Lyric opera in one act · Music by Piotr Tchaikovsky · Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky, based upon Henrik Hertz'z King René's Daughter · Premiere: Saint Petersburg, 18th December 1892, Mariinsky Theater
Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Real
(Coro Intermezzo and Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid)
31st January 2012
Iolanta has been blind from birth but she is totally unaware of this. She has been brought up with the love of her family and surrounded by nature. Her father, King René, has not been able to find a cure for her condition, and has preferred for the girl to be unaware of her blindness, to avoid her being unhappy. As a result of this situation, the girl has become extremely isolated.
The king asks a prestigious Moorish physician to try and cure his daughter. But the physician explains that for her to be cured the girl must be told that she is blind, and only if she is aware of her disability, will she truly want to recover her sight. King René is not sure of this medical strategy and refuses to make his daughter unhappy.
One day, Iolanta is sleeping peacefully in the palace garden. Count Vaudemont is in the area hunting with his friend, the Duke of Burgundy. He loses his way and finds himself in the garden where the princess is sleeping. As soon as he sees her, he falls madly in love with the princess. When he sees she is blind, he begins to explain the sensations he feels seeing the light and different colours.
The king is horrified and decides to kill the count. However, if the count can cure his daughter of her blindness, he will forgive him. The princess desperately wants to recover her sight and the miracle occurs, just as the Moorish physician had predicted. Vaudemont asks the king for his daughter's hand in marriage and, although the king had promised her to another man, he finally gives his consent for them to marry.