Vladivostok, Primorsky Stage, Great Hall

The Love for Three Oranges

Opera by Sergei Prokofiev

Performed in Russian (the performance will have synchronised Russian and English supertitles)



Pavel Smelkov

The King: Yevgeny Plekhanov
The Prince: Alexei Smirnov
Truffaldino: Alexei Kostyuk
Pantalone: Nikita Odalin
The Wizard Celio: Bat-Erdene Dorjtseden
Fata Morgana: Anastasiya Kikot
Ninetta: Iveta Simonyan


Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Libretto by Sergei Prokofiev after the tale by Carlo Gozzi

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Alexander Petrov
Set and Costume Designer: Vyacheslav Okunev
Video Designer: Viktoria Zlotnikova
Lighting Designer: Valentin Bakoyan
Lightning Adaptation for the Primorsky Stage: Igor Vints
Adaptation Director: Yulia Ruleva

Choreographer: Ilya Ustyantsev
Musical Preparation: Irina Soboleva, Marina Repina
Chorus Master: Larisa Shveikovskaya


Prologue. Parade of Disputers

It all bursts out. Advocates of Tragedy and Comedy, Advocates of Lyric Drama who dream of romantic love and Advocates of Farce who demand slapstick humor and amusing trifles are suddenly involved in a heated dispute. One party scores off, then another party vanquishes in the ensuing battle. However, the Ridicules (Cranks) appear to shovel the wranglers aside using enormous spades, and enthusiastically tell them they are to witness the incomparable performance entitled The Love for Three Oranges.

Act I

Attraction 1. Board of Doctors

Melancholy reigns in the King’s palace. The board of doctors has horrifyingly concluded that the Crown Prince is beyond all hope. He suffers from an “irresistible hypochondriac phenomenon”. The King and his adviser Pantalone are desperate and cannot gulp down sobs: they lament the sickness of the Prince. However, doctors believe that the Prince’s hypochondria can be cured with laughter.

Pantalone shouts deafeningly, calling the jester Truffaldino who can make people laugh. The King commands a courtier to arrange a cheerful entertainment with a masquerade. The King gives the same order to the prime minister Leandro who can hardly bottle up his anger – he dreams of the Prince’s death. The Ridicules who are quickly responsive to everything that happens cheerfully welcome the King’s decision. 

Attraction 2. Magic Battle

Darkness lies around. There is a flash of lighting and a clap of thunder – the magician Tchelio emerges from the ground. The witch Fata Morgana surrounded with fire and smoke appears beside him. The Ridicules are struck by this scene. 

The magician and the witch start playing cards, and their playing turns into a joust, which looks like an ordinary scuffle. Unfortunately, Thelio loses to Fata Morgana. 

Attraction 3. Prime Minister’s Plot. Black Magic

Princess Clarice meets Leandro in the King’s palace. They cunningly plot to kill the Prince so that Clarice can succeed to the throne, and Leandro can become the king after his marriage to Clarice. Clarice demands that decisive steps should be taken. In return, the prime minister tells her in a dismal whisper that he feeds the Prince tragic prose and ponderous Martellian verses all the time. Finally, the Prince will certainly die in a hypochondriac nightmare.

The Advocates of Tragedy suddenly plunge forth upon the stage. They call out, “More appalling tragedies! Lament! Killing!”, and the Ridicules again have to shovel them away. Clarice is insistent on using a Thebaic extract or a bullet in the last resort. The plotters stare gloomily after the procession of merry servants who carry festival requisites and are led by Truffaldino. 

A vase suddenly drops from the table, and Leandro discovers the blackamoor slave Smeraldina who hides behind it. Smeraldina is to be executed, but she gives the plotters some important details: the magician Tchelio supports Truffaldino, and Fata Morgana will help Leandro. The prime minister and Clarice are stunned with the news. They together with Smeraldina call the witch to help them to frustrate the entertainment.

