St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

The Brothers Karamazov

opera mystery in two acts after the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky

performed in Russian (the performance will have synchronised English supertitles)
Marking sixty years since the composer's birth


Conductor: Conductor: Pavel Smelkov
Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov: Nikolai Gassiev
Mitya: Viktor Lutsyuk
Ivan: Alexei Markov
Alyosha: Vladislav Sulimsky
Katerina Ivanovna: Zhanna Afanasieva
Agrafena Alexandrovna (Grushenka): Natalia Evstafieva
Smerdyakov: Andrei Zorin
Age category 12+


Music by Alexander Smelkov
Libretto by Yuri Dimitrin
Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Vasily Barkhatov
Set Designer: Zinovy Margolin
Costume Designer: Maria Danilova
Lighting Designer: Damir Ismagilov
Musical Preparation: Irina Soboleva
Principal Chorus Mater: Andrei Petrenko
Children’s Chorus Master: Dmitry Ralko




1. The beginning of the legend (Prelude)
The square of a medieval town. The Grand Inquisitor and his guards are slowly moving across the square. As if from the future, a children’s choir can be heard – “The evening is quiet, it is a summer’s eve…” Foreseeing the impending trial of Mitya Karamazov, the male voices repeat several times “Admit to murder…”, “Admit to the murder of your father…”

2. … Anything goes!
Outside the secluded monastery of the old man Zosima. Those wanting to meet the old man are waiting at the entrance. The head monk leads Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his sons Ivan and Alyosha to the old man. The father hopes that the old man will resolve the rights of inheritance between them and his eldest son Mitya. Mitya appears. The father accuses his son of abandoning his fiancée Katerina Ivanovna to go to that “local seductress” Grushenka. Instead of a reconciliation between the father, passionately in love with Grushenka, and Mitya, who is jealous of him, a heated quarrel emerges. Several times the old man falls on his knees before Mitya for all their sakes. “He bowed to the great suffering of his future. To great suffering…” the old man explains to Alyosha.

3. Confessions of a passionate heart
Mitya tells his brother Alyosha how Katerina Ivanovna became his fiancée. Her father, a lieutenant colonel, was accused of embezzlement. Mitya offered money to save her father if she would come to him. She came. He gave her the money... and let her go. But later, instead of getting the money back he received a letter from her... Sent with his brother Ivan’s reply. He was now in love with her… And now Mitya wants Alyosha to tell Katerina Ivanovna of his decision to break off with her and no longer hide the fact that the money she recently asked Mitya to send to Moscow was squandered by him and Grushenka. Having received permission, Mitya tells Alyosha that he is rushing to his father’s house, as his father’s servant Smerdyakov has relayed that thousands of roubles have been made ready for Grushenka, and his father is impatient for her arrival. “And if I find out she has come…”, Mitya warns Alyosha, blinded by hatred for his father, “… I will break in and commit murder!”

4. Both together
Alyosha comes to Katerina Ivanovna and tells her off the dispute with Mitya, and her money which his brother spent carousing with Grushenka. Unexpectedly Katerina Ivanovna brings Grushenka from the next room and states that they are by no means rivals. Grushenka has long been in love with an officer who abandoned her and married, but who is now free again and has returned. The women encircle Alyosha, explaining in every possible manner their feelings to each other. In thanks, Katerina Ivanovna even kisses Grushenka’s hand. And she, it would seem, is ready to respond likewise. But suddenly with a sneer she throws it all in Katerina Ivanovna’s face: “What a noble lady you are. I will take your hand, but I will not kiss it. And I will tell Mitya. How he will laugh.” Katerina Ivanovna is furious. Grushenka disappears, laughing. Katerina Ivanovna is overcome by convulsions and weeping.

5. What for? Why? (Mitya’s aria)
Mitya is left alone. “Dead. Utterly lost and dead. Why, bare steppe, why are the people poor, why do the children go hungry? I saw Grushenka, her beauty – and was lost. Beauty is a terrible thing. What for? Why?”

