Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Rimsky-Korsakov painting.jpg

Николай Андреевич Римский-Корсаков

  • Born: 18 March 1844, Tikhvin, Russia
  • Died: 21 June 1908, St Petersburg, Russia
  • Member of The Five (The Mighty Handful), with Mussorgsky, Borodin, Balakirev, and Cui. Edited / finished their works, including Borodin’s Prince Igor and Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bald Mountain and Boris Godunov.
  • Professor of musical composition, harmony and orchestration at the St Petersburg Conservatory (1871) – where he taught himself Western musical techniques, keeping one step ahead of his students

Rimsky-Korsakov was one of opera’s master magicians.  His operas are repertory standards in Russia, but almost unknown in the West.

Everyone knows the Flight of the Bumblebee; fewer know The Tale of Tsar Saltan, the opera from which it comes, or his other 14 operas.

They are unmistakably Russian: the subject matter draws from folk tales, legends, and history, while his style combines Western techniques with folk music.

Few composers match Rimsky-Korsakov for sheer musical imagination.  Music, rather than drama, is, as he acknowledged, the point of his operas; he seized on fairy tales,  nature and folk customs, and painted them in orchestral colour.  Some critics have taxed him with being more colourful than dramatic, but works like The Tsar’s Bride are also moving.

The Invisible City of Kitezh, Sadko, The Snow Maiden, and The Tsar’s Bride, to name but a handful, rank with the great operas in or outside Russia.


  1. The Maid of Pskov (Псковитянка) (1873; revised 1892)
  2. May Night (Майская ночь) (1880)
  3. The Snow Maiden (Снегурочка) (1882; revised 1898)
  4. Mlada (Млада) (1892)
  5. Christmas Eve (Ночь перед Рождеством) (1895)
  6. Sadko (Садко) (1898) *****
  7. Mozart and Salieri (Моцарт и Сальери) (1898)
  8. The Noblewoman Vera Sheloga (Боярыня Вера Шелога) (1898)
  9. The Tsar’s Bride (Царская невеста) (1899)
  10. The Tale of Tsar Saltan (Сказка о царе Салтане) (1900)
  11. Servilia (Сервилия) (1902)
  12. Kashchey the Deathless (Кащей бессмертный) (1902)
  13. Pan Voyoveda (Пан воевода) (1904)
  14. The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronoiya (Сказание о невидимом граде Китеже и деве Февронии) (1907)
  15. The Golden Cockerel (Золотой петушок) (1909)