Iolanta is a one act lyric opera by Tchaikovsky, sung in Russian. Princess lolanta is born blind; her father, King Rene, forbids anyone to talk of beauty, light or the natural world hoping that she will not recognize her affliction. For Tchaikovsky, a fairytale was not an escape from reality but an opportunity to speak of forbidden reality. His imaginary kingdom is a place of secret remorse and private hurt, redeemed by an African Sufi healer and torrential, relentless, unlikely love. This intimate final opera is a spiritually charged Mozartian journey through darkness into light. Persephone is a three act melodrama by Stravinsky, sung in French. In Andre Gide's Homeric poem, Persephone goes into the underworld of her own free will, moved by compassion for those who must live there, poignantly evoking Christian sacrifice, and poetically suggesting a dawning awareness of the Stalin Terror of mass collectivization. A ritual drawn from the earliest agricultural myths of Western civilization, for Stravinsky it became a second Rite of Spring, a dance of renewal to music of unexpected tenderness and grace. This regeneration is felt in the delicate choreography of Cambodian dancers from Amrita Performing Arts.
Unanimously acclaimed, Peter Sellars' new production of these two masterpieces was one of the great highlights of Gerard Mortier's season at the Teatro Real, Madrid - visually exhilarating and musically sublime. The orchestra and cast, including Ekaterina Scherbachenko and Paul Groves, are lifted to rare heights of poetic expression under the daring and insightful baton of Teodor Currentzis.