"The Golden Cockerel"
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
June 8, 2016, matinee and June 9, 2016
by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2016 by Mary Cargill
Ballets inspired by the 1905 Russo-Japanese War are rare, but the ignominious and humiliating defeat of Russia by the here-to-fore unheralded Japanese was a profound shock to the Western powers. Rimsky-Korsakov reacted by composing an opera based on a Pushkin poem which was an adaptation of a Washington Irving story inspired by studying Moorish Spain--multiculturalism in action. Pushkin Russianized the Irving story and the lazy, greedy, incompetent Tsar Dodon who breaks his word and suffers for it at the hands of the Astrologer and his golden cockerel, is probably an indirect reference to Tsar Nicholas I, who Pushkin felt had betrayed him. Certainly Rimsky-Korsakov meant his Tsar to represent Nicholas II, with the fictional Tsar Dodon's vainglorious General Polkan frustrated by the feckless Boyars, his incompetent sons killed by friendly fire, and a mysterious and heartless seducer from the East. Not surprisingly this pointed and vicious satire didn't go over well at the Court and the opera was banned for a few years.
Corps in "The Golden Cockerel". Photo © Rosalie O’Connor.