RASPUTIN: Libretto

ACT 1 Scene 1: The yard outside a farmhouse, a dense woods behind; a group of peasants has gathered, whispering among themselves.

CHORUS: Grisha!  Grigory!  (Repeat several times).

CHORUS: Holy Father, mighty God!  Grisha!  Grigory!  A holy man!

From time to time a cry or wail is heard from the farmhouse; sounds of flagellation; chanting. A stranger enters, is puzzled by the gathering, crosses himself, approaches one of the peasants

STRANGER: Is it a wake?  Has somebody died?  (Crosses himself again)  God bless his soul!

PEASANT 1: It’s Grigory Efimovitch.

CHORUS: Grigory!

From the farmhouse:  “Holy Father …”.

S: Well, it’s not a man I knew.  Still, one must respect the dead.

P 1: He’s in there. You can hear him.  (Another peasant joins them.)

S: But then, why …

P 1: He is a holy man who has returned.  We thought him dead, but he has come back.

PEASANT 2: (Looks about fearfully)  It is a pilgrim, and quite healthy.  His friends are waiting for him here.  (Gives angry look at P1)

S: A pilgrim!  I’ve met several, and I thought them holy men!  Is he one of them? 

P 1: He was away for a long time.  We are anxious to meet him again.

S: A pilgrim!  They are honored!  How can they do it?  Was he one of the “wanderers”?

P 2: He is different from the others.

S: They wander from their home, renounce their land, their family, their name.  How can they do it?  Is he one of them? (Two peasant women join them).

P 1: He is very close to God, and we are blessed that he is here.  He is indeed to be honored.

WOMAN 1: He is to be cursed!

WOMAN 2: Grigory has come, Nadia, and is again home after his long wandering, and we are blessed that he is here.  Praskovia, his wife, has borne enough grief, and she would be amazed at your contempt!  So hush!  He is a man of God and he is to be honored!

W 1: He is with the Khlysty!

CH: Khlysty!  A holy man!  Khlysty!
P 1: It is a rumor.  Deserves no attention.  Where are you from?

S: Verkhoture.  You know, there’s a monastery….  It’s well-known.  That’s where Rasputin…

CH: Rasputin!  Rasputin!  A holy man!

S: …and that is where Rasputin met the monk Mileti Zaborovski.  They are rumored to be of the Khlysty too.  Have you heard of the Khlysty?

P 1: A little.

P 2: They are apostates, and must be destroyed!

P 1: They know each other by secret signs.

W 1: And well they must!  They are everywhere, but hidden from the eye of the Church.

P 1: They are damned in the eyes of the Church.  “Men of God”, “Men of God” they are called.  They renounce the authority of the Church, they follow the Orthodox practice with false intent.  Say the rites with cunning, but follow their own teachings in private.

W 1: The “Brotherhood of the Men of God” they are called.  They are heretics, they believe nonsense.  They believe that each man can communicate directly with God – without a Priest!

CH: Without a Priest!

W 1: Their teachings are absurd!  They say that the Savior has risen many times, takes the flesh of a Russian peasant, and he can do miracles.  (More peasants join them.)

P 3: Tell him of Ivan Suslov!  He was the Savior himself, in the flesh!

W 1: He was with the  Khlysty!

CH: Khlysty, Khlysty!

P 3: He showed the way to salvation!  His twelve apostles traveled over Russia, with the message of Salvation!

W 1: Until Tsar Alexander had him arrested and crucified!

P 3: And he rose on the third day!

P 1: …was torn of his skin by the police, and crucified a second time!

CH: Hush!  Hush!

P 2: Have you friends here in Pokrovskoe, or does your journey take you further still?

W 1: And again he rose from the dead!  But then the Tsar’s wife bore a son, and in celebration he released Ivan.

P 1 + Chorus: Who lived to be 100!

W 1: You know the story too well, Nikolai Mikhailovich.  Has the Bishop spoken to you …?

P 1: It is known throughout Russia!  And also Andrie Petrov, the madman.  They believe that God himself speaks through the mouths of fools and the mad.  And that is why these blessed people are honored everywhere.  When a man falls, foaming at the mouth, the “Men of God” listen with care to his cries. They believe they see the Spirit of God, the Spirit of God revealed.

P 2: He ran through the city winter and summer, wearing only a shirt.

P 3: And Radaev!  There was a Holy Man!

CH: Hush!  Hush!

W 1: They are all apostates!  Don’t even speak their names.  Long ago excommunicated!  Don’t even speak their names.

P 2: Have you a place to stay?  You will find that Pokrovskoe is usually very quiet, and you will …

P 3: He was a great man, and more holy than you!

W 1: But his sins!

P 1; They were not sins!  They were inspired by God! 

W 1: I’ll say!  Living with 13 women at once!

P 1: What does it matter that he lived with 13 women at once?  No-one was harmed.  He had the grace of God in him!  Did he not teach that one can be redeemed through sin?  Even through sin!

More cries from the farmhouse.

W 2: It’s Grigory! They say he is coming out today.

W 1: Now you will see the Devil!

W 2: He is a holy man!  He wandered for three years, and when he returned no one knew him.  Only his wife recognized him.  He looked at her, and by his eyes …

W 1: And he!  He renounced her!

W 2: He did not!  He loves her dearly. He has only foresworn the marriage bed.  For three weeks he has lain on the floor, on the floor of his cellar, on the cold dirt, before the icons, praying and striking himself with his sticks.  Like a saint he has suffered, and you, you renounce him, our Grigory!

W 1 We have heard his cries day and night.  If he comes out today, perhaps there will be peace once more!

W 2: How can you talk about our Grisha this way?  You don’t know him!  Even as a boy, before he left on his pilgrimage, he had the Spirit of God in him.  Remember Peter Alexandrovich?  When he stole the horse of that poor man?  And he cursed the crime more than anyone!  Was it not Grigory Efimovich Rasputin who climbed from his bed with a high fever, when still a small boy, put his arms about Peter’s neck and cried “You, you stole the horse!”?  How could he know, unless he has the Spirit of god in him?  Some say even now he is the Savior reborn!

CH: Savior!  Savior!

W 1: Or Satan!  You know the Khlysty!  At their meetings, at night, in the furthest houses, deep inside where no one can see, do they not sing, sing, beat themselves?  Beat themselves!  And chant, and chant, chant, chant until they have no sense?  And then, in a fit of passion, they throw off their clothes, and roll!  And roll around on the floor like animals!  Men with women, shameless, debased, and cursed!  He is cursed!  Your holy man is cursed!

P 1: But you have not heard him. 

W 2: Our Grigory, Grigory has told us: 

P 1: To be redeemed, one must repent …

W 1: … and how can you repent if you have not sinned? 

P 1: He is purified of sin.  It is no curse, and I don’t care what the Bishop says!

P 3: He has taught us.  We are purified through sin!  Of course the Bishop hates him.  A Saint is always hated!

W 2: He has died the “mysterious death”.  Every wanderer seeks the mysterious death.  When he has lost all that ties him to this life, and lives only for his soul, that is when he can hope to be reborn as the Savior.  Our Grisha!  And a Savior cannot sin!  Everyone he touches is blessed.  He is resurrected!

W 1: And he touches them all!  Stories are everywhere.  Rasputin travels with his women friends, preaching to them about sin, how, to be redeemed they must sin.  And they follow him!  This is the way to salvation?

W 2: No one who has looked into his eyes has not followed him!  Have you seen them?  They are cold at one moment, cold, cold!  And filled with love, filled with the love of God the next.  No one can look at them without …

W 1: Follow indeed!  They follow him into the woods, that’s where!  And there he wastes no time in “redeeming” them.

W 2: But have you met him yourself?  I doubted, as you, until I came to his crypt.  In a moment I was changed.  I could no longer see through my own eyes.  He said I saw through the eyes of God!  Go to him!  You will learn!

P 1: Once he puts his eyes on you, you will have no will, no power!  You cannot speak; to move about is impossible.  He can see into your soul.  His eyes have the power to crush you -- or to bless you!  Go to him!  One look, and even you will be one of us.

