Major Operas | Ruslan i Lyudmila by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka | Early Romantic

Ruslan and Ludmilla

Composed: 1837–42
Premiered: 1842, St Petersburg
Libretto by Konstantin Bakhturin, Valerina Shirov and various others, after Alexander Pushkin

Act I

Everyone celebrates the marriage of Lyudmila to the knight Ruslan. Her rejected admirers Farlaf and Ratmir are also present. As Lyudmila’s father Svyetozar blesses the couple, a thunderbolt is heard and darkness falls. When the light returns, Lyudmila has vanished. Her father offers half his kingdom and Lyudmila’s hand in marriage to whoever saves her. Farlaf, Ratmir and Ruslan all pledge to find her.

Act II

Ruslan meets Finn, a magician, who informs him that Lyudmila has been abducted by Chernomor, an evil dwarf. Finn warns him of Naina, a wicked sorceress. Meanwhile, Farlaf encounters Naina, who says she will help him to find Lyudmila. Ruslan arrives at a battlefield. He encounters an enormous head, which belongs to a sleeping giant. The giant, revealing a magic sword, explains that he is Chernomor’s brother. This sword is the only weapon that can overcome the evil dwarf, whose strength lies in his beard.


Naina arranges for her servants to seduce Ratmir, much to the distress of his companion and admirer, Gorislava. Ruslan is also drawn to the maidens, but is saved from temptation by Finn, who also frees Ratmir from the spell and makes him return Gorislava’s love. Ratmir resolves to help Ruslan.

Act IV

Lyudmila considers suicide and is not amused by the dwarf’s attendants. Chernomor arrives, hoping to seduce her, and performs a dance. Ruslan challenges Chernomor to a duel. The dwarf sends Lyudmila to sleep and then consents. Ruslan cuts off Chernomor’s beard, rendering him powerless, and sets off with the slumbering Lyudmila.

Act V

Farlaf abducts Lyudmila, but Finn gives Ratmir a magic ring for Ruslan, which will awaken her. Farlaf arrives at the palace with Lyudmila to claim his reward, but cannot awaken her. The others arrive with the ring and Ruslan rouses Lyudmila. The wedding celebrations resume and everyone rejoices.

Personalities | Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka | Early Romantic | Opera


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