St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

The Little Humpbacked Horse

ballet in two acts

Opening of the XVII Music Festival Stars of the White Nights


Ivan the Fool: Vladimir Shklyarov
Tsar-Maiden: Alina Somova
Little Humpbacked Horse: Grigory Popov
Gentleman of the Bedchamber: Yuri Smekalov
Tsar: Andrei Ivanov
Young Mare: Yekaterina Kondaurova
Horses: Sergei Popov, Kamil Yangurazov
Age category 6+


Music: Rodion Shchedrin
Сhoreography: Alexei Ratmansky
Libretto: Maxim Isaev


The music for the ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse is an early, a very early, work of mine. But it is the work of an era important in terms of my emergence as a composer and which defined much in my life. A work with which I firmly "grasped" the unearthly Firebird – Maya Plisetskaya. The score is dedicated to her…

The current production of The Little Humpbacked Horse at the Mariinsky is a long-awaited pleasure. Years ago, then still young but clearly remarkable for his outstanding gift, Valery Gergiev staged a production of The Little Humpbacked Horse at the Mariinsky. Later, several times he dazzlingly performed highlights from the ballet at concerts. It was totally his suggestion to revive this ballet now. Which means that even today the score of The Little Humpbacked Horse raises a compassionate emotional response and enthusiasm in his musically charged soul. How it inspires me!

Alexei Ratmansky is today acclaimed everywhere as one of the most vibrant choreographers of the age. I always dreamed that he would turn his visions and ears on The Horse.

It seemed and seems to me that it is close to his unique, witty individuality of theme, where lyricism and humour, craftiness and light sadness are natural neighbours. I find it so interesting how he will "straighten out" Yershov´s undying tale…

The Mariinsky´s orchestra is, today, renowned and famed throughout the world. It is one of the finest orchestras on Planet Earth at the present time. It is by no means hard to imagine how much the composer wishes to hear the musicians perform this "odd" score!

Lastly, the ballet company is a legend of the Mariinsky. Its glittering stars who have expressed a desire to perform in the premiere…

This is the generous gift the composer is to receive from his creative destiny this evening at the theatre!

Of course, "from today" I see much naivety and imperfection in my youthful work.

But the score was written with sincerity, honesty and enthusiasm. I imagine that this can be heard and sensed even now. "I do not reject every line of the past," as Andrei Voznesensky wrote.

I, too, have no such intentions. Rather I am filled with a sensation of pleasurable anticipation of happiness and artistic creativity.

Rodion Shchedrin
4 March 2009
A house on the edge of a field. An Old Man is at home. Gavrilo and Danilo are at home. Ivan the Fool is at home. It is crowded in the house. The Old Man goes out to cut the rye wheat. Gavrilo and Danilo are glad. Gavrilo and Danilo make merry. Gavrilo and Danilo arrange an outdoor party. Gavrilo and Danilo dance with the Wet-Nurses. The Old Man returns from the field. The Old Man drives the Wet-Nurses away.
The Old Man tells his sons of a terrible villain. This villain comes at night. The villain cannot be seen by anyone. The villain tramples on and ruins the wheat. The villain must be caught and destroyed. The Old Man himself is week and infirm. The Old Man sends his sons out to guard the field.
Gavrilo and Danilo set out on patrol. They don't take Ivan. They think Ivan is too young. They think Ivan is clumsy. They think Ivan is a fool. Ivan asks to go to the field with his brothers. Ivan also wants to catch the villain. Ivan knows that he can confront the villain. Ivan is afraid of nothing. Ivan sets out into the field alone.
It is night. Ivan is guarding the field. A Young Mare trots into the field. The Young Mare is beautiful. The Young Mare is wild. The Young Mare tramples and ruins the wheat. The Young Mare enjoys itself. Ivan grabs the Young Mare by the tail. Ivan climbs onto the Young Mare. Ivan is dexterous. Ivan sits on the Young Mare back to front. Ivan finds this amusing. The Young Mare is embittered. The Young Mare attempts to throw off Ivan. But to no avail! The Young Mare makes Ivan a gift of some Horses and a Humpbacked Horse. If only Ivan will free her! The Horses are indeed beautiful. The Horses are large and powerful. The Humpbacked Horse is little. The Humpbacked Horse is weak. The Humpbacked Horse is most peculiar. What can he do?
The Fire Birds land in the field. The Fire Birds dance. The Fire Birds play. The Fire Birds fly past. The Fire Birds are free. Ivan runs after the Fire Birds.
Gavrilo and Danilo arrive in the field. Gavrilo and Danilo notice the Horses. The brothers like the Horses. Gavrilo and Danilo abduct the Horses. Gavrilo and Danilo are cunning.
Ivan returns with a feather from the Fire Bird. Ivan likes the feather. Ivan is easy and relaxed. Ivan notices the Horses have disappeared. Ivan is upset. Ivan cries bitterly. The Humpbacked Horse comforts Ivan. The Humpbacked Horse proposes that Ivan pursues the abductors. The Humpbacked Horse promises to help Ivan. The Humpbacked Horse can, in fact, do a great deal.
A square in the Capital City. The people are on the square. The people are enjoying themselves. The people perform a round dance. The people dance a quadrille. Gavrilo and Danilo are on the square. Gavrilo and Danilo plan to sell the Horses. Gavrilo and Danilo want money.
The Tsar enters the square. The Tsar loves to walk amongst his people. The people love to see their Tsar. The Tsar loves to look all around. The Tsar sees the Horses. The Tsar likes the Horses. The Tsar is ready to buy them.
Ivan and the Humpbacked Horse rush onto the square. Ivan recognises the Horses. Ivan recognises his brothers. Ivan upbraids his brothers. Ivan takes the Horses from his brothers. They are his Horses. The Tsar has become attached to the Horses. The Tsar bargains for the Horses with Ivan. Ivan is prepared to let the Horses go. The question of price remains. The Tsar takes off the Gentleman of the Bedchamber's hat: there is a wonderful price. Ivan is delighted with the hat. The hat really suits Ivan. The Guardsman is furious with Ivan.
In the royal chambers. The Tsar's rooms. The Wet-Nurses are feeding the Tsar. The Tsar is eating. The Tsar is sate and falls asleep. At the entrance to the room, Ivan lies down to sleep. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber observes Ivan. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber steals the Fire Bird's feather from Ivan. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber sneaks into the Tsar's chambers. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber wakens the Tsar and shows him the feather. Where has Ivan acquired riches such as this?
The Tsar loves the feather. The Tsar has a vision. The Tsar sees the Fire Birds. The Tsar sees a Tsarevna. The vision fades. But the Tsar is already in love with the Tsarevna. The Tsar needs the Tsarevna. That is an order! The Gentleman of the Bedchamber wakens Ivan and gives him the Tsar's order.
Ivan is in despair. Ivan doesn't know where to seek out the Tsarevna. The Little Horse comforts Ivan. The Little Horse knows what to do. Ivan and the Little Horse depart for the Tsarevna.


