The golden rooster

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Work data
Title: The golden rooster
Original title: Золотой петушок
(Solotoi petuschok)
Original language: Russian
Music: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Libretto : Vladimir Bjelski
Premiere: September 24th July / 7 October 1909 greg.
Place of premiere: Moscow
Playing time: about 2 hours
Place and time of the action: Place and time of the action
  • King Dodon ( bass )
  • Prince Gwidon ( tenor )
  • Prince Afron ( baritone )
  • General Polkan (bass)
  • Amelfa, overseer ( old )
  • The astrologer ( tenore altino )
  • The Queen of Schemacha ( soprano )
  • The golden rooster (soprano)
  • Chor ( Choir )

The Golden Rooster ( Russian Золотой петушок Solotoi petuschok ) is an opera in three acts (with prologue and epilogue) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov based on a libretto by Vladimir Bjelski based on the fairy tale of the same name by Alexander Pushkin (1834), which in turn is based on the saga of Arabic astrologers from the short story collection The Alhambra (1832) by Washington Irving . The Parisian performance in 1914 in particular made the opera a sensational success and gained importance as a milestone in the development of modern music theater.



An astrologer appears on the stage and announces the next action.

first act

In the palace hall of King Dodon. Serious worries weigh on the old king. His empire is threatened on all sides, and his successes on the battlefield are far behind. He seeks advice from his sons, Princes Gwidon and Afron, but the measures they propose are absurd. Now the astrologer enters the scene and offers a golden rooster as a solution, which beats its wings and starts to crow loudly as soon as danger threatens. The king and his advisors happily enter into this convenient solution. The astrologer postpones the offered royal reward until later. From now on the golden rooster fulfills its duty to watch to everyone's satisfaction. At his first alarm, the king's sons and soldiers move into the field. The remaining court falls back into sweet idleness and Dodon dreams of the beautiful Queen of Schemacha. But soon the golden rooster warns of new calamities. The people gather in fear in front of the palace, and at last General Polkan wakes the sleeping king. In a moody mood, Dodon and the remaining soldiers go into battle to the cheers of the people to help his sons.

Second act

The king in a narrow ravine. His army is defeated and his sons are dead at his feet. Dodon wants revenge. He suspects the enemy to be in a magnificent tent suddenly emerging from the fog. He immediately loads his last remaining cannon, but then a young, bewitchingly beautiful woman emerges from the tent. She sings about the rising sun, it is the Queen of Schemacha from Dodon's dream, and she wants his kingdom. But it should not be conquered by force, but by beauty. Enigmatic and with a mocking smile, she ensnares the defeated king. In her memory the feast with Gwidon and Afron comes back to life, both of whom offered her the crown and pierced each other for her sake. Dodon falls for her completely and does not notice how the queen is mocking him. He blindly offers her himself and his realm, into which both of them move with many slaves, soldiers and precious treasures.

Third act and epilogue

The overseer Amelfa announces the outcome of the battle and the return of Dodon with the new, strange queen. The procession is already approaching, and the astrologer who also appears demands the queen of Schemacha from the king as the price for the golden rooster. Furious, Dodon knocks the astrologer down with the scepter and kills him. A storm approaches, the Queen laughs furtively, and Dodon sees disaster coming. When he tries to kiss her, she pushes him back because the punishment for his crimes is near. Then the golden rooster rushes at him and picks him with its beak until it collapses lifelessly. The queen escapes with the miracle bird in a thunderstorm that is discharging. Embarrassed and without understanding, the people viewed the new situation after the death of the Tsar.


The astrologer enters the stage one last time and advises the audience not to take the gloomy ending of the fairy tale too seriously.

Origin and performance

After Nikolai Rimski-Korsakow had composed the opera between 1906 and 1907, it was premiered on September 24th July. / 7 October 1909 greg. held in Moscow . Five years later, the Parisian performance of the opera on May 24, 1914 by the Ballets Russes caused a worldwide sensation and a revolution in romantic music theater. At the traditional Opéra Nationale de Paris , the ballet ensemble under its director and impresario Sergei Djagilew broke with the previously dominant playing principle of this art form - the unity of actor and theater figure.

When the opera was performed, the singers were placed on the stage with their part books in hands along the side decoration, while dancers and actors performed the action without singing. The departure from tradition was clear: stage actors and singers in one role were no longer the same person. The theater characters were consequently no longer seen as singing images of people; their psychology no longer challenged viewers to identify with what was offered, but to contemplate them from a distance.

This deliberately provocative, experimental performance of the Golden Rooster became an international success and influenced the further development of musical theater in the twentieth century.

The role of the magician, which acts both inside and outside the drama, is filled with an extremely high tenor. Rimsky-Korsakov referred to this pitch as "tenore altino".


  • Jürgen Schläder: Against Wagner. Theatrical and compositional innovations in music theater of the classical avant-garde , in: Opera in the 20th century. Development tendencies and composers , ed. v. Udo Bermbach. Stuttgart / Weimar 2000, pp. 50-74

Web links

Commons : The golden rooster  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ekhart Wycik : sounding subconscious. In: Text book for the performance of the opera in the Dortmund Opera House 2006, p. 7