“Ivan Susanin” or “A Life for the Zar” (Glinka)

In the autumn of 1612 and the winter of 1613

Act 1

The village of Domnino

Antonida is eager to marry Sobinin, but her father, Susanin, refuses permission until a Russian has been duly chosen to take the tsar’s throne. When Sobinin informs him that the Grand Council in Moscow has chosen a tsar, everyone celebrates.

Opera, Blood, and Tears
Ivan Susanin / A Life for the Zar”
in celebration of the premiere of 1836
December 9 at 3pm EST
on Clubhouse

Act 2


In a sumptuous hall, the nobility celebrates the Polish dominance over the Russians by singing and dancing. Suddenly, a messenger comes in with the news that Mikhail Romanov has been selected as the tsar of Russia but is now in hiding. The Poles vow to overthrow him.

Act 3

Susanin’s cabin

Susanin and his adopted son, Vanya, pledge to defend the new tsar. Susanin blesses Sobinin and Antonida on their upcoming wedding when a detachment of Polish soldiers bursts in to demand the tsar’s whereabouts. Instead, Susanin sends Vanya to warn the tsar while Susanin leads the soldiers off the trail into the woods. Antonida is devastated. Sobinin gathers some men to go on a rescue mission.

Act 4

A dense forest

Sobinin reassures his men of the rightness of their mission. When night falls, in a part of the forest near a monastery, Vanya knocks at the gates and alerts the inhabitants to spirit the tsar away. Susanin has led the suspicious Polish troops into an impassable, snow-covered area of the forest. The Poles sleep while Susanin waits for the dawn and bids farewell to his children. A blizzard sets in, and when day breaks, the Poles awake. They realise that Susanin has deceived them and so kill him.


Red Square, Moscow.

Across the stage walks a crowd of people, celebrating the triumph of the new tsar. Alone in their own solemn procession, Antonida, Sobinin and Vanya mourn Susanin. A detachment of Russian troops comes upon them, discovers their connection with Susanin and comforts them. As the scene changes to Red Square, the people proclaim glory to the tsar and to Susanin’s memory.

External reading: New York Times