Major Operas | Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin | High Romantic

Composed: 1869–70, completed 1874–87
Premiered: 1890, St Petersburg
Libretto by the composer, after Vladimir Vasil’yevich Stasov


Ignoring an eclipse of the sun, Prince Igor prepares to leave Putivl’ for a campaign against the pagan Polovtsï, accompanied by his son Vladimir. Skula and Yeroshka, two musicians, decide to desert. Igor refuses to listen to the appeals of the people and his wife, Yaroslavna, and entrusts her in his absence to her brother, Prince Galitsky.

Act I

Skula and Yeroshka lead Galitsky’s followers in praising their master’s profligacy. He has abducted a local girl and now describes the life his men would lead if he ruled the city. Women rush in, protesting against the abduction, but they are driven away when Galitsky refuses to hand her back. Singing his praises again, the men decide that Igor should be deposed.

Yaroslavna, lamenting her loneliness, has been having troubled dreams. The women arrive, asking for her help in winning back the girl. At first Galitsky laughs off the charges, but Yaroslavna orders him to release the girl and he gives in. Boyars bring news that Igor and Vladimir have been defeated and taken prisoner. The alarm bell sounds as the Polovtsï attack and burn the city.

Act II

Khan Konchak’s daughter, Konchakovna, who has fallen in love with Vladimir, orders food to be given to the Russian prisoners. Vladimir and Konchakovna declare their love for each other, but Vladimir knows that his father will not consent to a marriage while still a prisoner. Ivan enters and agonizes over his longing for freedom and his separation from Yaroslavna. Ovlur, a Christian Polovtsian, offers to help him escape, but Igor refuses. Igor also rejects Konchak’s magnanimous offer to free him so that they might join forces and conquer the world. Konchak orders his slaves to entertain them.


Konchak celebrates the victory at Putivl’. Stories of Polovtsian cruelty persuade Igor and Vladimir to escape on horses provided by Ovlur. Konchakovna begs Vladimir to stay and raises the alarm to stop him. Igor escapes but Vladimir is captured. Konchak pardons him and gives his blessing to their marriage.

Act IV

Yaroslavna laments what has befallen her husband and her people. Horsemen are seen on the horizon and she fears another attack, but she recognizes Igor and they are reunited. Skula and Yeroshka ring the bells and the people gather to greet their ruler.

Recommended Recording:
Prince Igor, Kirov Opera; Valery Gergiev, conductor; Philips 442 537–2PH3; Soloists: Galina Gorchakova (Yaroslavna), Olga Borodina (Konchakovna), Gegam Grigorian (Vladimir), Mikhail Kit (Igor), Vladimir Ognovienko (Prince Galitsky), Bulat Minzhilkiev (Khan Konchak)

Personalities | Alexander Borodin | High Romantic | Opera


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