing, Katherine drives her sister away, and pours cold water on her suitors. Petruchio appears on the street with his servant Grumio. He has come from Verona to improve his faltering affairs with a profitable marriage. He is not averse to marrying a merchant's daughter. Her temper does not frighten him: he will be able to cope with any woman! Petruchio makes a bet with Bianca's unlucky suitors that he will tame Katherine in a month.
In Baptista's house, Katherine is sad and alone. She is outraged by the crowd of suitors who bargain with her father because of the dowry, she is disgusted by Bianca's feigned meekness. She sees the only defense in obstinacy. Petruchio, Hortensio and Lucentio arrive. The suitors of Bianca are presented as teachers of poetry and music. Petruchio asks the merchant for consent to his marriage with his elder daughter. Baptista does not immediately agree, confident that, having learned the temper of the bride, the groom will turn away from her. He cautiously offers to first meet the bride, but under the pressure of Petruchio, he begins to discuss the marriage contract. Meanwhile, the imaginary teachers begin their classes. Lucentio, under the guise of a Latin lesson, declares his love to Bianca, and Katherine breaks the lute on Hortensio's head. Baptista introduces the fiancé to Katherine. In vain she excels in daring jokes and even affronts: Petruchio pretends not to notice anything, admires the kindness of Baptista's daughter. In desperation, she gives Petruchio a resounding slap in the face. In response, he announces to Baptista that he has agreed on everything with his dear bride: their wedding will be tomorrow. In Baptista's house, guests have gathered for the wedding, but the groom is not there. Katherine is worried: no matter how disgusting what is happening to her, she will be disgraced if the groom does not appear. Finally, Petruchio arrives in a torn dress, on a skinny nag. Everyone is amazed, Katherine is outraged. But her indignation increases even more when he gives the old rags to her, demanding to put them on: this is an heirloom, the dress in which his great-grandmother was married. Her refusal will cause an ineffaceable insult to the whole family of the groom! Katherine has to throw ugly rags over her wedding attire. While the procession is leaving for the home chapel, Lucentio and Hortensio are talking to Bianca. She chooses Lucentio. Meanwhile, the wedding is over, Baptista invites guests to the table. But Petruchio surprises everyone again: he announces an immediate departure with his wife. The persuasion of relatives and the requests of Katherine are in vain. Picking up the newlywed, Petruchio jumps on a horse and whirls away.
It’s a country house of Petruchio at night. A storm is raging. Grumio's servants and Curtis are discussing their master's wedding. Petruchio and Katherine appear. She is hungry, exhausted by the road and bad weather. Now, she hopes, she can finally have a rest and dinner. However, Petruchio continues his vagaries: he makes his wife see a young handmaiden in the old drunken servant, sends all the food back, assuring that they are overcooked. Katherine quietly asks Grumio to give her something to eat, but he brings only mustard, being true to the master's order. Unable to endure further bullying, Katherine runs away from home, into the rain and wind. Petruchio and the servants rush after her and soon they come back with an unconscious Katherine.
House of Petruchio. A month has passed. Katherine fell in love with her husband, but her pride does not allow her to admit it. She still suffers from his tricks: Petruchio stubbornly, persistently humbles the rebellious temper of his obstinate wife. And now the tailor comes and brings a dress. Katherine admires it, but Petruchio assures that the dress is badly sewn and sends the tailor away. Katherine bitterly rebukes her husband for his constant mockeries and in response hears words of love. The explanation is interrupted by the guests arrived - Baptista, Bianca with Lucentio, whom she married. The sisters went into the kitchen. Taking advantage of their absence, Lucentio recalls the bet and offers to send for the wives: the one who comes first will be the most obedient. To everyone's amazement, Katherine immediately appears, and Bianca refuses to obey her husband at all. Everyone congratulates Petruchio on his brilliant bet win, but he does not consider himself a winner: he himself was defeated by love. He turns to Katherine with recognition and hears the long-awaited words of love in response.
* The plot of Shebalin's opera is given according to the text: https://www.belcanto.ru/ukra.html