6. Drinking cognac…
The house of Fyodor Pavlovich. The servants Grigory and Smerdyakov attend their master, who has finished lunch and having coffee with his son Ivan. Alyosha appears. A discussion about faith begins. Fyodor Pavlovich says “Ivan, tell me, is there a God?” “No”. “Alyosha, is there a God?” “Yes”. Fyodor Pavlovich says “And there is no eternal life?” Ivan replies that “There is no eternal life.” From the canopy there is a terrible noise and violent screams, and Mitya bursts into the room – “She’s been hidden! I saw how she came to the house!” Mitya bursts into the other apartments looking for Grushenka. Trembling with passion, Fyodor Pavlovich follows him – “Grushenka is here?” He is answered in the affirmative. Coming back, Mitya grabs the old man by the hair and slams him to the floor, beating him furiously. The brothers draw him off. Ivan cries out “Madman! You have killed him!” “Not killed him, to kill I will come again.” Mitya leaves, turning to his blood-soaked father with the words: “I curse you and renounce you...” Fyodor Pavlovich calls Alyosha: “Alyosha, I am afraid of Ivan. I fear Ivan more than anything.”

7. Anguish in the drawing room
Katerina Ivanovna, Khokhlova the landowner and Ivan are in Khokhlova’s apartments. Alyosha enters. Katerina Ivanovna tells him of the “drunken epistle” she received yesterday from Mitya. “If even he marries such a... creature, I will abandon him! When he becomes miserable, then let him come to me…” Katerina Ivanovna declares with resolution. “Anyone else would be wrong, but you are right...” Ivan agrees. “Alyosha… Katerina Ivanovna never loved me! She was taking revenge for Mitya’s insult... But you know, Katerina Ivanovna, you need him to contemplate the extent of your faith. Farewell!”
Coming towards Ivan, who has left Katerina Ivanovna’s apartments, there is a brisk figure dressed the same way as Ivan. Quickly bowing to Ivan, he removes his top hat, exposing his diminutive features.

8. … It is interesting to talk with an intelligent man
Smerdyakov with his guitar and Marya Kondratievna are seated on a bench in front of Fyodor Pavlovich’s house. “However much I resist,” Smerdyakov sings with emotion, “… I shall depart and enjoy life in the capital!” Ivan appears. Marya Kondratievna quickly departs. “What, are you not leaving?” Smerdyakov asks Ivan. Ivan does not understand, “Why do you advise me to leave?” “What do you mean why?” “What do you mean why? You are to be pitied.” The Devil in a top hat rises from the bench. For an instant Ivan’s gaze is fixed intently upon him. With a devilishly sneering smile, the Devil blushes. Ivan quickly departs. Smerdyakov says to the Devil “… It is interesting to talk with an intelligent man.” 9. In bitterness there is sweetness! (Fyodor Pavlovich’s monologue)
Fyodor Pavlovich is alone. “No, my dearest Mitya Fyodorovich. Not a rouble! Not a rouble! I want to live another twenty years or so. I will try – and become one of the unclean... I will need money here. In bitterness there is sweetness! In bitterness there is sweetness!”

10. Relay from Mokroe
Grushenka’s apartments. Well-dressed, Grushenka is anxiously awaiting her old love – the officer who has come back to her. There is a knock at the door… Marya Kondratievna escorts Alyosha into the room; he has come here looking for Mitya. Grushenka is inexpressibly delighted at the visit, seats Alyosha down at the table and offers him champagne, falling at his knees. “Alyosha, today is a special day for me. My officer is coming, my tormentor! Perhaps, today, I will take a knife to him... Tell me, do I love him?” Marya Kondratievna runs in holding a letter – a carriage has arrived from Mokroe. Grushenka grabs the letter: “If he comes and whistles to call me, I shall creep back to him like a beaten dog! Grushenka is flying to a new life...”

11. She won’t take the knife, she won’t take it… (Alyosha’s prayer)
Alyosha is alone… “God! Look at her… I came here to find a wicked soul and I have found a treasure, a loving soul... She forgave all, forgot all, and weeps. And she won’t take the knife, she won’t take it!”

12. The copper pestle
At Grushenka’s house, having rejected Marya Kondratievna, Mitya bursts in. “Where is she?” “My father, I know nothing”. “If Grushenka has run off to the old man... I’ll... kill him! Like a fly!” Mitya rushes to the doors, comes back, grabs the pestle from the mortar on the table and runs out.