CH: Hush!  Hush!

W 1: Us!  Have you all joined this devil?  Are you all mad?  Let us see about these “eyes”!  I am a true Christian, a true Christian,!  I do not believe in nonsense! 

She descends into the cellar of the farmhouse.

CH: Grigory!  Is she talking to him? …

S: Is this Grigory the one of whom I have heard?  He was healing the sick;  I had hoped one day to meet him.  And now, he is here.

P 1: He has come home.  Wandered till now, seeking to leave all worldly things.  But then he met Father Makari, Father Makeri, the holy man?

P 2: He blessed Grisha with his bony hands, rattled his chains, told him he must live for his soul alone and abandon all earthly ties.  Then Grigory returned here to bid farewell to his father and his family.

The cries from the farmhouse grow more intense, and then stop.  Silence.  After a while W 1 emerges slowly.  With uncertain steps she approaches the others.  She is pale and astonished.  She cannot speak.

CH: Did you see him?

P 1: Did you see the eyes of God?

CH: Nadia!
W 2: Did you look into his eyes?

CH: Nadia!  Nadia! …

She turns to the others, cannot speak, then walks through the crowd and exits.

P 1: He is honored in our village, especially by the women.  The women understand his teachings better than we do.

S: He was hated by their husbands in other places, in other towns!  In one, they attacked him, to beat him; they wanted to beat him!  But then he raised his arms and cried “Let there be no rain for three months”.  And for three months there was no rain!  The fields dried, the cattle died, and the men never dared to raise their voice to this holy man again!  No one doubts that he is indeed the Savior!

P2: And he is from our village!

Sudden silence.

CH: Grisha!  Grisha!

Rasputin emerges from the cellar, dirty, torn, emaciated, his greasy hair sticking to his face.

CH: Father Grigory!  Our Savior!

P 1:  “Keep my laws secret, entrust them neither …(S. joins in)

P1, S: to your father or your mother … (Both stop)

P 2: You know the secret creed!  We did not recognize you as a brother! 

S: In the Khlysty we have to be careful, but I am with friends.

RASPUTIN: I am come to preach to you the joyous message which our Mother Earth taught me down there, the message of salvation, salvation  through sin!

P 3: The women understand ….  He is a blessing on us all!.  We must let him teach the women.

Women: Teach us, teach us! …

The villagers kneel, kiss his tattered clothes, and prostrate themselves.  Rasputin blesses them, and bids them rise.  He dismisses the men, and with a circle of women approaches the woods that border the farmyard.  On a signal from Rasputin, the women remove their clothes, and all enter the woods.

Act 1 Scene 2: The interior of a farmhouse, dimly lit.  About 20 peasants sit around a central table and benches along the walls.  The windows are covered with curtains, and candles are lit.

PEASANT 1: The ship is ready.

PEASANT 2: The red sun has set.

A YOUNG WOMAN: Mother, what is the “Wonderful Transfiguration”?  Will I see it tonight?

HER MOTHER: You must be patient!  The little father is coming.  He will explain everything to you, and you must do exactly as he says, for he is a holy man!

P 1: He has wandered throughout Siberia, teaching salvation everywhere.

CHORUS: (The peasants begin a hymn, singing softly.)  Holy immortal God, have mercy on our souls ….

YW: But Father Petr warned us that we would be cursed if we saw him!

(Rasputin enters quietly.)

HM: He knows nothing of the Russian people!  If you want to learn the truth, you will learn it here, with us.

RASPUTIN: Svieta!  I was hoping you would be here!  (caresses YW’s cheeks).  You must listen to your mother, and not to Father Petr!  He is an honest man, but thinks he can find truth inside a book.  You must only look at these good people to find the truth. 

HM: And listen!  Has not the great Dostoyevsky said that the speech of peasants is most profound?  Here is where you will find God, not with Father Petr.

P 2: Thank you Father, thank you for coming!  We hear your praises everywhere!  Thank you!

CH: Holy immortal God, have mercy on our souls!

Rasputin inspects the windows, drawing the curtains tighter so that no light comes in and they cannot be seen.

R: (to the crowd) Tonight the Holy Ghost will be among you.  The Spirit will take on flesh!

CH: Father!

R: Let this humble room be the ark of the righteous! 

CH:  Father Grigory, Father!  Holy father, mighty God!

R: The spirit will take on flesh!  Flesh!  Flesh!

CH: Holy immortal God!  Father Grigory!  Father!

R: Did not Ivan Suslov, when he was flayed alive by the police, gain new skin?  Did not the white linen become new skin?  You will gain new flesh!  Here in this house!  Tonight!

CH: (Singing continues as Rasputin preaches.) Holy Savior!

R: Do not our secret writings tell of Jesus, the true Jesus?  The hidden faith, the hidden faith?  Do you seek salvation?

CH: Save us!  Save us! …(chanting)

R: Do you seek Salvation?  Will you follow the holy words of the blessed Danila?  Do you seek Salvation in your own flesh!  Will you try your flesh tonight? Will you exchange your sinful bodies for the souls of the blessed?

CH: Save us, save us! …

R: Tonight you will be saved! 

CH: Save us, Save us!…(more chanting, swaying to and fro, etc.)

R:  The Spirit, the Spirit will make you move!  Dance!  Dance! Dance!

Singing gets louder

(Rasputin takes YW to the center of the room, and bids her dance.  She looks about in fear.  Her mother urges her on, and tells her to remove her clothes.  Shyly, the girl takes them off, and begins to dance.)

R:I We are in the presence of the Holy God!  You can be saved, through sin!

CH:  Holy Father, mighty God! …

All the peasants begin dancing.  They grow more energetic, then all remove their clothes and roll about on the floor with each other, in a primitive sexual orgy.

Rasputin grabs the YW, and joins the others.

Act 1, Scene 3: Inside a chapel.  A group of clergy and monks is chanting.  The monk Iliodor is talking with Bishop Hermogen and Father Feofan.

MONK: Alleluia… (lengthy solo, like a Gregorian chant)

CH: Alleluia! ..Christ is risen!  Alleluia …(lengthy polyphonic section SATB unaccompanied). 

CH: Almighty Father, show us Salvation!

FATHER FEOFAN: We must thank Iliodor for bringing Rasputin before the Committee.  It is of the greatest importance.  It was he who overcame their resistance.

BISHOP HERMOGEN: He will be useful.

FF: (to Iliodor) Your eloquence has won them over.  I wish I had your power of persuasion!

BH: (laughing) You mean his power of cursing!  He holds the clergy prisoner because they fear his wrath!  But we have the “Great Curser” on our side, thank God!  His sermons are known everywhere, and few doubt his word.

ILIODOR: (to himself)  What power has this peasant over me?  I hate him with my entire being.  And yet, when I spoke to the committee and wished to denounce him – from my own mouth come words of praise!  I could not help myself!  And by these words of mine they are persuaded that Rasputin is a holy man who should be one of us!  A “fellow combatant” I called him!  And he is utterly disgusting to me!  What is his power?  Why can I not speak my mind?

CH: Christ is risen!  Almighty Father, show us Salvation!

BH: And thank you, Iliodor, for convincing me of the saintliness of Rasputin.  I had heard rumors of his wickedness….

FF: But then we heard him speak at the abbey!  Did he not confound our scholars in matters of theology?  They put the most profound questions to him, seeking to tie him in such knots that they would have sport with him.  This “foolish peasant”!  The most learned questions they put to him….

I: And Rasputin answered every one of them!

FF: I have never met a man with so deep a knowledge of Scripture!  With a few chosen words he put the most weighty and complex matters before them – completely clear! 

I: (to himself) I cannot stand this Rasputin!

FF: And quickly they ceased trying to confound him for their amusement, and began to put real questions before him, questions for which they could reach no agreement, after endless debate.

CH: Christ is risen!

I: And he answered every one of them, correctly!

BH: And for days thereafter they debated once again – whether there was any reason to study their holy books!  Had not this peasant answered what they had read in many pages of theology, but could make no sense of?  Our abbey will not soon be the same!

