Major Operas | The Golden Cockerel by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov | Turn of the Century
An astrologer warns the audience that the story has a moral.
King Dodon’s country is surrounded by enemies. He is not satisfied by the advice offered by his sons, Guidon and Afron, or by General Polkan. The astrologer offers a magic golden cockerel that can warn of approaching danger. In exchange he wants a written promise to pay whatever he asks for at a later date. Although delighted, Dodon refuses to put anything in writing. The astrologer is displeased. Dodon dreams about a beautiful maiden. The cockerel sounds the alarm. Dodon has to be woken by General Polkan. Guidon and Afron are sent to attack the enemy in a pincer movement. He returns to his dreams. Again the cockerel crows a warning. Dodon sets off to war.
His sons’ armies have killed each other. A tent appears on the battlefield. The Queen of Shemakha, the beauty of Dodon’s dream, emerges singing a hymn to the Sun. She will not use force to overcome him, but instead use her wiles. Dodon succumbs to her dancing and descriptions of what she has in store for him. He begs her to be his queen and orders Polkan to be executed.
Dodon returns to his palace with his new bride. The astrologer appears and names his reward: he wants to marry the queen. Dodon refuses and strikes him dead with his sceptre. The queen finds this funny. She rejects Dodon’s advances. The cockerel crows another warning, swoops down, pecks Dodon on the head and kills him. The queen vanishes, laughing.
The astrologer reassures the audience it was all an illusion, apart from the queen and himself.
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