top of page

Sergei Prokofiev

The Love for Three Oranges

Prokofiev - The Love For Three Oranges
Introduction: 00:00
Act I : 02:50
Act II: 33:15
Act III: 58:35 
Act IV: 1:42:48

The King of Clubs -- Mark Glanville
Leander -- Andrew Shore
Truffaldino -- Paul Harrhy
Panthalon -- Alan Oke
Celi -- Roger Bryson
Fata Morgana -- Maria Moll
Herold -- Stephen Dowson
The Prince -- Peter Jeffes
Clarissa -- Patricia Payne
Smeraldina -- Maria Jagusz
The Cooker -- Richard Angas
Farfarello -- Mark Lufton
Linetta - Lesley Roberts
Nicoletta - Victoria Sharp
Ninetta - Juliet Booth
Acrobat - Terry Whan

English Northern Philharmonia - Chorus Opera North
Conductor: David Lloyd-Jones - Director: Richard Jones
BBC 1989

Prokofiev - The Love For Three Oranges
Act I : 00:00
Act II: 28:30
Act III: 51:43
Act IV: 1:33:11

The King of Clubs -- Viktor Rybinski
Leandr -- Boris Dobrin
Truffaldino -- Juri Jelnikoff
Panthalon -- Ivan Budrin
Celi -- Gennadi Troitsky
Fata Morgana -- Nina Poliakova
Herold -- M. Markoff
The Prince -- Vladimir Makhov
Clarice -- Lyntsia Rashkovets
Smeraldina -- Nina Postavnicheva
The Cooker -- Georg Abramoff
Farfarello -- Juri Jakushev
Linetta - Tamara Erofeyeva
Nicoletta - Tamara Medvedeva
Ninetta - Tatiana Kallistratova
The Master of Ceremonies -- Ivan Kartavenko

Chorus and Orchestra of the Central TV and USSR Radio
Conductor -- Jemal Dalgat - Recorded in 1962

The opera was commissioned in 1919, when the composer was a visiting enfant terrible of music, by Cleofonte Campanini, musical director and principal conductor of the Chicago Opera Company. Prokofieff finished the complex

score in six months; the opera was placed in rehearsal; everyone found it extremely difficult to master; Campanini died; and the project was shelved for two years. Then, in 1921, Mary Garden became artistic director of the company (or “directa,” as she termed herself), and trotted the work out once more. Prokofieff was invited to conduct it himself; he did; and the result was financial and critical, if not necessarily artistic, disaster. The production survived only three performances—two in Chicago and one in New York. The story that this failure discouraged Prokofieff from making America his permanent home is probably apocryphal.

The opera was given in a number of European centers later on, but America did not hear it again until 1949 when, with a scenario revised by Theodore Komisarjevsky and Vladimir Rosing and in an English translation by Victor Seroff, it scored a great hit with the New York City Opera Company. The production became a big success for several years, both in New York and on the road, for it was played broadly for laughs and was a great attraction for juvenile audiences on Saturday matinees.

There is a certain irony in the fact that the opera’s late popularity should depend upon its appeal to children, for it is a work of the highest sophistication. The libretto is based on an eighteenth-century comedy by Carlo Gozzi, who had written it to win a bet showing that he could get a larger audience than his rivals by taking an old wives’ tale and dressing it in a fresh style. This style involved a satirical criticism of his competitors, Goldoni and Chiari, who were virtually driven into exile from Venice on account of Gozzi’s success. Prokofieff, well aware of this bit of literary history, satirized, with his score, such well-established opera composers as Massenet, Verdi, and Wagner. True, they were all dead by 1919, but their works lost no performances through the satirical musical comments of Prokofieff, for, apparently, no one understood these. At the time the work just seemed willfully obtuse and hence dull. Today Prokofieff’s “modernisms” sound familiar enough, and his satire is lost on a juvenile audience. But like Gulliver’s Travels, which has had an analogous history, it is just dandy for children.