FF; Iliodor!  For good reason they call you the “Knight of the Heavenly Kingdom”.  Now that the committee has accepted him, with your help, and with Rasputin on our side, we can unite the Russian people behind the Tsar!  The Russian people!  Russia must be one country, strong and united.

I: And it will be.  Absolute power must remain with the Tsar.  Only he can withstand the forces tearing at the throat of Russia.  Only he can unite the people, the Union of the true Russian people!  The Union of the True Russian People!

BH:  But don’t let the Tsar hear you!  The “Union” has harassed every official in the city!  Inspired by your sermons!  Your position is dangerous.

I: Not while Tsar Nicholai lives.  I can expose every crime and weakness of these bureaucrats – and they will not move against me, because the Tsar would destroy them in a minute, and they know it!

FF: And that is why you support the Tsar: each strengthens the other!

I: I support the Tsar because Russia needs the Tsar, and I support the Russian people against them!  Against the injustice and crimes of these officials!  There should be only the Tsar, and under him the people!  The people!  We do not need all of these thieves, carrying out the Tsar’s orders – and filling their own pockets!  Everything should be owned by the people!  The people must unite behind the Tsar.

BH: And with the help of Rasputin, they will.  All of Siberia will be united behind Nikolai!  We must make careful use of this Rasputin; we must wisely use this Rasputin – our noose around Siberia.

I: You are right.  He must be brought to the attention of the palace.  He can be very useful.  The Tsar will protect him, as he does me.  And Rasputin will hold Siberia in its place, which will strengthen the Tsar and in turn shield the Holy Church from the heretics in the West.  Who in Siberia will not follow one of their own – when he has gained the ear of the Emperor?

BH: But can you get him into the Tsar’s palace?  He has a certain … reputation, and not all would welcome him there.

I: Tsar Nikolai and his German wife are both of their own mind.  Most of the Ministers are barred from his presence.  The few he admits fear to tell him anything of the troubles of Russia.  So he has heard little.  He has friends whom he trusts, and I have friends who know them.  Leave it to me.

--- END OF ACT 1 ---

Act 2 Scene 1: The Tsar’s chamber.  Icons in one corner, a harpsichord, and royal furniture.  He, his wife Alexandria Fedorovna, and their friend Anna Vyrubovea are finishing dinner.  A hall outside the chamber covers part of the stage.

ALIX: Why do they do this to me?

ANNA: Because they do not know you!

AL: Ever since our marriage, my dearest Nikolai, life in Russia has been hell!  None of your relatives will speak to me, except on formal occasions – and then it is like they are speaking to a beggar, not the Empress of all Russia!

AN: They will not love anyone from Germany.

AL: And you, Nikolai!  You are too occupied with events to pay any attention to me!  If I were not so shy, perhaps I could overcome them with wit and charm, but as it is, I am beset with events I do not understand.  I do not know which way to turn!

AN: It is true.  The Dowager Empress is spreading rumors about you.  I have heard them in the city, and they are most unkind.  Have I not been your friend?

AL: My dearest Anna, you are the only person that I can trust besides my husband.  Remember that carriage trip?  Was it last month?  I don’t remember.  Did you see that beggar run up to the carriage?  I gave him a coin, and he smiled at me.  That was the first smile I have received from all of Russia! 

AN: But here in Tsarskoe Selo you are comfortable and happy.  You have said so many times.

TSAR NIKOLAI: Please, Sunshine, do not be so upset.  Only yesterday you went on about how happy our life is alone here together.  As I was writing the notes about the meeting with our old man …

AL: Please, Nikolai, he is the Minister of Court, and must be respected.

TN: With Fredericks, if you will, you crept up and when I wasn’t looking you wrote in my book “Your little wife worships you”.  Has your life here been so bad?

AL: Oh, Nikolai!  That was for you alone!  Can’t we have our privacy, even here?

AN: But you have said to me: “My happiness knows no bounds!”  And once you said, “Never did I believe that there could be such happiness in this world”.

TN: You know, Anna, I am indescribably happy with Alix  Every day I have to meet with Ministers and go to State functions.  I cannot wait to return here.

AL: Nikolai, you are so kind.  I have almost forgotten my anger.  As long as we are here together, nothing could be better.  As long as I don’t have to hear of the dreadful things in Russia, or think about your hateful family!  I can be perfectly content.

They leave the table.  The Tsar sings, accompanied by his wife on the harpsichord.

TN:  Oh, my dearest love, pretty maiden fair,
Let us take a stroll, let us take the air.
By the Volga’s banks, strolling you and I,
Walking side by side, let the hours fly.
Let the people look, let the people stare.
Who’s that couple yon?  What a lovely pair!
Sister brother? No.  Man and wife? Not so.
That’s two lovers there, anyone would know.
Hand in hand we go, to the meadow green.
Pretty flowers we pick, garlands fair, garlands for my queen!

 Outside the chamber, a messenger enters and is met by an elderly official.  He reads the message.

OFFICIAL: (to himself) The Tsar must act quickly!  Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich has been killed!  But he will not act!  This palace!  First, the message must be explained to the Steward.  Then he will inform the Prime Minister, who will notify the Minister of Justice, who will let the Chamberlain know.  Then it must be approved by the Minister of the Interior and the Chief of Police, who may decide to send it to the Minister of Court…(repeats, with TN and Alix singing in the background.).

(To the messenger) I will deliver this to the Steward.  (The messenger exits.)

O: Why do they bother? The Tsar dislikes news of this sort, and Fredrichs will not deliver it to him anyway.  There are no statesmen here!  In past times this court was alive with the sharpest and most brilliant of leaders!  Men were selected by the Tsar himself from the most literate of circles.  There was debate everywhere, each trying his skills against his neighbor.  Then we had leaders!  But this Nikolai!  He never steps outside his chamber, and he knows nothing of the blood of Russia that is spilling today.  He knows not a single man of learning in the city!  His ministers are chosen by their flattery, not by their talent.  And none will approach him with news of the unrest, the massacres, and the revolts!  When asked to exercise their office, they reply  “I only play chess”  There is a vacuum around our Tsar!  No one says a word to displease him!  Nikolai has no will to resist these events.  He says everything is the “will of the Almighty”.

I fear for Russia!  Ever since the massacre at the Winter Palace, where peaceful citizens were met with gunfire, the Tsar has been despised.  “The Bloody” they call him.  And the revolts!  In Moscow, Warsaw, Kiev, Odessa, and Kronstadt!  Whole villages have been shot, and still the unrest grows.  Nikolai is content with playing billiards, and the Empress with her needlework.  (exits)

Anna has left the Tsar’s chamber while they were singing, and now rushes back in.

AN: He’s bleeding!  Alesha hit his leg and it’s swelling!

AL: Good God!  Again! Nikolai!  What can we do?

TN: (to a servant)  Get the doctors!  At once!  (The servant leaves.)

AL: This is more than I can bear!  Why are we cursed?  Other women bear sons who are the pride of their family.  But me!  I cannot bear a son who will live!

TN: It’s not your fault, Sunshine! 

AL: Other women bear sons and share the joy of their childhood.  But I!  I have to tell him he could die!

TN: Your family had the disease long before you.

AL: Other women bear children whom they love, but I!  It was I who gave it to my son!  The smallest cut and he bleeds until the doctors are in despair!  A bruise and he swells, becomes livid and purple.  And the pain!  And the pain!  I cannot bear to see him in such pain.  Let the foolish doctors try their best.  I could lose my boy.

Doctors rush in, and exit to the boy’s room.

TN: We have to hope for the best.

AN: There is one … there is one who can cure your son.

AL: Every day I have to tell him that he cannot play with the other boys.  He wants to play tennis with his sisters!  He wants a bicycle!  But I always have to say “You know you are not allowed to do such things”.  Even though he is guarded at every moment, still he can fall or bump into something.  Then this nightmare, then this nightmare starts all over again. 

AN: Alix, Alix, Alix, there is one, there is one!

AL: If he just waves his arms, he starts bleeding!

TN: France Phillipe could have saved him!  I wish he were still here.

AL: He could do miracles!  How I miss his séances!

