10 Spooky Characters from Russian Operas


It is Halloween time, so we decided to do a little overview of our favorite spooky characters from Russian operas. So keep reading if you are not too scared ...

Demon (bass-baritone) from Rubinstein's "Demon".

Demon is the fallen angel, cursed by God and by people, he is bored by everything and he hates the whole world. But suddenly he sees the beautiful Georgian Princess Tamara and immediately falls in love with her. She is preparing for her wedding, but Demon orchestrates the killing of her groom. Tamara is in deep grief, but at the same time she keeps hearing Demon's voice calling her. She tries to hide in a monastery, but Demon is so obsessed with her that he dares to step into this God's Holy place. He promises to turn away from evil deeds to love, kindness and faith. In the end, Tamara gives in, but after his first kiss she falls dead.

Fyodor Shalaypin as Demon in Rubinstein's opera (1903)

Listen to Demon's romance performed by Dmitri Hvorostovsky (2014)

The Old Countess (mezzo-soprano / contralto) from Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades". When the Countess was young she found out (for the price of just one rendezvous) the secret combination of cards that always win. Since then she only told the secret to two people, but then a ghost came and warned her that she will get a deadly blow from the third person who will come to get the secret from her by force.

So, when Herman comes she is too scared to answer to his plea, then he threatens her, but she dies without telling her secret. Then the Countess comes to him as a ghost and opens her secret with the condition that Herman would save Lisa's life and honor and marry her.

Herman comes to talk to Lisa, but all his thoughts are about the cards. When he leaves for the gambling house, Lisa throughs herself into the river. And - the cards to not work for Herman - instead of the Ace he gets the Queen of Spades. It seems to him that he recognizes the Old Countess's face on the card and he shoots himself in desperation.

Scene in Countess's room and her death. Fragment of the performance at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, St.Petersburg. Countess - Elena Obraztsova

Act 3 - Countess's ghost, Lisa's death, the gambling house and Herman's death. Astrakhan Theatre for Opera and Ballet, 2012

Shemakha Queen (coloratura soprano) from Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Golden Cockerel" - is in a way the Russian Queen of the Night. Or should I say Queen of Seduction?

In the opera The Golden Cockerel is warning the elderly Tzar Dodon about the war threat coming from the East. He sends there two armies led by his two sons, but none of them returns. Having no news, Tzar Dodon leads the third army to fight with the invader. But when he arrives, he finds both armied defeated, both of his sons dead and no sign of the enemy around.

There is only a beautiful tent standing nearby.

Then out of the tent appears Shemakha Queen - an Oriental witch queen who has the power to charm any man who looks upon her. She sings a sensual song about her Motherland, its nature, its women and about forbidden love with a beautiful stranger. And with this song she seduces King Dadon, makes him forget the loss of his sons and marry her. And, of course, she leads him to his death by the end of the opera.

Listen to Shemakha Queen's First Song (also known as "Hymn to the Sun") performed by Irina Zhurina

Kashchey (tenor) and Kasheyevna (mezzo-soprano) from Rimsky-Korsakov's"Kashchey The Deathless".

Kashchey The Deathless is a frequent character in Russian fairy tales. This is an evil wizard that cannot be killed by any usual means, instead it is necessary to find the place where he is hiding his death.

In this opera his death in hidden in the tears of his daughter Kashcheyevna. Being just like her father, Kashcheyevna is cruel and cold. But unrequited love and human kindness makes her cry for the first time in her life, which brings death to Kashchey and the end to his kingdom.

Ivan Yershov as Kashchey (Mariinsky Theatre, 1918)

Kashchey's aria performed by Alexander Zhukov, National Academic Theatre for Opera and Ballet of the Belarus Republic, 2008

Kashcheyevna's aria performed by Sara Dolukhanova and The USSR Orchestra.

Chyort / Byes and Solokha - are more of a comic rather that a scary couple featured in two operas written based on the same story: Rimsky-Korsakov's "Christmas Eve" (