Soprano Medea Mei-Figner and tenor Nikolai Figner, the original Lisa and Herman in Queen of Spades, were the original Iolanta and Vaudemont in Iolanta.
Click to listen to Medea Mei sing Liza's Arioso from Queen of Spades
On May 5, 1891, Tchaikovsky conducted the opening of a new Music Hall, founded by Andrew Carnegie. In his diary, Tchaikovsky writes that the hall was "overflowing." He adds, "Great excitement. I appeared, and was greeted with loud applause. The March went splendidly. Great success."
In a letter from New York in 1891, Tchaikovsky writes, "I am convinced that I am ten times more famous in America than in Europe. ... Several of my works, which are unknown even in Moscow, are frequently played here. I am much more important person here than in Russia. Isn't that curious?"
While working on Iolanta and Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky was also preparing for an American tour. During his New York stay in 1891, he noted in his diary that he loved strolling down Broadway and was in awe of this "extraordinary street" with "colossal" buildings. He couldn't understand how one could live on the 13th floor. Once, full of excitement, he went up on a roof of one of these buildings to enjoy the view of Broadway, and thought it was splendid.
While he was commissioned by the Imperial Opera, Tchaikovsky picked "King René's Daughter" a play by Henrik Hertz to compose an opera Iolanta but wasn't sure if the libretto would work. He was not excited about the Nutcracker subject.
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