TN: He could see ghosts, and cure the ill.  Why do we not have such a friend, when he is needed?

AL: But he said that we would have a friend, remember.  He said someone would be sent to help us, when he gave us that bell.

AN: Alix!  I want to tell you about …

AL: Daria!  Where is she now?

TN: Daria Ossipova!  Her prophesy was always welcome.  She could cure invalids, and divert the “evil eye”.  She could cure our Alesha!

AL: She was a miracle worker!  When she became frenzied, when she became frenzied, and had her fits and they tied her in ropes, then we could hear the voice of God!  Where is the bell?

AN: The one the Phillip gave you when he left?

AL: Yes, that one.  He said it would ring whenever an evil person approached the Tsar.  That was when he promised that we would get a “friend”.  These doctors have no power.  See if the bell rings when they enter.

AN: Alix, there is one you must see!  The Grand Duke says he is a saint, and you must meet him.

AL: What does the Duke know of medicine?

AN: It’s not just the Duke; the Russian people demand that he come to the palace.  He has cured the sick everywhere he went!  When Grand Duchess Stana told him about poor Alesha’s health, he said to her “Stana, just tell her not to weep anymore.”  He wants to save you, Alix!

TN: He could be the “friend” that was promised!

AN: You have to meet him!  He has the most wonderful eyes.  They have a force in them!  You forget you are with a simple peasant.  He will save Alesha!  The Count says that he will save you from the revolutionaries too.  He has the support of the Orthodox Church, and all of the people are behind him.

AL: I am a Christian, but if the Church says he has the power to heal, it must be so.  Go and send for him!  Have Stana bring him herself.  She comes here often and there will be no questions.  (Anna exits)

God has sent him to us!

The Tsar sits at a desk, reading.  Their daughter Anastasia enters.

AL: Anastasia!  You were with the Duchess yesterday.  Did she say anything of this peasant?

ANASTASIA: Rasputin?  She spoke of nothing else!  He is a man of God, and teaches salvation wherever he goes.

AL: What does he look like?

ANA: She says he dresses like a peasant, rough cloth and large boots.  His hands are immense, with coarse fingers that one would expect in a man who worked at farming and tended horses.  He is tall, and his voice, when he addresses his followers, is rich and deep.  And his eyes!  And his eyes!

AL: Have you seen him yourself?

ANA: No, but Stana has.  She told me all about them.  They are like no other eyes in the world. He can look into your soul.  You can hide nothing from him.

AL: I am afraid of this man.

ANA: But in one glance you will lose all of your fear.  He is completely to be trusted.  Stana says he is of the Russian people, and wants only the well being of Russia.  (Repeat last solo, like a Da Capo aria.)

ANA: He has cursed the simpletons and the corruption that surround you in this palace.  I hate them!  I hate them!  It is them whom you should fear!

AL: I do.  Each of them looks to his own pockets, and cares nothing for his duties or for us.

TN: I cannot work!  With Alesha in pain, how can I worry about these things.  An appointment, a rumor, and spies who say this and that and never agree on anything.  My son could die tonight!

AL: We are surrounded by enemies…

TN: …who tell us nothing.

AL: We are prisoners here, Nicky dear.

TN: Everything we do here is reported all over town by spies.  If we meet them they smile and bow – but they add to what we pay them with bribes from everyone they know.

(to his servants)  Go out the back stairs.  They are not watched, and there will be no one to object to the holy man’s entering the palace from that direction.

They open a door in the rear, and are startled to see Anna and Rasputin already there.  TN does not see him yet.

TN: By the front door he would never be allowed in.  The Emperor of all Russia is a prisoner in his own palace!  (turns and sees Rasputin)

Rasputin enters, with Anna, the Grand Duchess, and Maria Vishniakova, the boy’s nurse.  Her eyes and her mouth are wide open in amazement.

RASPUTIN: Now then, my good soul, what are you gaping at?

She curtsies, blushes, and heads toward the door.  Then she stops, amazed, as Rasputin walks up to the royal couple and gives them each a smacking kiss.

Now then, where is the young man?

The Tsar signals to some servants, and a bed is carried from the boy’s room.  The doctors are shaking their heads.  Rasputin falls on his knees in a corner before the icons, and prays.

DOCTOR: There is nothing else we can do.  Our skills are nothing against this illness.  Now it is up to God.

Rasputin approaches the bed and makes the sign of the cross.

MARIA: How do you feel, Alesha?

AL: He doesn’t move!  Is he still alive?

R: Now, don’t be afraid, Alesha.  Everything is all right again.  (strokes the boy’s body)  Look, Alesha, I have driven away all of your horrid pain!  From head to foot!  Look!  I have driven away all of your pain!  Nothing will hurt you anymore.  Tomorrow you will be well again!  Then you’ll see what jolly games we’ll have together!

AL: He smiled!

R: When I was as little as you I played the most wonderful games which I’m sure you don’t know – but I’ll teach them to you.  I’ll tell you about the jokes that we used to play on the grownups!  Have you heard of Siberia?  It is so large that no one has seen the end of it!  Do you know that this whole country belongs to your papa and your mamma?  When you grow up it will belong to you!

TN: He likes the holy man!  Look!  He pays no attention to his pain.

R: Siberia is full of huge forests, and endless steppes, and the people there are much different from those in St. Petersburg.

M: He is moving! He is moving!  Look!  The Holy Father’s cures never fail.

AL: We are blessed!  He has the Spirit of God in him!

R: When you are well again, I will take you to visit Siberia.  I will show you things that nobody has ever seen but me.  (The boy sits up.)

AL: Take care, Alesha!  You know you must be careful!

BOY: Leave me alone, Mamma!  I want to listen.  Tell me a story!

R: Have you heard the tale of the Humpbacked horse?  Or the Tsarevna who was turned into a white duck?

B: Tell me about them!

R: Did you know that in Siberia even the trees and flowers have a soul and can speak to each other?  Even the horses have a language!  When I was as little as you, I learned to understand the language of the horses.  Would you like me to teach you that secret language?

B: Do you hear, Maria?  I’ve always told you that animals can speak.  But you are so stupid and know nothing about it!

(to Rasputin) But we both know that animals can speak, don’t we!  Will you tell me everything that the animals said to you?

R: It’s very late now, Alesha.  You need to rest.  But I’ll come back tomorrow and then we’ll have great fun!

B: Come tomorrow for sure!  I will not go to sleep until you come.  (Rasputin goes to the doorway)  Who is he, Maria?

M: A holy man who will make you well again.  God Himself has sent him to your papa and mamma.

B: A holy man!  (goes to sleep)

The Empress seizes the hands of Rasputin and kisses them.  He makes the sign of the cross.

R: Believe in the power of prayer, and your son will live.

-- END OF ACT 2 --

Act 3. Scene 1: The entrance foyer leading to Rasputin’s apartment, with a stairway at one end.  Several men are lounging on the stairs, similarly dressed, trying to look inconspicuous, pretending to chat.  They are spies.  When a visitor passes through, they all pull out notepads and write.  A new spy enters.

SPY 1: Does Rasputin live here?  (The others note the question in their books)

SPY 2: He does, but he is not here just now.

S 1: That’s all right.  I’m not actually going in.  (Leans against the wall)

SPY 3: Who are you working for?

S 1: (embarrased)  Well, I, I…

S 2: Out with it!  I work for Globichev, the head of the Secret Service.  Boris here is paid by the Prime Minister, Sturmer, and …

S 1: But Globichev reports directly to Sturmer!

S 3: … and wants to be sure that he sees the report before Sturmer does!  (They all laugh)

SPY 4: And the three of us over here have orders from the Tsar to make sure that nothing happens to Rasputin.

S 2: And they tell us everything that goes on in the palace …

S 3: … which I report to Burdakov …

S 1: But you work for Sturmer!

S 3: … who tells me what the Germans and Poles are doing, which the banker Rubinstein needs to know so he can set the right prices beforehand.  Who cares if I make a little extra?

A group of visitors passes through the foyer and heads upstairs.  The spies act busy, pretend to talk, then whisper together, “who is that?, etc.   All note the facts in their books.

