King René’s daughter, Iolanta, has been blind since birth. Wanting to protect her, the King charges all his servants with keeping her blindness a secret while he tries to find a cure. They cannot talk about light, color, visions, or beauty in her presence or they will be sentenced to death. He engages the help of Ibn-Hakia, a moorish doctor, who promises to cure Iolanta’s blindness, but the remedy will only work if she wants to see. Not knowing what it is to see, Iolanta cannot desire it. A chance encounter with her betrothed, Robert and the young Count Vaudemont leads Iolanta to learn of her blindness. Vaudemont is completely in love with the young Princess, and quickly realizes she is blind when, twice, she passes him a white rose instead of the red one he asked for. He explains to her what it means to be able to see, and Iolanta returns to her father to ask for the cure, so that she might see Vaudemont and understand.
Tchaikovsky’s beautiful opera of love and enlightenment, set in this fairy-tale world of castles and princesses, is definitely one to bring a tear to the eye as faith and love triumph, and help Iolanta to realise her limitations and overcome the unknown.
Iolanta guide sections