(Lyubov k Trent Apelsinam)


Opera in prologue and four acts by Sergei Prokofieff
with libretto in Russian by the composer
based on a play by Carlo Gozzi which was in turn based on an old legend

The Kig of Clubs 
The Prince, his son
Princess Clarissa, his niece 
Leandro, his prime minister 
Truffaldino, the court jester 
Pantaloon, friend and adviser of the King 
Celio, a magician
Fata Morgana, a witch
Smeraldina, her servant 
Linetta, a princess 
Nicoletta, a princess
Ninetta, a princess
The Cook
Farfarello, a devil 
A Herald  
A Trumpeter 

Time: once upon a  
Place: Land of the King of Clubs  
First performance (in French) at Chicago, December 30,1921    


King of Clubs:

Bass. Father of the Prince who is unable to laugh and will die if his melancholia is not cured. Created (1921) by Édouard Cotreuil.


Tenor. Son of the King, he suffers from melancholia and will die unless he is made to laugh. He laughs at Fata Morgana, the evil witch, who in revenge makes him fall in love with three oranges and travel the world to find them. Created ( 1921 ) by José Mojica . 

Contralto. Princess, niece of the King, who hopes to inherit the throne. Evil accomplice of the witch Fata Morgana. Created (1921) by Irene Pavlovska.

Baritone. Prime Minister (King of Spades), hoping to inherit the throne from the King of Clubs and therefore not anxious to see the Prince cured of his melancholia. Created (1921) by William Beck.


Tenor. Court jester and friend of the Prince, but unable to make him laugh. He accompanies him on his search for the three oranges. Truffaldino opens the first two oranges and the princesses who step out die of thirst. Created (1921) by Octave Dua.



Bass. A Magician, protector of the King. Created (1921) by Hector‐Robert Dufranne.


Fata Morgana:

Soprano. A witch, she protects the evil Leandro. The first time the Prince is able to laugh is at the sight of Fata Morgana when she falls over, legs flying in all directions. To punish him, she makes him fall in love with three oranges and travel the world to find them. Created ( 1921 ) by Nina Koshetz.



Mez. Servant of Fata Morgana. She wants to marry the Prince and turns his princess into a rat. Created (1921) by Jeanne Schneider.


Princess Linetta:
Contralto. The princess inside the first orange. She dies of thirst. Created (1921) by Philine Falco.


Princess Nicoletta:

Mezzo-soprano. The princess hidden in the second orange. She dies of thirst. Created (1921) by Frances Paperte.


Princess Ninetta:

Soprano. The princess inside the third orange, with whom the Prince falls in love. She is turned into a rat by Smeraldina, but turned back again by the King's magician, Chelio. Created (1921) by Jeanne Dusseau.



Bass. A devil who uses a large bellows to blow the Prince on his way to look for the three oranges. Created (1921) by James Wolf. 


George Tsypin: Love for Three Oranges by Sergei Prokofiev
Conceptual Opera Set and Costume Design


Tragedians, Comedians, Lyricists, and Empty Heads quarrel, before the curtain, about what type of play should be performed. They are all chased out by another group, called “Reasonable Spectators,” who announce that something quite different from the customary fare is to be performed. Then a “trumpeter” (who performs on a bass trombone) announces the Herald, and he, in turn, announces that the theme of the play is to be the illness of the son of the King of Clubs, who is unable to laugh. In the New York City production, Komisar-jevslcy substituted a spoken prologue for most of this esoteric quarrel.


Scene 1 In a room in the palace of the King of Clubs the monarch is advised by the royal medical staff that his son’s symptoms include pains all over, not to mention a cough, bad eyesight, anemia, biliousness, melancholia, and a few others. Diagnosis: hypochondria. Prognosis: incurable. The King’s adviser, Pantaloon, tries in vain to comfort him. Who shall inherit the kingdom if his son cannot rule? Will it be that cruel niece of his, Clarissa? The Reasonable Spectators (who, like the other personages from the prologue, occupy stage boxes and occasionally comment) help him to worry. If only the Prince can be made to laugh, there may be some hope yet. Pantaloon thinks that entertainment may turn the trick, and he shouts for Truffaldino, the court jester. Truffaldino is delighted with the assignment; but Leandro, the prime minister, who is also consulted, thinks such a program can only make the boy worse. However, as Leandro is a villain, one must suspect his motives. At least the King does, while Pantaloon calls him a traitor.