S 1: Tell me about this Rasputin.  Does he know you are watching him?

S 2: Of course!  And he has his own spies in the Consulate, who report to him what Ivan over there sends to Colonel Komisarov.  Remember last week, Ivan?  (both laugh)

SPY 5: I wrote in my book how Rasputin took a lady on his knee, that’s all.  He does it every day!  He comes in past midnight, and cannot get up the stairs!  He’s drunk so much, he cannot get up the stairs without one of us holding him up!  He’s drunk so much!  And sometimes with several women, who stay until morning.  So I wrote about it.

S 2: And got Holy Hell for it!  Rasputin nearly threw him down the stairs!  Rasputin nearly threw him down the stairs! ….

All:  Rasputin!

Rasputin enters, with some friends.  He approaches one of the spies.

RASPUTIN: What do you think of the Duma?

SPY: I am not permitted to think.

Act 3, Scene 2:  Rasputin climbs the stairs and enters the foyer. The room is crowded with visitors.  There are two rear doors, which are closed.   All of the waiting visitors rise.  A telephone rings.  His maid, Dunia answers.

DUNIA: You’re just in time.  It’s the Tsaritsa.  (Rasputin takes the phone.)

RASPUTIN:  What do you say?  What’s the matter, my dear soul?  I have people with me.  Yes, I’ll be there tomorrow, same time.

Several visitors approach him at once.  He bids them sit, and confers quietly with a well-dressed gentleman.  Both nod, and the man turns to leave.  Then he stops, gives Rasputin a handful of money, and exits.  Rasputin puts it into a pocket without counting it.  Several attractive women look up expectantly.

WOMAN: (To her neighbor) Everyone bribes him!  But he doesn’t seem to care.  A small token or a fortune – it’s all the same.  Unless you’re rich!  Then the price can be high!

Rasputin confers with others.  A buxom woman approaches him.

BUXOM: Dear Father Grigory!  It’s important.  Can you help me get the contract for the military underwear from the General Staff?  It would mean so much!  Can you do it?

Rasputin strokes her face and her breasts, smiles, and nods.  She kisses him.  He fondles her, then hands her a scrap of paper.  She kisses him again, stops in the doorway, blows a kiss, and leaves.

W: But, I tell you, the surest way to get your way with him is with your body!  He has never turned down a request from a cute girl.  If he likes you, he may let you into the next room.  That’s where his “women friends” meet.  But no one else is allowed in.

An old woman runs up to Rasputin.

OLD WOMAN: Please, Father Grigory!  Can you help my son?  He was reprimanded by his Captain.  He’s in disgrace.  He brings home so little that we cannot eat!  If only he could get promoted!

R: It is a small matter!  Give him this to show the Colonel.  (hands her another scrap of paper, of which he has many in his pocket)

OW: (reading) “My good friend, do it.  Rasputin.”

She turns to go, but Rasputin stops her and gives her the handful of money that he received moments before.  Others crowd around him.  He notices a pretty girl sitting along the wall, looking worried.  He bids the others sit, and goes to her.

R: And what can I do for you?

GIRL: My name is Maria Alexeevna, and can you please do something to get my husband’s sentence repealed?  He is under administrative banishment!

R: (Stroking her face, and then her breasts, then taking her hand in his) I can arrange, I can arrange everything.  Where was he sentenced?

G: Moscow.

R: It is no problem!  Will you please wait in here until I have finished with the others?  (leads her to the door to a side room)

G. My name is Maria Alexeevna.  I hope you can do something. (He puts her inside.)

W: She will get her wish!

NEIGHBOR: Why would she submit to him?

W: Why would she not?  Why would she not?  He is a saint!  We call that room the “Holy of Holies”.  Why would she not?

N: Does a saint need sinful love?  What kind of saintliness is that?

W: He makes everything that comes near him holy.

N: And would you be ready to submit to his desires?

W: Of course!  I already have, and I am proud and happy to have done so!

N: But you are married!  What does your husband say?

W: He considers it a very great honor!  If Rasputin desires a woman, we all think it a blessing, especially our husbands.  Even our husbands think it a blessing!

Rasputin exits through the other door, which he leaves open.  Inside there is a table and food, and several women, all partly visible through the door.

W: See those women?  When Father Grigory came to them, it was a blessing from Heaven!  The Church always taught that they must be stainless, pure, and virtuous if they want to find spiritual peace.  But they cannot do it.  So they feared for their souls.  But then Father Grigory taught them the true way.  Sin is not the way to damnation; sin is the way to salvation!  So they come here to be saved!

N: But this is all sin!

W: You do not understand.  Rasputin is the reincarnation of the Lord!  How could relations with him be a sin?  Here they have found true happiness, and their conscience is free!

A WOMAN: (spying Rasputin through the door) I see him!

ANOTHER: What is he doing?

AW: I see his hand moving.  I think he just ate something!

N: Have you been waiting for a long time?

W: Since about nine.  Usually we wait all morning, and then sometimes we have to return the next day.  He leaves in the afternoon to go to the palace.  Then he returns in the evening.  But nobody else in all of Russia can do what he does!

N: I should say not!  (Rasputin reenters, and the room is hushed.)

W: (not noticing his entrance) They say that the Tsar will not sign anything without the Father’s approval.  Not just religious matters!  It was Rasputin who persuaded the Tsar not to intervene in the Balkan conflict!

R: Because the people did not want it!  The good people of Russia did not want war!  And the Grand Duke would have had the Tsar send the peasants.  War bears most heavily on the lowest classes, and who will look out for them if not me?  Not the Duke, not the generals, nobody!  I said to the Tsar: “What will become of your people?  Will the fathers who shed their blood against the Tatars bless their sons if you send them on this campaign?  Suppose we win!  What then?  We have too many dead!  We will have too many tears!  Think of the unhappy men who will never return.  And remember that every one of them leaves five or six or more behind, who will mourn him.  I know villages where all the inhabitants lament their dead.  And those who return!  Cripples, blind!  With one arm!  If the people suffer too much, there will be talk of a republic!”

And the Tsar, to his credit, chose to remain neutral.

N: What does it matter that the Russian people do not want war?  They are simple folk, and you cannot judge things by their opinions.

R: If that is true, then the fault lies with those who keep them in ignorance!  Think of the state of things in our country!  There are neither hospitals nor schools, but brothels enough for everyone!

W: Father Grigory is honored as a saint in the palace.

R: All of his ministers are chosen by me!  I have only to look into their eyes to know if they are worthy.  And others have been dismissed because I wished it.  I said to Nikolai: “If I leave the palace your own days will soon end”.  And the Tsar knows this is true.

W:  We call him the “Tsar above the Tsar”.

R: (holding up his fist)  In this hand I hold the entire Russian Empire!

Act 3, Scene 3: The inner chamber of Rasputin’s room.  A table with piles of food, wine, a sofa, many chairs, side tables, etc.  Eight women sit around the table, including Alix’s friend Anna.  A pregnant woman sits in an armchair.  Rasputin enters from a side room, accompanied by the young woman, whose cheeks are flushed, breathless.

RASPUTIN: See, I am bringing her to you.  She is fond of me.

All the women smile and show deference to Rasputin.  Some rise and curtsy.

YOUNG WOMAN: (to herself)  What has he done to deserve this?  (to a neighbor)  Who are these women?

NEIGHBOR: Over there is Anna Vyrubova.  She is close to the Tsaritsa, and she, she was the one who brought our Grigori to the palace.  There is Munia Golovina, with her mother and her sister Maria, and there, there is the Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna.

Rasputin pushes some food over to YW.

PREGNANT WOMAN: Father, an egg, please.

Rasputin hands boiled eggs to all of the women.  Anna serves food to Rasputin, who eats with his fingers, wiping his hands on the tablecloth, and then stroking one of the women.

YW: (to Rasputin)  Do you go to church,?  I don’t go.

R: What? You do not go to church?  I tell you: go to church!  Go to communion!

YW: You love the clergy, then?