Attraction 4. Cure for Hypochondria. Clownery 

Truffaldino and the Ridicules are finishing their comic performance. They can do no more while the Prince is sitting in an armchair with a compress around his head. Surrounded with glasses, ointments and spittoons, he continues to groan and grumble about numerous pains. According to Truffaldino, the contents of the spittoons smell of old, rotten and foul rhymes. The Ridicules sympathize with the Prince because the Martellian verses are here in full force. Truffaldino invites the Prince to the entertainment, which promises well. Here the Advocates of Comedy appear suddenly, demanding the curative laughter. The Ridicules furiously chase them away. Distant sounds of a merry march can be heard. The entertainment begins, but the Prince begs for drops and does not want to go anywhere. Got his blood up, Truffaldino throws all the spittoons and drugs together with the Doctors out of the window. The Prince who is wrapped in his mantle and shouts at the top of his voice is taken away by force for the entertaining performance.

Attraction 5. Old Woman’s Curse. Mass Bacchanalia

In the palace court there are the King, Clarice, the Prince, ladies-in-waiting, and cavaliers including Pantalone and Leandro. Truffaldino opens the performance in which the first number is a fight of freaks. The courtiers are knocked dead, but the Prince remains passive. While Truffaldino is preparing the second number, Fata Morgana appears. Her cover is to act as an ordinary old woman who must prevent the Prince from laughing.

The second number is a fight of drunkards and gluttons round the fountains gushing out oil and wine. The courtiers are overjoyed, but the Prince fails to laugh. Truffaldino is cast down. He hastily tries to force Fata Morgana out of the court because her conduct is not becoming to an old woman. Turning to bay, she falls down to reveal her underclothes. The incredible event happens: the Prince begins to laugh. Everybody dances for joy except Clarice and Leandro.

All of a sudden, the light thickens, the dance dies off. Fata Morgana rises slowly and menacingly. She curses the Prince: henceforth, he will be obsessed by love for three oranges and chase them day and night. Fata Morgana vanishes, the courtier spooks. The Prince falls in an indescribable flutter. Neither the fear of the sorceress Créonte (Woman-Cook) who is the custodian of the three oranges nor the King’s interdiction can deter the Prince. It is astonishing to the King that his son goes against him. Where does it come from? Perhaps, from stale farces! As soon as the King mentions the farces, the Advocates of Farce appear, and the Ridicules have to shovel them off for the thousandth time.

Now the Prince is appointed and ready to start. All of a sudden, the demon Farfarello appears to blow the Prince and Truffaldino away. Out of despair, the King faints away.   

Act II

Attraction 1. Magic Ribbon. Calling Forth Demons

In the desert, Tchelio calls forth Farfarello by magic passes and spells in order to know the Prince’s and Truffaldino’s fate. Farfarello tells Tchelio that he blows them to Créonte’s castle where they are doomed to death. Tchelio can do nothing because he has lost them at cards.

Having seen the Prince and Truffaldino, the magician tries to stop the travelers to tip them off about their doom. The three oranges are guarded by the terrible Woman-Cook who will certainly murder them by a big soup spoon. Nevertheless, the Prince is inappeasable. Tchelio gives Truffaldino a magic ribbon. If the Woman-Cook likes it, they will possibly manage to escape their death. The magician tells them that they will be able to open the oranges only near a water spring. Farfarello blows the Prince and Truffaldino out the desert.

Attraction 2. Créonte’s Castle. Giant Woman

After the forced stop, the horror-stricken travelers find themselves before Créonte’s castle. They quiver with fear, but their desire to steal the oranges overrules their dread. The Prince and Truffaldino skulk into the kitchen where the oranges are hidden. The kitchen door clatters suddenly. The Prince and Truffaldino rush asunder. The door bursts open to let in the Woman-Cook with a big spoon. Having sighted Truffaldino, she mercilessly shakes him by the scruff of the neck. She suddenly notes the ribbon. The old coquette gets engrossed by it. Meanwhile, the Prince penetrates into the kitchen and returns with the three oranges in his hand. He carefully runs out of the castle. Given the ribbon to the Woman-Cook, Truffaldino slips out, too.

