Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Christmas Eve Introduction
Composed between 1894-95, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve is an opera in four acts. Based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story with the same name, Rimsky-Korsakov wanted to add his traditional folk spin on this popular tale. The opera premiered in December 1895 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. It didn’t receive its British premiere nearly 93 years later in 1988 at the English National Opera.
The Introduction, also sometimes referred to as the overture, to Christmas Eve sets the scene for this festive-themed opera. Opening with open chords from the horns and woodwind, the texture begins to build up. A mysterious interjection sends the music down another path, as a solo horn emerges with a new theme. The strings follow suit, with the woodwind and tuned percussion accompanying with sparkling interjections.
The broad theme by the horns opens up the first scene of the opera, as the intricate woodwind parts add the slice of magic into the music. As the texture begins to get richer, the swaying theme becomes more apparent. The climax comes right near the end of the work, with the horns and percussion leading the way. The muted excitement is then readied for the transition into the next scene as the opera begins.
Ⓒ Alex Burns