Preloader Operavision
Marlēna Keine & cast - photo: Agnese Zeltina
31.01.2020 at 18h00 CET
Friday, January 31, 2020 - 18:00

Latvian National Opera and Ballet

I Played, I Danced

The right song has more power than all the evil in the world

Operas | Kalniņš

A wedding goes awry when the venue catches fire and the bride is dragged into the underworld. Only a kokle player is brave enough –  and musical enough – to venture there and save her.


With its mummers, imps, three-headed demon king and singing mole cricket, I Played, I Danced is a story like none other. Composed in 1977, Imants Kalniņš’s elaborate musical language is blended with Latvian folk to create a unique and moving soundworld. Leading young Latvian director Laura Groza-Ķibere and visual artist Miķelis Fišers bring out the wild energy of this opera in their new production that forces us to ask: How much should we fight the demons of the past while striving for a better future?

Sung in Latvian


Subtitled in English, French and German with possibility of auto-translation into more than hundred other languages.

Available from
31.01.2020 at 18h00 CET

Available until
31.07.2020 at 12h00 CET

TotsRaimonds Bramanis
LeldeMarlēna Keine
Three-headed Demon KingJānis Apeinis
LordKrišjānis Norvelis
The Blind ManRihards Mačanovskis
The WitchIlona Bagele
The Lame ManRinalds Kandalincevs
ZemgusJuris Ādamsons
Mole CricketLaura Grecka
Lelde’s MotherEvija Martinsone
Zemgus’ MotherAndžella Goba
ForemanGuntars Ruņģis
ImpMihails Čuļpajevs
PeglegKalvis Kalniņš

MusicImants Kalniņš
ConductorMārtiņš Ozoliņš
DirectorLaura Groza-Ķibere
Set DesignerMiķelis Fišers
Costume DesignerKristīne Pasternaka
Lighting DesignerOskars Pauliņš
ChoreographerRūdolfs Gediņš
DramaturgEvarts Melnalksnis

Act I

The wedding of Zemgus and Lelde is about to be celebrated by the Riga Castle on the Daugava Embankment. Suddenly some mummers appear uninvited – the musician Tots, the Witch, the Blind Man, and the Lame Man. Tots sings, and his song rouses a sense of freedom and love of life that Lelde has not known before. When she looks into the future, the Witch sees a threat to Lelde. During the wedding ceremony, the old Lord arrives unseen and steals three drops of blood from Lelde. The strings snap on Tots’s kokle – a traditional Latvian zither – and a fire engulfs the castle.

Zemgus mourns Lelde’s death. Tots, who also mourns her, demands of Mother Earth to return the girl to life. The Mole Cricket appears and speaks on behalf of Mother Earth. He brings a message about the power of song to fight evil. In support of Tots’s quest, he gives him a root to replace the broken strings. Tots hears the voices of the dead. They plead with him to fight for them as well as for Lelde, for their peace and remembrance is disturbed by suffering visited on them by devils. Tots is told that Lelde can be restored to life with the help of the candle-of-the-dead and the three drops of blood stolen by the Lord.

Act II

Tots arrives at the Ambassadors’ Hall in Riga Castle and finds the Lord drunk on Lelde’s blood. Pretending to be one of the dead, he and the Lord wake up the devils that have moved into the Castle. Tots entertains the devils and the witches with his sharp tongue and is rewarded with a devil’s tail to use as a string for his kokle. His instrument is gaining an ever richer sound that combines two different worlds.

Tots finds Lelde. She is weak but not yet fully in devils’ power, since it is only her first night in the underworld. Lelde gives him her hair for a string. Tots promises to fix up a wedding for the Lord and Lelde so that he can steal back her drops of blood. Fascinated by Tots’s antics, the devils and witches tear out the Lord’s vein for Tots’s kokle and steal back the three drops of blood themselves, which are spilled and seep into the ground.

Tots’s song moves the three-headed Demon King, who sees in Tots his long-lost son. He offers the musician to inherit the devils’ realm but Tots refuses. He professes his ambition to instead unite the nether regions of the world with the higher ones. Tots calls for the help of the dead, who give him the candle-of-the-dead. With it, he fights and conquers the devils, driving them off. Tots can now revive Lelde, yet the candle was not given to him only for saving Lelde – he must bring the remembrance of the dead to the present and into the future.


As dawn breaks, reconstruction work begins at the castle. The mummers tell the story of what took place during the night. Tots brings Lelde over and lights the candle, the flame of which must touch the sunlight in order for the dead to rest in peace and for Lelde to revive. The sun rises and the dead thank Tots and depart. But Lelde cannot wake up, for Mother Earth and the dead have taken the spilled blood for themselves.

For Lelde to live, someone has to sacrifice himself. When Zemgus fails to do so, Tots musters all his willpower and gives Lelde his blood. Lelde revives and takes over Tots’s song as he dies. The Mole Cricket announces that he is a saint and thus will continue to live within everyone.