The Fire Birds live on the edge of the world. Among them is the Tsarevna. Ivan and the Horse have come to the edge of the World. To the Tsarevna and to the Fire Birds... Ivan wants to capture the Fire Birds. The Fire Birds fly away. Ivan sees the Tsarevna and cannot take his eyes off her. A miracle, what a beauty! The Tsarevna allows Ivan to catch her. She allows herself to be carried to the Capital City. The Tsarevna likes Ivan. Oh, well!
The Tsar and the Boyars are in the royal chambers. They are waiting for the Tsarevna. The Tsar is anxious. He is like a cat on hot bricks. The Tsar falls asleep. The Boyars, devoted servants, fall asleep too. One of the Boyars is still awake. He sees Ivan returning with the Little Horse and the Tsarevna. The Boyar wakens the Tsar. The Tsar wakes up and sends everyone away.
The Tsar declares to the Tsarevna that he plans to marry her. Ivan is distressed. Ivan loves the Tsarevna. The Boyars bring the engagement ring. The Tsarevna agrees to marry, but the ring is not right. For the wedding the Tsarevna needs a stone that lies on the seabed. The Tsar is confounded. How can he get the stone? The Gentleman of the Bedchamber is at his side. How about Ivan? The Gentleman of the Bedchamber sends Ivan to the seabed. Ivan is grieved. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber is pleased. He awaits Ivan's death.
The seabed. There, the Sea People are living their marine lives. Ivan and the Little Horse reach the seabed. Ivan looks for the ring. The ring is nowhere to be found, nowhere! What he can do he does not know! No! Ivan then asks for help from the Princess of the Sea. The Princess of the Sea will help Ivan, yes! The Sea People bring the ring to Ivan, oh yes!
A square in the Capital City. The Tsarevna is invited to dance by the Tsar. The Tsar and Tsarevna dance. The Tsar tires quickly. The Tsar is old. Ivan appears with his Little Horse and the stone. The Tsarevna is pleased that Ivan is unharmed. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber is angry. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber takes the ring from Ivan. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber drives Ivan away. Ivan is not required any longer.
The Tsar is ready to marry. But the Tsarevna is not. She does not fancy the Tsar for a husband. For a husband she needs a man as handsome as a picture. If the Tsar wishes to marry, then he must become such a fine fellow. But how? He must jump into a cauldron of boiling water, that's how!
The cauldron is brought in. The Tsar is in terror. How can he jump into boiling water? The Gentleman of the Bedchamber proposes the cauldron be tried out using Ivan. Ivan is pushed into the cauldron. The faithful Little Horse works a spell. Ivan is transformed into a handsome fellow indeed. Ivan becomes a Tsarevich. The people rejoice. The people are anxious. They all want to be young and beautiful; they all want to be tsars and tsarevnas.
The Tsar orders all be kept back from the cauldron. The Tsar himself is immersed in boiling water. The Tsar perishes. The people mourn. The people bury the Tsar. The people find life hard without a Tsar. The people need a Tsar.
Ivan Tsarevich and the Tsarevna are delighted. Preparations for the wedding are made. Then the people too are happy. The people will have their new Tsar. Handsome and young...

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Conductor: Alexei Repnikov
Set and Costume Design: Maxim Isaev
Lighting Design: Damir Ismagilov
Runnig time: 2 hours 15 minutes

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