13. Praise be to God!
The square of a medieval town. A funeral procession is approaching the church. The Grand Inquisitor is in the distance. A children’s choir can be heard singing a prayer. Mitya’s voice too: “I wanted to kill but I am not guilty!” Men’s voices: “A murder trial is being held... of a retired titular counsellor...” The Wanderer appears in the middle of the square. Everyone recognises him. With a silent smile of compassion he moves towards the church porch. The mother of the dead girl throws herself at his feet begging for her child to be restored. The Wanderer passes his hand over the dead child’s body... The girl in the coffin rises and sits up. She is holding the bouquet of white roses she had with her in the coffin. The people are overcome with confusion, cries and weeping... The Grand Inquisitor gives the guards a signal. The Wanderer is seized and led away. The Grand Inquisitor raises his outstretched arm over the crowd. “Praise be to God!” The crowd bows down before him.


14. Symphonic Entr’acte

15. Darkness…
Late evening. The garden in front of Fyodor Pavlovich’s house. Mitya appears. “There is a light in the old man’s room. She is there!” He looks in the window. Fyodor Pavlovich can be seen through the glass. Mitya hides in the shadows. Fyodor Pavlovich disappears. “Is she here?” Again Mitya approaches the window, knocks gently and retreats. Fyodor Pavlovich immediately comes to the window. “Grushenka, is it you? She has come! I will open up now.” Mitya takes the pestle from his pocket and hides behind the house. Grigory appears. Mitya comes back with the pestle raised high. “Monster! Father-killer!!!” Mitya strikes Grigory with the pestle. The latter falls. Mitya cries out “God! Why did I do that? Is he alive?” Mitya throws the pestle away. “But it doesn’t matter much now. I have killed.”

16. The Grand Inquisitor
To the sounds of a children’s choir, prison bars can be made out, and behind them the Wanderer. Carrying a lantern, the Grand Inquisitor approaches him to take a better look. He stops before the Wanderer and lights up his face. The Grand Inquisitor asks “Why did you come to interfere here? The Devil tempted you in the desert: ‘Turn the stones into loaves... Give the people miracles…” Take Caesar’s sword…’ You scorned this advice. We did not. In the distance male voices can be heard: “All rise! Court is in session… Court… Court is in session…” “We gave them bread. And the people were rejoiced... We have sanctified your faith through the mystery of a miracle. And the people rejoiced... We are like Caesar with his sword, we are kings on Earth. Why did you come to interfere here, heretic?”

17. Let me love… (Mitya’s prayer)
Mitya is alone. “God, bring that terrible cup! Revive the old man! And don’t judge me harshly, God. Because I have judged myself. And let me love...” Mitya tears the amulet from his neck. “Here is one and a half thousand, half of Katerina’s money. If I could return it.” Mitya breaks open the amulet and takes out a pile of currency bills…

18. Take me away, far away…
A hall in an inn. The landowners Mussyalevich and Vrublevsky are sitting playing cards at a table. Sitting in a chair with a half-full glass, Grushenka suddenly sees Mitya at the door. “Mitya! Sit down, I’m glad to see you!” Champagne is brought. Mitya suggests the landowners play a round. Having lost several hundred, Mitya takes the Polish landowners aside. “If you want three thousand, landowner, take it and begone,” he tells Mussyalevich. “Five hundred roubles this very minute, the rest tomorrow.” Understanding that Mitya does not have three thousand, they proudly turn Mitya down and Mussyalevich tells Grushenka of the conversation. Grushenka (to Mitya): “Is it possible he took money from you?” Mussyalevich says “I came to take you as a wife, but see quite another miss, not the one there was before...” “O, get out, go back to whence you came!” Mitya throws himself at the Pole. His path is blocked by a throng of musicians and young women singing and dancing in the crowded room. Grushenka says “I love someone here, Mitya. Can you guess who?” The songs and merriment at the inn fade away… Grushenka continues, “Take me, Mitya!!!” In the eyes of Grushenka and Mitya, everything and everyone around them have disappeared. “… Don’t touch me. We must be pure and good… Take me far, far away, do you hear?” Mitya replies “Far, far away…” Grushenka continues “They’re not animals, they are kind…” Mitya replies “I’d give up my whole life for just one hour.” Together they sing “The snow is bright, the church bell rings... the church bell… Far, far away…” Meanwhile, the church bell begins to chime. The district police officer and his gendarmes enter and approach Mitya. “Retired Lieutenant Karamazov, you are arrested on suspicion of the murder and robbery of your father.” Mitya replies “Not guilty! Not I! Not I! There is no guilty blood in my veins!” The officer continues “Grigory the servant is alive, he has regained consciousness. And will give evidence.”