Scene 2 The stage darkens; a curtain decorated with cabalistic signs descends; and before it is played a game of cards between the powerful witch Fata Morgana (who appears in a flash of lightning and represents the evil forces of Leandro) and the magician Celio (who represents the good forces of the King of Clubs). Three times Celio is defeated to the accompaniment of a chorus of little devils and the frightened cries of the Reasonable Spectators.

Scene 3 Back at the palace, Leandro, the prime minister, is visited by Clarissa, who has promised to marry him if he succeeds in encompassing the Prince’s death so that she may inherit. Leandro does not seem overly eager for this marriage; nevertheless, he feels sure that he will get rid of the heir apparent by boring him to death on a diet of tragic prose and dull verse. They shall be served up to him in his soup and on his bread. (At this point the Tragedians swarm enthusiastically onto the stage, but the Reasonable Spectators chase them off again.)

Now Smeraldina, a dark-faced servant of Fata Morgana’s, is discovered behind a huge vase, eavesdropping on the two conspirators. At first they threaten to kill her; but she assures them that her mistress is on their side, and that only the presence of this powerful witch at the coming festivities may prevent the Prince from laughing. They accept her advice and call on Fata Morgana for help.


Scene 1 The Prince, bundled up in an outrageous assortment of garments, sits bored as Truffaldino tries out his best antics on him. Nothing will make him laugh. Instead, he coughs, and Truffaldino, holding a basin for him, notes in alarm that dull verses are coming up. He then asks the Prince to attend the festival to be held especially for the purpose of making him laugh. (Here, once again, there is an interruption: the Comedians rush onto the stage and have to be chased off by the Reasonable Spectators.)

The March from The Love for Three Oranges -  the only portion of the score that has won wide popularity—is played as Truffaldino almost forces the hypochondriac Prince to accompany him to the festival. The jester hurls all the boy’s medicines out of the window, throws a cape on his back, and literally carries him from the room.

Scene 2 In the courtyard of the palace, Truffaldino stages two comic acts for the Prince—a battle of monsters, and a milling crowd of drunkards and gluttons. He does not find these at all funny. But when Truffaldino finds Fata Morgana in the crowd, tries to throw her out, and accidentally makes her turn a somersault, the Prince suddenly starts laughing. In an exceptionally clever passage Prokofieff develops this laugh, starting gently with the solo tenor and continuing it, crescendo, till everyone on the stage is joining in excepting, of course, Fata Morgana, Leandro, and Clarissa.

Fata Morgana thereupon delivers a curse on the Prince. With the vocal assistance of a chorus of devils, she dooms him to being in love with three oranges whom he shall pursue to the very ends of the earth. In vain the King and his court try to dissuade him from this madness: he merely replies that he shall become melancholy all over again if he remains at home. A little devil named Farfarello appears with a pair of bellows to waft the Prince and Truffaldino on their way as the court, led by the King, joins in a mock tragic operatic finale.

The third painting depicts a wild party or orgy underway at a brothel. The prostitutes are stealing the drunken Tom's watch. On the floor at bottom right is a night watchman's staff and lantern-souvenirs of Tom's "Wild Night" on the town. The scene takes place at the Rose Tavern, a famous brothel in Covent Garden. The prostitutes have black spots on their faces to cover syphilitic sores.


