The Russian Empire in music: from the very first bars of Mazeppa, we can hear it, that unique atmosphere that one associates with vast Eastern landscapes, and naturally with Tchaikovsky. The composer himself, however, was viewed by his contemporaries as a “Westerner”: someone who adored Bizet’s Carmen and set himself apart from his colleagues who looked toward the Caucasus rather than to Paris for inspiration. In reality, Tchaikovsky belonged nowhere. In Rome he missed the Russian winter, and in the Russian Winter he pined for the Italian sun. This “sitting between two stools” also aptly describes his operatic hero Mazeppa, a Ukrainian at the Czar’s court. With its battle scenes, love arias, and the great madness scene at the end, Tchaikovsky’s opera is absolutely worth discovering. With the Berliner Philharmoniker and the most celebrated Russian opera director of our time, we can certainly look forward to a model interpretation of the work.