MADAME GOLOVINA: Come to him for only a week, and everything will be clear, clear to you.  It is there that you can repent.  Father Grigori tells us that you cannot escape from sin just by brooding upon it, or thinking of how many prayers you must say each day, or by fasting. He says that we must sin …

R:  Sin!  Sin!  Sin, if sin still lurks in you!  Sin, then repent, and you will drive evil from you.  But if you bear sin secretly within you, and cover it up with prayers and fasting, you remain forever a hypocrite.  You must sin until you drive sin from you.  Only then will you be pleasing to the Lord.  And go to communion, to repent.

A woman enters, just as the sun breaks through the clouds and fills the room.

R: The sun has come out from behind the clouds for your sake!  Because your soul is good!  The sun shines on all people who have faith.  (to YW)  Go to church, I tell you.

Everyone listens with attention, and gasps at what they think is profound wisdom.

R: (to YW) Yes!  How can you get on without the Church?  Listen to what I am going to tell you.  Olga is coming.  Crazy Olga!  She loved God, you see, and lived according to her faith.  But she fell away.  The monk, Iliodor, tried to seduce her, and she refused him.  So he spread rumors about her, and his followers caught her in a frenzy and tore off her clothes and tied her legs to a wagon, so they could drag, they could drag her through the town!  Some peasants saved her, but her mind was gone.  So Madam Golovina brought her to me, and I cured her.

MG: He has cured many women!  He has only to go into their bedroom with them, alone, for some time, and they always emerge smiling and renewed -–no matter how serious their ailment beforehand.  He has cured many, many women!  He is a true saint! 

R: But now she is even more mad than ever!  You will see for yourself what clothes she comes here in, the mad bitch!  She thinks she does me a favor!  She will be here before I have finished my tea.

A commotion is heard in the hall

OLGA:  Yes I will!  I will! (Olga enters.  She shrieks.)  Christ, Christ is risen!

R: There, you see Olga; now you will have an experience!  (Olga flops into a chair.)

O: Christ is risen!  (hands Rasputin a chocolate cake)  See, I have brought something for you, black inside and white outside.  (Rasputin pushes the cake away.)

R: That will do.  Stop it now.  Let me be, let me be, Satan!

Olga jumps up, embracing Rasputin’s head from behind, kissing wildly.

O: Ah, my dearest vessel of blessing!  You lovely beard!  You delicious hair!  Me, the martyr!  You precious stone!  My adored one!  My god!  My beloved!

R: Away, Satan!  You devil, you monster!  That’s enough!  Enough!  You bitch!  You cursed whore!  (he tears her hands from his face)

You always put me in a sinful rage, you abomination!  You sickening slimy bitch!

Olga drags herself to the sofa.

O: And yet you are mine!  I have lain with you!  I have lain with you!  You are my life!  It belongs to you!  Now, for the first time, I see how beautiful it is.  You are my God!  I belong to you and no other!  Whoever may come between us, you are mine!   I am yours, yours!  However many women you take, no one can rob me of you. You are mine!  Rebuke me!  Strike me!  Strike me!  And yet I know that you love me, you love me!

R: I hate you, you bitch!  I hate you, and I do not love you.  The devil is in you.  I would like to smash your jaw.  I’d like to kill you!

O: But I am happy, happy, and you love me!  (bobbing up and down)  Soon I will lie with you again.  (She begins to kiss Rasputin madly again.)

Women:  Olga!  Olga! …

R: You devil!  (pushes her away; she strikes the wall and falls, then jumps up)

O: Now strike me, strike me, strike me!

Olga tries to kiss her breast where Rasputin struck her, then jumps up and runs around the room filling the air with loud greedy kisses.  She presses her hands to her breast, then kisses them, writhing in ecstasy.  Then she lies down on the sofa and covers herself with her cloak.  Silence.

O: (jumping up suddenly) God!  God!  God!  Thine is the power!

R: This time I’ll lose patience!  I’ll crack your skull, you raving mare!  If only you would perish!  If only I need never see you again!

YW: Why do you insult her like that?

R: How can I help insulting her?  She has deserted the Church.  Now she is trying to lead Munia away too. 

YW: But you yourself said that all must be forgiven!

O:  What is that I hear?  Who is talking so cleverly?  I she a new one?  Come here!  Quick, quick!  On your knees with you, and kiss my hand!

YW: I have no desire to kneel, but I’ll kiss your hand, if you wish.  (kisses her hand)

O: A stupid creature!  Clever talk from a blockhead.

R: Will you be quiet, you Satan?  It is you yourself who is stupid!  Don’t drive me too far, you devil!

YW: Stop insulting her!  (silence)

R: Why do you defend her?

YW: I feel sorry for her.

O: I reject the sympathy of men!  I am alone, but I am strong!

MG: I cannot understand why you deliberately make Grigori Efimovitch angry.  Can’t you see how unpleasant this is for him?

Anna kneels before Olga and kisses her hand.

O: I am strong! …. So you see it at last!  But remember, my hand must not be touched!  Kiss it, kiss it, but do not dare to handle it!

I do not see my servant.  Where is she?  Why does she not come?  On your knees, on your knees, and kiss my hand!

Munia Golovina goes to Olga and kisses her hand.

R: Just wait, you heathen!  You crow’s carrion!  And as for you two, why do you humiliate yourselves before Olga?  I shall throw all three of you out!

O: God loves the truth!

R: There is no truth in you, you spawn of Hell!  You will learn to know me yet, you unwashed fool!

MG: Why do you scold Marushka so?

R: She does not listen to me, but obeys the witch, kisses the witch’s hand!  I told her to give nothing to Olga.

O: Am I then to sit hungry?  Am I to have nothing to eat?  I ate nothing yesterday.  I have no money.  Take a pen and paper, quickly, quickly!  Write, write, write, write!  One, two, three, I fly, fly, fly.  Away!  Away, away!  They will turn me out, turn me out, drag me away, drag me away.  Blows!  Fetters!  Chains!  Prison, prison!  Death!  All for you, all for you!  All for you!  But then I will come back, I will come back, back to you, to you!  Under your roof, you are mine.  You love me, precious darling, my bearded one!  Darling, my own bearded one!  My God, my God, my all, my God, my god, my all!  Only write, write, write, write!

R: What am I do to with such a mad woman?

O: God suffers no betrayals, ever!  Rejoice ye, rejoice ye, rejoice ye over his resurrection!  Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!  (Jumps up on the divan and flaps her arms up and down like wings.  A somber lady gets up and pours some tea.)

God suffers no betrayals, ever!  Carry me off!  Beat me!  Insult me!  Spit at me!  But do not let then pollute my path.  They must not pass by your holy sister!  When I am with you they must be silent and listen.  And now I will lie with you.  And now I will lie with you.  I will lie with you immediately!

R: Just try it, you bitch!  Touch me and your own mother won’t know you!

MG: Olga, I can’t understand why you deliberately try to infuriate our Gregori Efimovitch! 

O: A, a, a, a!  (Begins to crow like a cock and blows kisses at Rasputin, who is pacing up and down.  He stops by YW.)

R: There!  Ask her yourself why she carries on in this manner, as if I had given her my blessing.

O: Who, then, if not you?  (she begins to dance, waving her arms)  My God and Savior!  Sing ye all his praise!  Fall on your faces!  (Her veil slips away.  She pulls it over her face.)  Did anybody see anything?

R: (To YW)  Have some soup.  (YW declines)  Do you think then that we should never curse anyone?

YW: Certainly I do.

R: Well then, how can I help it when she is the cause of all the others beginning to call me Christ?

O: Not Christ, but God!  You are the living God of Sabaoth, the living, living God!

Women:  Olga!  Olga! ….

R: You try to reason with her! You try to reason with her!   I cannot!

O: The living God!  Glory be to thee unto Eternity!  You all sit in Sodom and see it not.  I alone see the truth, but you will not listen.

Olga calms down, then goes toward the bedroom.  Rasputin signs Munia to follow her.  Olga turns.

O: What do you want?  Spying on me?  (She, Munia, and Rasputin go into the bedroom.  Before they can close the door, Maria leaps after them.  A furious uproar comes from the room.  Shouting and screaming. )

O: Give me!  Give me!  Give it to me!