Scene 1 Farfarello, the devil, has been blowing the Prince and Truffaldino toward the palace of Creonte, the powerful witch who owns the three oranges. When Farfarello was called on an errand to hell, he had temporarily to leave his charges in the desert asleep; and as he returns, Celio stops him and tries to force him to stop all this dangerous fooling. Farfarello reminds the well-intentioned fellow that, since he lost at cards to Fata Morgana, he has no more power. But before the Prince and Truffaldino are wafted once more on their way, Celio has the opportunity to give them some practical advice. He warns them that the oranges are in the immediate possession of a massive cook with a copper ladle strong enough to kill them both. In order to distract this cook Celio presents the voyagers with a pretty ribbon. Perhaps, he suggests, they may steal the oranges while Cook is admiring this offering. He also warns them that when they secure the oranges, they must cut them open only in the immediate neighborhood of water. The Prince pays no attention to all this practical advice but continues to sing of his love. Truffaldino accepts the ribbon, and Farfarello reappears to waft off the travelers with his bellows.

Scene 2 Before the castle of Creonte, Truffaldino is fearfully frightened, and even the dauntless Prince hides when the Cook (sung by a basso) emerges with her huge ladle. When she finds Truffaldino, she threatens him with sudden death; but, suddenly espying Celio’s ribbon hanging about his neck, she coyly asks for it. The Prince takes the opportunity to slip into the kitchen and emerge with three enormous oranges. With Truffaldino he escapes once more into the desert as the Cook bounds with delight about the stage, enchanted with the ribbon, and delivering a coarse aria that is likely to be the hit of the show.

Scene 3 In the desert the Prince is asleep, while Truffaldino is suffering from thirst. At the back of the stage stand the three stolen oranges, now grown large enough to contain human beings. Truffaldino is so desperate with thirst that he opens up one of them, and out steps a lovely princess named Linetta, who says she is dying of thirst. The second orange yields a second princess named Nicoletta, who is equally thirsty. In fact, they are both so thirsty that they die prettily right there and frighten Truffaldino into running away.

When the Prince awakens, he is not especially surprised to see a couple of pretty dead girls lying next to him; and when a quartet of soldiers conveniently happens to pass by, he orders an elegant funeral for them. When they have removed the bodies, he declares himself in love with the remaining orange and proceeds to cut it open. Out steps a third princess, this one named Ninetta, who is just as thirsty as her sisters were, though she does have breath enough to acknowledge her rescuer from thraldom and a keen interest in the Prince’s extravagant vows of love. However, she begins to faint away in his arms, whereupon the Reasonable Spectators descend upon the stage with a pail of water so that she may drink and the drama go on.

The Prince then announces their forthcoming nuptials and proposes to take his beloved directly to his father's palace. She, however, refuses to go without a suitable wardrobe and sends him off to secure one. As soon as she is left alone, Fata Morgana, accompanied by Smeraldina, slinks in and stabs the girl in the head with a hatpin, changing her into a rat (or a pigeon, depending upon what production you are seeing). The powerful witch then instructs her black-faced assistant to impersonate the Princess.

The familiar March is heard once more, the whole court enters the scene; and Smeraldina announces herself as the Princess. The Prince knows better; he refuses to marry such an ugly girl; and the King, who claims that one must live up to his word, offers her his arm to lead her back to the palace.


Scene 1 In a brief scene before the curtain with cabalistic signs used in Act I, Fata Morgana and Celio argue violently. The Reasonable Spectators take a part in this argument, seize upon Fata Morgana, and shut her up in a box.

Scene 2 Back at the palace, in the throne room, Leandro and an assistant are making preparations for the return of the King; and when he arrives with his entourage, the curtains are drawn from before the throne—and there sits a huge rat (or pigeon, as the case may be). Everyone is shocked; but Celio's magic—strengthened by his recent victory over Fata Morgana —is finally equal to the task of transforming the animal into its original form, that of the Princess Ninetta. While the Prince expresses his joy, Smeraldina is at a loss for explaining her presence satisfactorily. Finally, she is accused of being a conspirator with Leandro and Clarissa. The King decides that they are all traitors and must be hanged, and even the amiable Truffaldino’s pleas for mercy are in vain. However, as they are about to be seized, Fata Morgana appears in their midst; a trap door opens conveniently; and they disappear down it, presumably for the nether regions.

The King leads off with the toast: “God save the Prince and Princess,” and the opera closes with a repetition of the March.

bottom of page