19. What I need exists not on earth… (Katerina Ivanovna’s aria)
Katerina Ivanovna is alone. She is holding the letter she received from Mitya yesterday. “Fateful Katya... I will give you the money. I will smash the old man’s skull and take it from under his pillow… If only Ivan would go away…” Katerina Ivanovna scrumples up the letter. “And what do I tell the court? …I remember… I have the money, and I can make a gesture of respect. Come in. The door is open… Mitya could not kill… My window is high above the ground. I see only the sky and the sunset…
I weep without tears for a faithless vow. What I need exists not on earth, not on earth…”

20. Not you, not you who killed
Alyosha and Ivan are in the gloom of a storm. Ivan says “Katerina Ivanovna has a document, in Mityenka’s own hand, proving that he killed.” “That is impossible, because he is not the killer!” “Who then?” Alyosha says “I will tell you one thing... You did not kill your father. You are no murderer.” After a pause, Ivan says “I will have no more to do with you from this day on.” And continues, as he leaves: “You stay well clear of me today!”

21. Alyosha’s dream
A space filled with splashes of light. Alyosha is in the centre of a pulsating beam of light. Alyosha says “Dusk and the heavenly vault, filled with glittering stars…” Somewhere in the distance an unreal vision of the dead old Zosima appears, slowly moving towards Alyosha. The old man says “where are you, Alyosha? Where are you?” There are mysterious, indefinable silhouettes of Mitya, Ivan, then Fyodor Pavlovich and Smerdyakov. They all slowly approach Alyosha. “Where are you, where are you, Alyosha?” The sound of silence, like the echo of the vanishing secret of lost souls… The silhouettes of Grushenka, Katerina Ivanovna and Khokhlakova... “Where are you, where are you, Alyosha?” And, lastly, the thought comes again and again to the tormented Alyosha: “The truth is that anyone is guilty for everyone and everything before the world.” Everyone around Alyosha slowly begins to move away from him – “Where are you, where are you, Alyosha?” – and gradually they disappear.

22. And so it was you who killed…
Ivan appears in Smerdyakov’s room. Smerdyakov asks “Why are you worried? That it is the trial tomorrow? I won’t give evidence against you. It wasn’t you who killed, not you.” Ivan replies “I know it wasn’t me!” “Do you now? Well in fact you – did. And they knew about the murder... All who knew left and appointed me the murderer. You are the principal killer.” The Devil appears with a mandolin under his arm and a case in one hand. He quickly passes by the conversationalists as if he does not see them. Ivan follows him with his eyes. Smerdyakov places a packet of bank notes before Ivan. “There. All three thousand. Take it.”

23. You are I, only the face is different
The Devil is sitting on a sofa in Ivan’s room and while waiting sings Smerdyakov’s song, accompanying himself on the mandolin. “However much I resist,” Smerdyakov sings with emotion, “… I shall depart and enjoy life in the capital!” Ivan enters. “You’re here?” The Devil continues his sensitive song: “I am bound to the pretty thing by an unconquerable force… Are you going to court tomorrow? To defend your brother? That is a fine decision.” Ivan replies “Do you wish to assure me that you are I, only our faces are different?” The Devil says “I don’t know how to tempt you?” He sets the mandolin aside, takes a trumpet from a case, continuing to talk, interrupting it with virtuoso passages on the trumpet. There is a knock at the door. The Devil, finishing a section, says “Open it, it is your brother Alyosha. With very unusual news.” Alyosha comes in: “An hour ago Smerdyakov hanged himself.” The Devil, looking indifferent, while playing on the mandolin, says “… to enjoy life and live in the capital!”