Attraction 3. Secret of Three Oranges. White Magic

The Prince and Truffaldino are in the desert again. They can hardly carry the incredibly grown oranges. The Prince is exhausted and falls asleep, and Truffaldino is parched with thirst and chooses to cut one of the oranges to have a drink. Instead of some juice he finds Princess Linetta inside the first orange, and she is thirsty too. Truffaldino embarrassedly flies to the second orange, and Princess Nicoletta comes out of it. Unfortunately, the both girls cannot quench their thirst and dies before Truffaldino’s eyes. Standing aghast at their death, the jester runs for his life.

The Prince wakes up to find in surprise the two dead princesses. Some marching soldiers appear in handy, and the Prince orders them to take away the two bodies.

The Prince is left alone with the last orange. In the hope of a happiness hidden inside it, he cuts the fruit, and Ninetta appears. The Prince sees the very girl he has dreamt of all his life. However, enfeebled by thirsty, Ninetta sinks in the Prince’s arms. Under the circumstances, the Ridicules cannot sit on their hands and bring a bucket of water. Delivered from death, Ninetta can go with the Prince to the King. However, her clothes are not fit for introducing her to the court, and she sends the Prince to the palace so that he will bring her any clothes worthy of the occasion. Under the cover of darkness, Smeraldina and Fata Morgana steals up on Ninetta. To the Ridicules’ horror, Smeraldina sticks a magic pin into Ninetta’s head in order to turn her into a rat. The rat instantly runs away, and Smeraldina takes Ninetta’s place at the instigation of Fata Morgana.

Headed by the King and the courtiers, the solemn procession appears. When the Prince sees Smeraldina, he abandons her, persuading everybody that he is maliciously deceived. Nevertheless, the King is relentless – the King’s word is a golden word – and as the Prince promised to marry her, he would be obliged to keep his promise. The King orders the procession to return to the palace. The Prince and the false Princess walk with arms entwined. Leandro and Clarice are exultant over them on the hush.

Attraction 4. Sea Battle. Clownery

The magician Tchelio and Fata Morgana continue to sort things out as if fighting a real sea battle. Tchelio is again expected to suffer a defeat. Then the Ridicules intervene and catch Fata Morgana with a net. The magician will be able to save his favorites.

Attraction 5. Transformation of Rat into Princess. Hocus-pocus

In the palace hall, there are three thrones: one for the King, another for the Prince and the last one for the future Princess. The King, the Prince and Smeraldina are followed by courtiers and head the solemn procession. The curtain rises, and those present can see a giant rat sitting on the throne. Scared by the spectacle, the King calls for the palace guard. The magician Tchelio appears and desperately adjures the rat to turn into Princess Ninetta. The guards run into the hall and shoot. Instead of the rat everybody sees Ninetta. The Prince jumps at her. The King can guess what has happened. Fallen into a rage, he orders to hang the three traitors. Smeraldina, Clarice and Leandro run away. The guards and all the courtiers pursue them. Fata Morgana unexpectedly comes to their aid and entrains them. The festival is kept in the whole palace. Everybody glorifies the King, the Prince and Princess Ninetta. 


No epilogue.

Director’s version by Alexander Petrov

About the production

The Love for Three Oranges was composed by Prokofiev when he was thirty years old. Based on the tale by the 18th century Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi, this opera is a metaphor of the love for theatre and the carnival underside of the world, and for the impossibility to live outside the game. Having chosen the plot of Commedia dell’arte, the composer wrote an opera about opera, its wonders, clichés and absurdities, which were dear to the audience and to himself. Debunking the opera’s “untruths of life” using its own means turned out to be the best way to glorify those untruths. The opera is presented in a full-scale production staged by Alexander Petrov and designed by Vyacheslav Okunev in 1991.

World premiere: 30 December 1921, Auditorium Theatre, Chicago (performed in French, translated by Sergei Prokofiev and Vera Janacópulos)
Russian premiere: 18 February 1926, State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Mariinsky Theatre)
Premiere of this production at the Mariinsky Theatre: 31 October 1991
Premiere of this production at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 31 October 2023

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes
The performance has one interval

Age category 6+

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