Olga runs back in, followed by Munia and Rasputin, all breathless and sweaty.  Munia sits, holding an object.

O:  Give it to me!  Give it to me!  He must have rubies, emeralds, and amber!  And amber!  Not this cheap watch the Tsar gave him!  I must smash it! I must smash it into dust, into dust!  Into dust!  (They scream at each other.  The other ladies quietly sip their tea.)

I have lain with you!  I have lain with you!  I have lain with you!

Someone knocks over the table with the soup.  Everyone tries to help; commotion.  Olga creeps up to Rasputin, seizes his head and begins to kiss it.

Rasputin pushes her away, but she comes back where he cannot reach her.

O: May I have a glass of wine?

The maid calls Rasputin to the bedroom door.  He remembers that Maria is inside, and goes in.  Olga rushes to the table and seizes Rasputin’s wine glass.  She fills it with wine, slowly drinks it, and collapses on the sofa.

O: When I am silent, even the stones, even the stones will speak!  (She goes to the bedroom door and puts her ear to it to listen.)  Take another!  Take another! Take another!   Hide her under the bed!  But you belong to me!  You may sleep with the whole world, for all I care!  But you are mine, you are mine, you are mine!  (Olga collapses on the sofa again.)

The pregnant lady rises, and walks slowly to the sofa.  Another woman restrains her, and they wrestle into the hallway.  The others rise, confused.  Maria runs out of the bedroom naked and kisses the Grand Duchess passionately, then pulls her into the bedroom.  Rasputin comes back in. YW rises.

YW: I have to go, Gregori Efimovitch.

R: When will you come again?  I have taken a liking to you.

YW: You can call me when you like.

O: (writhing on the sofa)  I must see that!  He, the God of Sabaoth is going to call up a girl on the telephone!

R: Farewell, then.  (crosses her)

Act 3 Scene 3:  YW exits, and the scene changes to the stairway.  It is dark, and as she descends, another woman grabs her dress.

WOMAN: Why do you go to him?

YOUNG WOMAN:  Who are you?  Who are you?

W: Why do you go to him?  Why?

YW: I am not quite sure myself.

W: Why do you go to him?  You do not belong to his regular circle.  I know that!  Listen to me!  For Christ’s sake, listen to me!  I shall lose my reason if I don’t talk to somebody!

(They descend the stairs.)

I must tell you everything.  Listen to me, for God’s sake.  You are so young, so happy.  Listen to me!  Are you a stranger?

YW: Yes, I am not from St. Petersburg.

W: I too came from far away, and I did not know what would happen to me.  Why did she send me to him?  I am not young anymore.  I am 32.  Why did she say that all my sorrows would be over if only I spoke to him?  Did you promise to come back?

YW: No, I only gave him a hint.

W: Good.  You were clever!  But I!  I was always religious.  I believed in God; I believed in Christ!  Why did I seek salvation in him?  Did he tell you to go to church?

YW: Yes, but I didn’t mean to go, really.

W: You are smart!  That’s what he told me, too.  And I came back after church as he told me, and he was waiting for me.  I knew what he wanted from me.  He pulled me into the bedroom, taking off my dress as we went!  He was breathing on my neck.  He made me kneel in the corner by the icons and pray.  He said: “Saint Simeon of Verkhoture, have mercy on my sins”.

YW: And what did you do?

W: And I did not curse him!  I did not spit on him, as he deserved!  The next moment he was all desire.  He tore off my underwear, and that is all I remember.  When I awoke he was standing over me, naked.  I was lying on the ground, torn and defiled.  He said something to me, something vulgar, and then “Do not sleep, for Christ’s sake”.  He actually dared to say that name; he actually dared to say that name at that moment!  I began to scream, I began to scream and strike at him!  Someone came running, and they put a cloak on me and threw me into a coach.  Why did he do it?  Why did I let him?  Now I do not know what to do.  I cannot stay here, and I cannot go away.  Every day I wander about the city.

-- END OF ACT 3 –

Act 4, Scene 1: Inside a cabaret; Rasputin (a dancer, in this scene) enters with friends.  Eventually things get wild; dancing, drinking.  Rasputin is the most energetic dancer.  He sweeps up a Gypsy singer and tears at her clothes.  Just then another woman comes out of the shadows and plunges a knife into him.  He falls, the woman escapes, and her accomplice briefly removes his hood so that we recognize the monk Iliodor.

Act 4, Scene 2: An ornate room in the basement of the palace of Prince Yusupov.  With him is Purishkevich. A member of the Duma.

PURISHKEVICH: A little deeper, and we would be done with him.

YUSUPOV: The doctors succeed only when you don’t want them to.  But he was in a coma for weeks, so you had your chance.

P: Without Rasputin whining to him, the Tsar saw reason and dispatched our troops to the front.  And it was Iliodor, the monk, who did it!  Too bad he failed.

Y: He hates him even more than we. Rasputin had a country monk appointed Bishop over his head, and he has been consumed with vengeance ever since.  But Rasputin still lives.

Y: And now, that devil tells everyone had he been in the palace, Russia would never have entered the war against the Kaiser.  But now it’s too late.  I’m glad you’re here.

P: Where I want to be.

Y: When I read your pamphlet from the Duma attacking Rasputin, I knew you would welcome my call.  Depravity!  Even the peasants are in commotion against him!  They, who brought him to St. Petersburg in the first place.  They have no stomach for his debauchery.  But Rasputin still lives.

P: We must be rid of that devil!  He controls the government!  When Khvostov was appointed Minister of the Interior, do you think it was because of his judgment?  His experience?  No!  Rasputin looked into his eyes and found him worthy!  And then, at the cabaret, when the Gypsy singers were carrying on, Rasputin said to Khvostov “Their bass section is weak.  Go up there and help them.”  Yes, Khvostov has a nice voice – but are we to judge ministers by how well they sing Gypsy music?

Y: In his apartment I saw for myself.  You’ve met Munia, I’m sure.  I can’t get the sight out of my mind!  In his apartment, Rasputin grabbing her, kissing her, kissing her on the mouth!  Little Munia!  She used to love me.

P: If he knew anything of politics, we could just set a political trap and destroy him.  But it is no use; he is too ignorant to touch! 

Every day I am beset with complaints from people who lost their positions because of Rasputin.  Everything he tells the Tsar, the Tsar does!  Russia is under his power, Russia is under his power!  Everything gets worse.  From the front we hear only of defeats.  It is all Rasputin’s fault!

Y: The Tsar thinks him a saint, thinks him a saint!  He worships him, like a religion.  You know Nikolai!  Now there’s a religious man for you!  In the war with Japan, the Tsar sent pictures of Saint Serafim to the troops!  The Japanese had shells, and we had saints!  Is it any wonder the Japanese won?  He shows as little sense whenever Rasputin speaks.  And Munia!  And Munia!  I can’t get the sight out of my mind!  In his apartment, Rasputin grabbing her, kissing her, kissing her on the mouth!  Little Munia!  She used to love me.

P: But Felix, your wife Irina Alexandrovna is easily the most beautiful woman in St Petersburg.  What is Munia to you?

Y: See if the Grand Duke has arrived.  (P exits)

Yes, Irina!  You are beautiful.  And the daughter of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and the niece of the Tsar.  What man could desire more?  What can I desire?  For what more can I reach?  My father’s fortune was second only to the Tsar’s, and now it is mine.  I am married into the house of Romanov.  My wife is the envy of all Russia; even Countesses curtsy to her.  I can’t imagine what more to want!  One cannot aim higher!  I keep the largest collection of gemstones in the entire world.  My palace is the envy of Europe as well as Russia.  And it is said everywhere that a prince who is more liked and attractive, influential, and with more loyal and well-placed friends has not yet been born.  Can I desire more?  Can I desire … anything?  (arranges the furniture so the room looks occupied and casual)

But Rasputin still lives! … In front of everyone, on the mouth!

