Iolanta was the last opera Tchaikovsky composed. In 1884, the composer read a translation of the one-act verse drama Kong Renés Datter (English: King René’s Daughter) by the Danish writer Henrik Hertz. The poetic quality and deep philosophical meaning of the drama’s plot struck him.
In 1891, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky started composing Iolanta. When working on this piece, the great Russian composer used to say, “I will compose an opera that will make everybody cry.” And he really managed it, however, viewers have tears in their eyes, as they are happy for the characters.
When he worked on Iolanta, Tchaikovsky was interested in philosophy of Spinoza, who believed that the God and nature form eternal and endless unity, and the material and the ideal are inseparably connected. So, Iolanta’s physical recovery of sight is the result of awakening of her soul, when love lightens her heart and opens her eyes on the new life. The final hymn of the opera celebrates life and light, hope for enlightenment and purification.