Alexander Borodin composed one opera during his lifetime—Prince Igor—and it was left unfinished at the time of his death in 1887.
Borodin wrote his own libretto for Prince Igor, and based it on the medieval epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign. The story tells of a Prince Igor who, along with his son, goes on a military campaign against the nomadic Polovtsi tribe. He is captured and later escapes, leaving behind his son who falls in love with a girl from the tribe.
After Borodin’s death, fellow Russian composers Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov took up the challenge of completing the work. Borodin didn’t leave behind very good guidelines as to his intentions for the opera, but rather disorganized fragments. This made finishing the opera quite challenging!
Listen to a few excerpts from the finished product, completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov—the Overture and the famous “Polovtsian Dances.” Listen for the robust rhythms and Russian-folk feel (Borodin actually researched Russian folk music from nomadic tribes!)