The Stranger of Novgorod

Opera In 3 Acts
A Modern Tale of Love, Greed, & Power
Composers: Romanieo N. Golphin, Sr. & Jr.

Written by Romanieo N. Golphin, Sr., “The Stranger of Novgorod” (SON) represents a quantum leap in operatic innovation. It’s an ode to tradition and form, with cinematic elements seamlessly interwoven within its score. “Opera+cinema+passion” is my musical philosophy for this work. I believe it will bring more people to opera houses around the world to experience a new sonic landscape. This approach not only adds depth and intrigue to the operatic stage but also navigates a delicate balancing act between old-world charm and contemporary flair. What sets this production apart is its unique composition and orchestration, a labor of love crafted by a dynamic father-and-son duo aiming for a symphonic meeting of the minds between Tchaikovsky and Hans Zimmer.

Act I Concept

Just outside Russia in 1873, a humble African peasant, revered as “The Stranger,” is bestowed with the majestic burial rites reserved for a Czar. The opera unfolds amidst his grand funeral procession, a spectacle of remembrance and reverence from the townsfolk and the church alike, honoring his profound works and wisdom.

As the narrative unfolds, his widow, Lunia, steps into the spotlight, holding his last will and testament. To her surprise, the document leaves her with nothing but a sacred book inscribed in an unknown language.

Act II - Love, Greed, and Power

This enigmatic gesture sets off a chain of events as members loyal to the Imperial Throne in Novgorod seize Lunia, along with her allies and the mysterious book.

Transported to Novgorod (meaning New City), they are brought before the Czars—a triad of men bound by a mystical spell. Among them are St. Nicholas, embodying the Czar of Love; Gobsek, representing the Czar of Greed; and Boris, the embodiment of the Czar of Power. Lunia is tasked with the daunting challenge of interpreting the sacred text, with the hope that it will unveil the secrets behind “The Stranger’s” beloved status and the mysteries surrounding his extraordinary life.

SON | Backstory

Stranger of Novgorod | 2 Basic Truths

“The Stranger of Novgorod” is a tale woven with two profound truths. Firstly, Russia’s vastness—stretching across 11 time zones, more than twice the size of the continental United States—immerses us in a world of grandeur and boundless horizons. Secondly, the remarkable proximity of Africa to Europe, just 8.9 miles apart, underscores the profound interconnectedness of our world and the intricate tapestry of relationships this closeness is likely to spawn.

Against this backdrop, the year 1873 emerges as a pivotal juncture. Despite the apparent concentration of power in one segment of Russia, the nation’s sheer magnitude reveals a nuanced complexity. It is within this intricate fabric that a Stranger, a modest African peasant, is bestowed with the regal burial rites of a Czar, heralding a seismic shift in the dynamics of power.

The Story | Opera+Cinema+Passion

In the annals of Russian governance, the title “Czar,” harking back to the Latin “Caesar,” denoted not just the ruler’s mantle as Head of State but also as the embodiment of military might and divine authority within the church, akin to the Pope.

In this reimagined history, the Czar of 1873 is believed to embody three men bound by a mystical spell: the Czar of Love, the Czar of Greed, and the Czar of Power. The enigma surrounding the peasant’s burial as a Czar poses a poignant question: why would a peasant be elevated to such regal heights? What singular virtue could warrant such extraordinary recognition?

This query unfurls a series of events propelling the Stranger’s wife, Lunia—her name evoking the moon—and her allies to the Imperial Court. Here, they are tasked with confronting the embodiments of Love, Greed, and Power. Their answers could not only decide their own fates, but could also sculpt the very contours of history itself.

The Why | The Highest Good

In the realm of “The Stranger of Novgorod,” the elevation of a humble African peasant to the stature of a Czar for his burial rites speaks to a deeper truth—one that transcends mere earthly distinctions of rank and station. It is a testament to the intrinsic value of every human life, regardless of origin or status.

In this act of honoring the Stranger, we are reminded of our shared humanity and the universal dignity that unites us all. It is a poignant reflection of the belief that greatness is not measured by titles or wealth, but by the impact we have on those around us and the legacy we leave behind. The elevation of the Stranger signifies the pursuit of the highest good, demonstrating compassion and the quest for understanding, fostering harmony among all peoples.

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