A chamber opera by Greg Bartholomew

Based on the novel Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad

ACT ONE: St. Petersburg

In late 19th Century tsar-oppressed Russia, a university student named Razumov works diligently at his studies to make his own way in the world. He has no family and he regards the whole of Russia as his mother. His father is rumored to be Prince Kadinsky, who sends him money every month. Among the revolutionaries that fill the university, Razumov keeps to himself, hoping to serve the cause of reform from inside the bureaucracy.

His life-plan is abruptly derailed when a fellow university student, Haldin, assassinates a government minister and seeks refuge in Razumov's room when he is unable to find the driver who was expected to help him escape from the city. Razumov agrees to go out to find the driver and tell him where to meet Haldin (Scene Three).

When he finds the driver drunk at an inn, Razumov proceeds to seek the help of Prince Kadinsky (Scene Four). The Prince takes Razumov to see the General, who views Razumov's claim of innocence suspiciously but obeys the Prince's directive to keep Razumov out of the government's investigation of the assassination (Scene Five).

After telling the General where Haldin expects to meet his driver, Razumov returns to his room and tells Haldin, I found the man who will meet you. Haldin goes out to meet his doom, and Razumov proclaims his political credo, a five-line statement (evolution not revolution, etc.) that he writes and stabs to the wall with his knife. Sometime later, Razumov is summoned by Councilor Mikulin, the government bureaucrat directing counter-intelligence. Mikulin has read Razumov's credo (retrieved when his agents searched Razumov's room), and Mikulin recruits Razumov to spy on revolutionary emigres in Geneva.

ACT TWO: Geneva

In Geneva, Haldin's mother is worried by the lack of news from her son. Haldin's sister, Natalia, reads to her mother from a newspaper that a government minister has been assassinated and the assassin has been executed. Peter Ivanovich, the head of the Russian revolutionary emigre community in Geneva, arrives to announce the great news: It was their son and brother who performed the great deed. Mrs. Haldin is distraught. Peter Ivanovich also announces that a certain Razumov, believed to be a great friend of Haldin and therefore thought to be responsible in some for the assassination, has arrived in Geneva. Peter Ivanovich invites Natalia to meet Razumov.

When Natalia is able to get free from her mother, she meets Razumov in secret for walks in Bastion Park, hoping to learn about her brother's end. Razumov views his encounters with Natalia as an opportunity to take revenge on the man who derailed his life, but gradually Razumov and Natalia fall in love.

Razumov wishes to avoid confronting Mrs. Haldin, but he is told: "You cannot pass the mother by" (sung in the video at right).


Mrs. Haldin accuses Natalia of secretly planning to abandon her, just as her son abandoned her by failing to escape without telling her anything. Natalia tells her mother that the reason she has been secretive is that Razumov is in Geneva, and she does not know what he has to tell them. Natalia goes out to bring Razumov to her mother. (The opening scenes from Act Three are sung in the video at right.)

News arrives from Russia that Haldin's driver hung himself, and it is assumed he did so out of remorse for having betrayed Haldin. Razumov goes to the Haldin apartment to tell them the news, which would finally remove all suspicion from himself. When Natalia returns, Razumov confesses to her both his love for Natalia and his responsibility for her brother's death.