The King of Clubs is in despair – his son is a hypochondriac. Though it turns out his son could be cured by laughter, not everyone at court is eager to see the prince well again... Those who would wish harm on the heir to the throne poison him with tragic prose and old, banal poems; the presence of wizards, devils and witches only adds to the intrigue. However, good prevails in this phantasmagorical chaos... The Love for Three Oranges is one of the 20th century’s best operas; it combines comedy and tragedy, poetry and the grotesque, romantic tales and philosophical satire. The LNO production, directed by Alexander Titel, artistic director of Moscow’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre, is based on the street theatre aesthetic and boasts the light-hearted humour and vitality characteristic of Titels’ directing style.
Works are given by permission of the publishers Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. London / Gehrmans Musikförlag, Stockholm
Performed in Russian, surtitled in English, Latvian.
Advocates of Tragedy, Comedy, Lyric Drama and Farce argue for their favourite form before the curtain goes up for a play. The Ridicules round them up and tell them they are to witness The Love for Three Oranges.
The King of Clubs and his adviser Pantalone lament the sickness of the Prince, brought on by an indulgence in tragic poetry. Doctors inform the King that his son’s hypochondria can only be cured with laughter, so Pantalone summons the jester Truffaldino to arrange a grand entertainment.
The magician Tchelio, who supports the King, and the witch Fata Morgana, who supports Leandro and Clarice (niece of the King, lover of Leandro), play cards to see who will be successful. Tchelio loses three times in succession to Fata Morgana, alias of Leandro.
Leandro and Clarice plot to kill the Prince so that Clarice can succeed to the throne. The supporters of Tragedy are delighted at this turn of events. The servant Smeraldina reveals that she is also in the service of Fata Morgana, who will support Leandro.
All efforts to make the Prince laugh fail, despite the urgings of the supporters of Comedy, until Fata Morgana is knocked over by Truffaldino and falls down — the Prince laughs, as do all the others except for Leandro and Clarice. Fata Morgana curses him: henceforth, he will be obsessed by ‘love for three oranges’. At once, the Prince and Truffaldino march off to search them.
Magus Tchelio sets out to negotiate the rescue of his loved ones with Farfarello. However, Farfarello refuses to listen to him, since magus has lost a card game.
Tchelio tells the Prince and Truffaldino where the three oranges are, but warns them that they must have water available when the oranges are opened. He also gives Truffaldino a magic ribbon with which to seduce the giant Cook who guards the oranges in the palace of the witch Creonte. They are blown to the palace with the aid of winds created by the demon Farfarello.
Using the ribbon to distract the Cook, they grab the oranges and carry them off into the surrounding desert. While the Prince sleeps, Truffaldino opens two of the oranges. Fairy princesses emerge but quickly die of thirst. The Ridicules give the Prince water to save the third princess, Ninette. The Prince and Ninette fall in love. He leaves to seek clothing for Ninette so he can take her home to marry her, but, while he is gone, Fata Morgana transforms Ninette into a giant rat and substitutes Smeraldina in disguise. When, accompanied by courtiers, Prince and King return, Smeraldina convinces everyone that she is the one who received the avowal of marriage.
Tchelio and Fata Morgana meet, each accusing the other of cheating, but the Ridicules intervene and spirit the witch away, leaving Tchelio free to act; the witch is lured into a trap. He restores Ninette to her natural form. The plotters are sentenced to die but Fata Morgana helps them escape. The opera ends with everyone praising the Prince and his bride.