Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Libretto by Sergei Prokofiev based on a scenario by Vsevolod Meyerhold,
Vladimir Solovyov and Konstantin Vogak after the fabia by Carlo Gozzi
Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Alain Maratrat
Set Designer: Daniela Villaret
Costume Designer: Mireille Dessingy
Lighting Designer: Pascal Mérat
Hat maker: Gregoria Recio
Musical Preparation: Olga Krukovich
Principal Chorus Masters: Larisa Shveikovskaya and Anna Pipia
Assistant Director: Mikhail Smirnov
Tragedians, Comedians, Lyric Poets and Empty-Heads are arguing over what performance they wish to see today. Some insist on a tragedy, others want a comedy. The Ridiculous People appear. They call for the audience to be silent and they begin their narrative. The King of Clubs is in despair. His son the Crown Prince is dying of hypochondria. The doctors declare the case hopeless, but the King recalls the miraculous power of laughter. Pantaloon, the King´s confidant, calls Truffaldino for help, and the King orders him to organise entertainments for the court.
The fate of the Prince and the ambitious Prime Minister Leandro is being played out in a game of cards. The Wizard Celio, who is trying to restore peace and harmony to the world, is playing against Fata Morgana, a ruthless and jealous witch who seeks the Prince´s death and who is protecting Leandro and the King´s scheming niece Clarissa.
Clarissa dreams of ascending the throne and marrying Leandro. But to do this she must first take care of the Prince, and Clarissa presents Leandro with an ultimatum: "Give the Prince either opium or a bullet". The slave Smeraldina overhears and tells Clarissa and Leandro that Fata Morgana is on their side.
With immense effort Truffaldino makes the Prince get out of his cosy bed and come to the festivities organised specially for him.
The performance is a disaster and the Prince falls into hopeless despondency. But the unexpected appearance of Fata Morgana draws his attention. She goes straight to the Prince, and Truffaldino, attempting to stop her, trips her up. Fata Morgana falls down and her ungainly pose makes the Prince laugh. The furious witch curses the Prince: he will have no peace and will fall in love with three oranges. Immediately the Prince is seized with the desire to depart and find the oranges. Truffaldino is ready to go with him.
During their quest to find Creonte´s castle and the three cherished oranges, the Prince and Truffaldino find themselves in a desert. Farfarello, disguised as the wind, blows them onwards, hastening them towards the dangers that await them at Creonte´s castle. The Wizard Celio tries to help him and frightens the Prince and Truffaldino with their forthcoming trials. But the Prince is resolute. Celio then gives Truffaldino a magic ribbon and warns that the oranges may be peeled only when water is close by.
The Prince and Truffaldino arrive at Creonte´s castle at last. Almost overcome with fear, the wanderers enter Creonte´s kitchen. Their path is barred by a terrifying cook. Truffaldino catches his attention with the magic ribbon while the Prince steals the three oranges.
The Prince and Truffaldino wander exhausted across the boiling desert – the oranges have grown in size and weight. The Prince falls asleep and Truffaldino decides to quench his thirst with orange juice. Instead of juice, the orange reveals a Princess who begs for water. In despair and wishing to save her, Truffaldino peels the second orange. But it contains a second Princess who also wants water. Both Princesses die before the distraught Truffaldino. Driven mad by his helplessness, Truffaldino has but one option: to run away.
The Prince awakes. He cannot wait to see what is hidden inside the last orange. Yet another Princess appears. She declares her love for the Prince and says that she awaits salvation. Like the other Princesses, Ninetta begs for water. The Ridiculous People come to help: with them they bring a pail of water. Ninetta is saved. The Prince heads for the palace to inform the King of his impending marriage. Meanwhile Smeraldina, using a magic pin given by Fata Morgana, turns the Princess into a rat and takes Ninetta´s place.
The Wizard Celio and Fata Morgana are in a heated quarrel about the fate of our heroes. Once again the Ridiculous People come to the rescue. They succeed in disposing of the witch. Now the Wizard Celio can rescue the bride and groom.
In the throne room of the royal palace all is ready for the Prince´s wedding. Suddenly the courtiers notice a huge rat. Celio removes the curse and the rat turns back into Princess Ninetta. Clarissa, Leandro and Smeraldina´s treachery is exposed. The King orders the execution of the conspirators. They attempt to flee and are aided by Fata Morgana, who has taken refuge in the netherworld. The King and the courtiers honour the delighted Prince and Princess as newlyweds.
Sergei Prokofiev’s first comic opera, derived from a play by the 18th century Italian writer Carlo Gozzi, is a work infectiously cheerful, captivating with its adolescent ingeniousness, freshness and richness of musical colours. Although Prokofiev wrote it during his first years of staying abroad, its conception is associated with his theatrical impressions in the pre-revolutionary Russia. The composer found his inspiration in a magazine called The Love For Three Oranges, published in 1914–1915 by Russian theatre icon Vsevolod Meyerhold, who turned Gozzi’s play into a manifest of the movement for the renewal of theatrical forms. Meyerhold also suggested a libretto for the future opera, which was intended as a parody of absurd theatre conventions, cliches, as well as everything stilted and stereotyped in theatrical productions.
Prokofiev’s aim was to create a “cheerful performance” which would appeal to the audience by its mix of fairy-tale, joke and satire. That is why The Love for Three Oranges resembles a fantastic, magical revue with a rapid change of multifarious episodes. «The music of our times” the composer states, “calls for briskness, agility and pressure.” He imbues the opera with constant movement and sharp rhythms, giving the performance a faerie tone.
The ingenious wit of young Prokofiev, with his fiery red hair and indomitable energy, which also evoked “orange” associations among his contemporaries, are very close to the creative style of French director Alain Maratrat and his team. All identification marks of this style can be found in the performance mounted by the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: light-coloured “clothing” of the stage, enhancing a feeling of airiness and spaciousness, whimsical costumes and hats, and, first of all, - inexhaustible resourcefulness in presentation of any situation, each plot twist. Just like in other Maratrat’s performances, you won’t find here the main theatrical convention — a division into performers and spectators. The interaction between the artists and the audience allow the latter to to be a part of the performance, which provides the audience members with a substantial supply of vitamin C, even those who don’t like oranges.
World premiere: 30 December 1921, Auditorium, Chicago
Premiere of this production: 14 March 2007, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Premiere at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 27 February 2016, Vladivostok
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes
The performance has one interval
The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.
This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N139-FZ dated 28 July 2012 “On the introduction of changes to the Federal Law ‘On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health and development’ and other legislative acts of the Russian Federation.”