The Power to Seduce: Tchaikovsky's 'Enchantress'

Tchaikovsky' opera has four acts, and begins in the courtyard of an inn, near a river. The inn is operated by a woman whose name is Nastasha. But most people call her by her nickname, Kuma -- sometimes translated as "everybody's girlfriend."

WOO-1247-Enchantress-300-2As ACT ONE begins, the inn's guests are relaxing. A hunting party passes by, led by Yuri, a young prince. Even from a distance, Kuma falls in love with him.

With the hunters gone, Yuri's father, Prince Nikita arrives. He's traveling with a straight-laced old deacon called Mamïrov. They've come to investigate the inn, where debauchery is said to take place. But Nikita is immediately struck by Kuma's beauty. It seems her reputation as a seductress, or "Enchantress," is well founded.

Kuma orders a boisterous dance, to keep Prince Nikita entertained. And forgetting his reason for being there, Nikita humiliates Mamïrov by ordering him to join in the fun.

In ACT TWO, Nikita's wife, the Princess, has sensed that something is going on. Nikita is torn. He's upset at the pain he's causing his wife, but still finds Kuma irresistible. The Princess has little sympathy, and when she confronts her husband, a furious argument develops.

WOO-1247-Enchantress-300-5Meanwhile, their son Yuri is also in the vicinity, and for the moment he plays peacemaker -- calming a mob of locals who think Nikita's entourage has stolen from them. But then his mother appears, and tells Yuri about his father's dalliance with Kuma. Hearing that, Yuri vows to put an end to it by killing the seductive innkeeper.

As the ACT THREE begins, Nikita has returned to Kuma's cottage. But Kuma rejects him, saying she's in love with someone else. Nikita has no idea that the man Kuma loves is his own son, Yuri -- whom she has never really met. He also doesn't know that the Princess has discovered his visits to Kuma's inn.

When Nikita leaves, Kuma is warned about Yuri's threat to kill her -- and before long Yuri arrives, determined to carry it out. But when he sees Kuma, he reacts the same way his father did. Kuma applies all her charms, quickly winning him over, and the act ends with a love duet.

ACT FOUR opens on a river bank, where Yuri waits to meet Kuma -- planning to elope with her. When he leaves, his mother appears, disguised as a pilgrim. She believes that Kuma has used magic to seduce her son. She visits Kudma, a wizard, who gives her a deadly poison.

When Kuma arrives, in a boat with some friends, she sings of her love for Yuri. The Princess approaches Kuma, still in disguise, and tricks her into drinking the poison. As Yuri returns, Kuma begins to feel the poison's effects. Seeing this, the Princess reveals herself, and Yuri denounces his mother as Kuma dies.

WOO-1247-Enchantress-300Nikita then arrives. He was told about Yuri's plan to marry Kuma. Furious, and not realizing what has just happened, he stabs Yuri to death. The Princess throws herself on her son's body. Then, as a violent storm erupts, the river rises, and they're both washed away. With the storm still raging, and the wizard laughing in the background, Prince Nikita goes mad, and the opera ends.