Sadko (Rimsky-Korsakov) – dossier

SADKO           (Садко)

Opera-bylina in 7 tableaux

By Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Libretto: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, with the assistance of Vladimir Stasov, Vasily Yastrebtsev, Nikolai Shtrup, Nikolai Findeyzen, and Vladimir Belsky

Compiled from the bylina Sadko, the Rich Trader, the Tale of the Sea King and the Wise Vasilisa, The Book of the Dove and other ancient ballads and Russian tales

First performed: Solodovnikov Theatre, Moscow, 7 January 1898 (Old Style 26 December 1897)

My review.


Foma Nazarich, doyen, elder of Novgorod (tenor)

Luka Zinovich, governor, elder of Novgorod (bass)

Sadko Nelepp.jpg
George Nelepp as Sadko (Tableau 1).  (Source:

Sadko, gusli-player and singer in Novgorod (tenor): Anton Sekar-Rozhansky

Lyubava Buslayevna, his young wife (mezzo): Aleksandra Rostovtseva

Nezhata, a young gusli-player from Kiev (contralto): Varvara Strakhova

Duda, skomorokh (town entertainer) (bass): Aleksandr Brevi

Sopel, skomorokh (town entertainer) (tenor)





Varangian (Viking) Merchant (bass): I. Aleksanov

Sadko - Chaliapin as Varangian guest.jpg
Chaliapin as the Varangian Merchant


Indian Merchant (tenor): Yekab Karklin


Venetian Merchant (baritone): I. Petrov

Okian-more (Ocean-Sea), the Sea King (bass): Anton Bedlevich

Volkhova 1898.jpeg
Mikhail Vrubel. Nadezhda Zabiela-Vrubel as princess Volkhova 1898 State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.  (Source:

Volkhova, a beautiful princess; his youngest, favorite daughter (soprano)

The Apparition, a mythic mighty warrior in the guise of a pilgrim

Chorus, silent roles: Merchants of Novgorod, wandering minstrels, jesters, soothsayers, gold-finned fishes, the people, pilgrims, Sadko’s bodyguard, sailors, beautiful maidens of the undersea kingdom

Conductor: Eugenio Esposito












Introduction: The Blue Ocean

TABLEAU ONE: The rich mansion of a guild in Novgorod

Sadko tableau 1.jpg
State Academic Bolshoi Theater of the USSR, 1952.
  • Chorus
  • Heroic Tale of Volkh Vseslavich (Nezhhata)
  • Chorus and Scena
  • Recitative and Aria (Sadko)
  • Scena
  • Minstrels’ Song and Dance


TABLEAU TWO: The shores of Lake Ilmen

Sadko tableau 2.jpg
I. Bilibin. Night on the shores of Lake Ilmen. Set design, 1914.  (Source:
  • Chorus of the Beautiful Maidens of the Underwater Kingdom
  • Sadko’s Round Song
  • Duet and Chorus (Sadko, Sea Princess)


TABLEAU THREE: An attic in Sadko’s quarters

  • Lyubava’s Recitative and Aria


TABLEAU FOUR: A pier in Novgorod, on the banks of Lake Ilmen


Sadko - tableau 4.jpg

Sadko tableau 4 2.jpg
FF Fedorov, 1935.  (Source:
  • Fairy tale and the lookout
  • Songs of the foreign merchants:
  1. Song of the Varangian Merchant
  2. Song of the Indian Merchant
  3. Song of the Venetian Merchant
  • Finale


TABLEAU FIVE: A peaceful expanse on the Ocean

Sadko Fedorov.jpg
FF Fedorov, 1935.  (Source:
  • Sadko’s Aria
  • Scena and intermezzo


TABLEAU SIX: The depths of the sea

Sadko tableau 6.jpg
I. Bilibin. Underwater kingdom.  Set design, 1914.  (Source:
  • Eulogy (Sadko)
  • Procession of maritime miracles
  • Wedding song
  • Dances of the underwater kingdom:
  1. Dancing rivers and streams
  2. Dances of some sort of fish
  3. General Dance and the Finale


TABLEAU SEVEN: Novgorod, a green meadow on the banks of lake Ilmen

  • Orchestral Introduction
  • Lullaby (Volkhova)
  • Finale