24. All rise! Court is in session…
The court. Mitya is on the bench, as are Alexei, Grushenka and Katerina Ivanovna… The chairman of the court, the jury, the public. Voices can be heard: “Retired lieutenant Dmitry Karamazov stands accused of murder... of the murder of his father.” Alesha says “My brother is innocent. Believe him!” Katerina Ivanovna chimes in “Believe him!” Grushenka speaks: “I am guilty. It all happened because of me. Believe him.” Ivan appears in the courtroom. Waving the packet of banknotes he declares “Here is the money... all of it... I got it from Smerdyakov. He killed, it was I who taught him to kill...” Katerina Ivanovna exclaims “He is ill, he is fevered!” The public and the jury reply with “He is a madman!” Ivan intervenes “Free my brother, take me!” Katerina Ivanovna again: “I must tell you... immediately!” She takes out Mitya’s letter: “Here is a letter... This monster killed his father. He writes that he would kill him as soon as Ivan went away.” Grushenka exclaims “Mitya, this snake of yours has ruined you!”

25. The Wanderer (Postlude)
Once again the Grand Inquisitor and the prison bars loom up, the Wanderer beyond them. The voice of the chairman of the court can be heard: “Is the accused guilty of premeditated murder with the aim of robbery?” The Grand Inquisitor (to the Wanderer): “Look about! Thus fifteen centuries have passed... A moment, look at them: which of them would you raise to your own level?” Men’s voices: “Yes. Guilty ...Yes. Guilty... Yes. Yes. Guilty...” The Grand Inquisitor proclaims “Tomorrow you will be burnt.” The Wanderer, slowing down, passes through the bars, approaches the front of the stage, stares at the audience, approaches the Grand Inquisitor, kisses his bloodless lips and slowly disappears. A children’s chorus can be heard: “The evening is quiet, it is a summer’s eve…”

World premiere: 23 July 2008 Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Running time: 3 hours 20 minutes
The performance has two intervas


On the whole it may be said that the opera has succeeded in life… The musical emotions, roused by Gergiev, constantly take us to the edge, and the unbelievable functional set designs by Zinovy Margolin, already beyond all doubt or disagreement acclaimed as one of his best works, in each and every single detail tells us about something close to us, something recognisable, ramshackle and very spiritual... The inventiveness of the performers in The Brothers Karamazov is all thanks to young stage director Vasily Barkhatov, who has staged a detailed, refined production that is not at all childish in its construction, where practically everyone of the vast number of characters of Dostoevsky is distinctly drawn, moreover several times (he worked on the piece with several casts).

Yekaterina Biryukova. Afisha

Set within twenty-five scenes and slightly under three hours of music, the composer has succeeded in creating not a mosaic picture “after motifs of Dostoevsky”, but a work that is surprisingly integral and impressive. Dostoevsky wrote a “tragic novel”, Smelkov a “mystery opera” – it could be said with every right to do so in as much as the “life” moments and actual happenings figure in the work in a complex blend with historical and folkloric symbolism. Apropos, if you call it an opera or not, whatever serves as the basis of the libretto, the main and most important part of such a work is nonetheless always the music. It is pleasing that it was this score that was the main success of the premiere – and, possibly, the main event of the past season.

Gazeta. SPb

... It was with the living, passionate emotions of the singers and the established, expected expression of the orchestra that Smelkov’s opera seized the Barbican Hall, pushing aside the scepticism of music critics who did not wish to judge a work to be of any quality that tacked together the ideas of other composers – from Tchaikovsky to Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  The public at the Barbican was frenzied by the passion, by the savagery of the characters, by the truly – “Dostoevskian” – spiritual fever as performed by the singers – Vasily Gorshkov, Avgust Amonov, Alexei Markov, Vladislav Sulimsky, Andrei Popov, Gennady Bezzubenkov, Kristina Kapustinskaya, Olga Trifonova, Elena Nebera and Alexander Timchenko among others.

Irina Muravieva. Rossiiskaya Gazeta

The almost four-hour-long performance ended with a stormy ovation. But the public applauded not for the innovativeness but for the traditionalism. They applauded the justified expectations – that music of the 21st century has not perverted words of the 19th century. That Dostoevsky’s protagonists on stage were exactly as imagined by the majority of readers, even from their school years. That the production team (stage director Vasily Barkhatov and set designer Zinovy Margolin) conveyed their interest in the idea and the content, reconciling their own ambitions and the draw of self-expression.

Elena Gubaidullina. Kultura

Alexander Smelkov. Highlight from the introduction to the opera The Brothers Karamazov .
The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra.
Conductor – Valery Gergiev.
Recorded on 23 July 2008.
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