Synopsis by Nathan Southern
The Finnish classical composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928) crafted his three-act opera Rasputin on the life and times of the turn-of-the-century title figure. Possibly via hypnosis, Grigori Rasputin - the notorious "Mad Monk" - sociopathically manipulated the Romanovs into believing in his ability to heal the child Tsarevich Alexei from hemophilia. Later, he ultimately conned his way into tremendous political influence, which he wielded over the child's mother, Tsarina Alexandra, and her husband, Tsar Nicholas II, prior to a shadowy assassination. Rautavaara's libretto and score bring Rasputin's weird story to full-blown, visceral life. The 2005 production of the work, staged by The Finnish National Opera, with musical accompaniment byThe Finnish National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, stars Matti Salminen in the title role, alongside Lilli Paasikivi as Tsarina Alexandra Fyordorovna and Jorma Hynninen as Tsar Nicholas II. Vilppu Kiljunen handles the stage direction.