A man, a man who has no intellect, no talent, no friends, and no education cannot by any effort of his own accomplish any deed or improve his position.  Nothing he can do will bring him joy, for he has not the power to bring about any improvement in his station.  And I!  There is nothing in the entire world that I can do that will in the slightest degree add to what I have been given.  Nothing!  Each day I search for some act, some decision, a word to someone … but I cannot....

P. enters with the Grand Duke Dmitri

Y: Good!  Now we can do it.

P: Of course it is a crime!  But for idealistic reasons, and that justifies it.  Even the people of Russia demand an end to this Rasputin.  There is no longer any secret about it: Rasputin is a Khlyst!

DIMITRI: How are we going to do it?

Y: Dimitri, you have given us the means!  When word of Rasputin’s death is known, there will be rejoicing.  We will be honored by the people.  When word of Rasputin’s death is known, your presence will show them that the imperial house deserves credit as well.  The monarchy will be secure.

P: And, by law, your participation will grant the two of us the same immunity that you enjoy.  Only the Tsar is permitted to judge a member of the family.  So we are safe, by your presence.

D: But Nikolai worships this Rasputin, and he will deal severely with us.

P: But not for long!  Our families are not without influence, and with Rasputin gone, the Tsar will soon see the good that we have done.  He is weak, and will listen to reason.  Without Rasputin whispering in his ear, he will listen to us.

D: It is not a common crime.

Y: Do you think I would involve myself in the murder of a nobody?  A vagabond?  Or even a person of rank who is surrounded by his peers?  I, who have nothing to gain in this world by any act of mine; I, who have reached the goals that drive other men to foolishness or courage?  I, who have nothing left to aim for; I, who have enjoyed all that the world gives us to enjoy; would I bother myself even to dream or contemplate some base act?  Something unimportant?  What would I gain by the effort?  Would I sleep better at night with the thought that, having no worthy goals I now busy myself with the lowest?  With the kind of act that is exciting to little men?  Is there yet pleasure to be found in vile acts against defenseless people?

P: It must be done, for the good of all Russia.

Y: What we are going to do is not the killing of someone who inconveniences another, or threatens his privilege.

P. It must be done, it must be done.

Y: What we are going to is destroy the greatest threat to Russia since the Tatars.  What we are going to is destroy the greatest threat to Russia since the Tatars.  He has no peers.  There is only one Rasputin!  Here is a deed.  Here is a deed; here is a deed worthy of a prince!

D: How did you convince Rasputin to come?

Y: With my guitar!  With my guitar!  You know Rasputin cannot resist music.  He says that anyone who plays well must be a true friend!  So I endured the depravity of his apartment on many nights, playing music for him until he came to trust me.  And watching him kiss Munia.  And worse.

D: I’m sorry.

Y: And then I told him that my wife was ill, and asked him to come and cure her.  He agreed at once!  He will be here any moment.

A bell rings, and Rasputin enters, escorted by a maidYusupov signals to P. who nods, and exits.

Y: Thank you, Katia.  Now, please, you may take the rest of the night off.  And tell the rest of the servants they can go home too.  My wife is ill and I don’t want her disturbed.

The maid starts to object, but he cuts her off and dismisses her.  She leaves, confused.

(to Rasputin)  Did anyone see you come?

RASPUTIN: No.  I understand your wife’s reluctance to be known as my friend, so I crept out by the back stairs, and no one saw me leave except for my maid.  Now where is the lovely lady?

Y: Good.  In a moment.  She has visitors upstairs, and we must wait for them to go.

Y. serves cakes to R.  He thanks him, and eats one.  At the first bite, a chorus, offstage, warns him.  He cannot hear it and keeps eating the poisoned cakes.

Ch:  Grisha!  Grisha!,  Rasputin, etc.

Y: (watching him eat)  Are they … good?

R: Good!  Have you spoken with Purishkevich today?  (Y drops a cake in his lap.)

Y: No. … Yes!  I’m not sure.

R: He was in my apartment yesterday.  Said I had enemies, and they were growing bolder.

Y: How is Nikolai?  And how is Anna?

R: They are fine.  And little Alesha is not so little now.

Y: What, exactly, did Purishkevich tell you?

R: There are a whole lot of people who are full of envy and malice.  Nice cakes!  (takes another)  How long has your wife been ill?

Y: And what did he say?  Did he say, did he tell you that anyone would ….

R: Kill me?  Of course!  (Y. very nervous, spills some wine)  I am a thorn in the flesh of a great many.  But why should I be afraid of them?  They have had a great many chances at me already.  They cannot get me!  God has foiled their plans every time.

Y: (to himself) What is wrong?  I put enough cyanide in those cakes to kill 10 people.  Dr. Lazovert said that it would act immediately!  I don’t understand.

R: Where is the patient?  I am anxious to see the patient!  Could you perhaps encourage her visitors to depart without delay?

Y: Yes, I’ll see to it.  (grabs D., both exit, leaving R. alone in the room)

R: And God will continue to foil their plans!  Who can threaten me?  Protected by God and the Tsar!  Nikolai has the sense to attend to me.  The others, jealous, vain, weak, threatened by my power and my judgment.  They can scheme as they wish.  And Iliodor!  The good monk, a man of God!  Conspiracy to murder.  Is this where his Bible led him?  He is closer to the Devil than to God!  Hiring that prostitute to kill me with a knife.  For the good of Russia, he failed!  I have purified the palace!  I have dismissed, I have dismissed scores of incompetent scoundrels and flunkies, sycophants and camp followers!  Incompetent bureaucrats, thieves, and criminals!  Of course they are upset!  Many would rejoice to see me dead.  But I would have saved lives beyond counting, had I not been lying wounded just at that time, when the Tsar sent Russian troops to the Great War.  If that damned woman had not run a knife into me.  They attack me thinking they serve Russia – but I am Russia!  (eats another cake)

And the Bishop denounces me everywhere, he who knows nothing of religion, but teaches it everywhere   It was he who helped me gain the palace.  Now he incites, he incites the people of Siberia against me!  Depravity!  Calls me sinful!  Debauchery!  Calls me sinful!

We have had enough of war and bloodshed.  They thought it an act of virtue, but with consequences much bloodier than the wound of a single knife.  (eats another)

What is wrong with friends pleasing each other?  By what logic can he say that I am sinful?  I sin so I can be free of sin, can be free of sin.  But they!  Their backward faith, their backward faith drives them, and they know not what they do.  These Orthodox!  By their teachings they are obliged to hate me, and they cannot think for themselves.  But what are these teachings, but the opinions of dead men?  What do they know?  What do they know?  Their faith has made them blind.  They are living in 1217, not 1917!  My sins harm no one, but theirs kill entire armies!  I try to spare the peasants, and now they incite the peasants against me.  Sins?  Mine bring joy to my friends, and I help them all.  Theirs bring only shame, denial, rejection, and the supposed superiority of the learned clergy who would not recognize virtue or vice if they rolled over in bed on top of it!

Y, D., and P. enter.  They carry a tray with wine glasses.

D: Madiera, your favorite.  (R. takes a glass.  The others take from another tray.)

R: Is she alone?  I am very grateful to be of help.  (drinks the entire glass)

Y: (to D.)  This has to work.  I have put enough poison to kill 100 men in each glass.  (to R.)  We must just be patient for a very short time.  (He takes his guitar down from the wall)

R: Oh, do play something!  I love to hear you sing.

Y: Just as, with eyes raised, the traveler at the well, drinking water that she pours,

R: (laughs) Let them try me!  You cannot kill someone who is protected by God!  (Y stops playing, mortified.)  Oh, do go on!  (drinks more poisoned wine, without effect)

P: Yes, keep singing!  (exits)

Y: … lets it run through, lets it run through his fingers, fingers, to make her go on pouring, to make her, to make her go on pouring, (Rasputin joins in while P reenters, hiding a revolver behind his back.) so she, so she pours the, pours the thin stream, pours the, the thin stream thinner, thinner.

(P. suddenly fires several shots at Rasputin, who staggers and falls.  Calm for a minute, and then Rasputin rises to his feet, with convulsions, staggers toward P., grabbing for his throat.  As he reaches P, he falls, dead.)