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Full text of "The Russian opera"

CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 



BOUGHT WITH THE INCOME 
OF THE SAGE ENDOWMENT 
FUND GIVEN IN 1891 BY 

HENRY WILLIAMS SAGE 



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ML 1741j355" """"""^ '""'"'* 



The Russian opera / 




3 1924 022 334 175 




Cornell University 
Library 



The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

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THE 

RUSSIAN 

OPERA 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

BORODIN & LISZT 

TCHAIKOVSKY 

POETRY & PROGRESS IN 
RUSSIA, Etc. 




IVANriVlCH SHALIAI'IiN 



THE 
RUSSIAN OPERA 



BY 

ROSA 

NEWMARCH 




WITH SIXTEEN 
ILLUSTRATIONS 



HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED 
ARUNDEL PLACE HAYMARKET 
LONDON S.W. ^ fi3 MCMXIV 



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XH£ ASOBOB FBEBS, LTD., XIFIBBi:, ESSBZ. 



TO 

FEODOR IVANOVICH SHALIAPIN 

IN MEMORY OF OUR OLD FRIEND 
VLADIMIR VASSILIEVICH STASSOV 



PREFACE 

BETWEEN January 19th, 1900, and April 
4th, 1905, I read before the Musical 
Association of London five papers deal- 
ing with the Development of National Opera in 
Russia, covering a period from the first perform- 
ance of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar in 1836, to 
the production of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera 
The Tsar's Bride, in 1899. These lectures were 
illustrated by the following artists : the 
late Mrs. Henry J. Wood, Miss Grainger Kerr, 
Mr. Seth Hughes, Mr, Robert Maitland; 
Sir (Mr.) Henry J. Wood and Mr. Richard 
Epstein at the piano. While using these lectures 
as the scaffolding of my present book, I have 
added a considerable amount of new material, 
amassed during ten years unremitting research 
into my subject. The additions concern chiefly 
the earlier phases of Russian music, and the 
operas that have appeared since 1900. The 
volume also contains some account of the 
foundation of the nationalist school of composers 



viii PREFACE 

under the leadership of Balakirev. It has been 
my privilege to meet and converse with most of 
the members of this circle. I give also a few 
details about the literary champion of "the 
Invincible Band," Vladimir Stassov, under whose 
guidance I first studied the history of Russian 
music. With all modesty I believe I may claim 
to have been a pioneer worker in this field. 
When in 1895 I published my translation (from 
the French edition of M. Habets) of Stassov's 
book on Borodin, and followed it up in 1897 by 
a series of articles— the fruits of my first visit to 
Russia — ^in that short-Uved weekly The Musician, 
the literature of the subject was by no means 
copious, even in Russia itself ; while the daily 
increasing public in Western Europe who were 
anxious to learn something about the remarka,ble 
galaxy of composers newly arisen in the east, 
based their knowledge and opinions almost 
entirely upon Cesar Cui's pamphlet La Musique 
en Russie, an interesting, but in many respects 
misleading, statement of the phenomenon; or 
upon the views propagated by Rubinstein and 
his followers, wherefrom they learnt that the 
Russians, though musically gifted, were only 
represented by incapable amateurs. 
Happily for its own enjoyment, the world 



PREFACE ix 

has grown wiser. The last few years have 
witnessed the vindication of Moussorgsky's 
genius in France and England ; a consummation 
devoutly wished, but hardly anticipated, by 
those who had been convinced from the begin- 
ning of the nobility and sincerity of spirit and 
motive which entitles his two finished operas to 
be regarded as masterpieces. During Sir Joseph 
Beecham's season of Russian Opera at Drury 
Lane last year, Rimsky-Korsakov's early music- 
drama Ivan the Terrible (" The Maid of Pskov ") 
made a profound impression, with Shaliapin 
in the part of the t5n:ant Tsar. In the forth- 
coming season it is Borodin's turn to be 
introduced to the British public, and I confi- 
dently predict the success of his lyric opera 
Prince Igor. So, one by one, these Russians, 
" eaters of tallow candles, Polar bears, too long 
consumers of foreign products, are admitted in 
their turn in the character of producers," ^ 

In view of the extended interest now felt in 
Russian opera, drama and ballet, it has been 
thought worth while to offer to the public this 
outline of the development of a genuine national 
opera, from the history of which we have much 
to learn in this country, both as regarcb the 

* Letter from Borodin to Countess Mercy-Argenteau 



X PREFACE 

things to be attempted and those to be shunned. 
Too much technical analysis has been intention- 
ally avoided in this volume. The musician can 
supply this deficiency by the study of the 
scores mentioned in the book, which, dating 
from Glinka's time, have nearly all been 
pubUshed and are therefore accessible to the 
student ; the average opera-goer will be glad 
to gain a general view of the subject, unencum- 
bered by the monotonous terminology of musical 
analysis. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I 
THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 

FAOE 

Primitive music of the Russian Slavs. The four 
periods of Russian music. The Skomorokhi 
or Gleemen. Clerical Intolerance. Chm-ch pa- 
geants. Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich, the first 
patron of music and the drama. Biblical plays 
with incidental music. Mystery plays of Dmitri 
of Rostov. Origin of the Ballet. First public 
theatre in Russia, 1703. 1 

CHAPTER II 

THE RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 

Accession of Empress Anne. Cultivation of the 
folk melodies. Change of taste. The Italians 
bring in secular plays. Feodor Volkov. Music 
under Catherine the Great. Fomin and his 
operas. Berezovsky and Bortniansky. Further 
change of taste under Alexander I. Patriotic 
enthusiasm following French invasion of 1812. 
Cavos exploits national melody. Verstovsky 
and Alabiev. 32 

CHAPTER III 

MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 

Childhood and education of Glinka. His awakening 
to music. Early years in the country. Love 
of nature. First music lessons. He enters the 
Civil Service. Begins to write songs. Visit 
to Italy. Musical studies in Berlin. 69 



Missing Page 



Missing Page 



xiv CONTENTS 

milla. Orientalism and optimism in Prince Igor. 
Death of Borodin. Cfear Cui. His French 
descent. Early operas, The Mandarin's Son, 
The Captive in the Caucasus, William Ratcliff, 
Angela, The Saracen. A French opera, Le Fli- 
bustier. Mam'selle Fiji. Analysis of Cui's style. 



CHAPTER Xn 

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 

Rimsky-Korsakov's position as a national com- 
poser and as a teacher. Biographical. Joins 
Balakirev's circle. Leaves the naval service. 
His early works. A tone-painter. His first 
Opera. The Maid of Pskov (Ivan the Terrible). 
Accession of the Emperor Alexander III. He 
encourages Russian music. A Night in May. 
The Snow-Maiden (Sniegourochka). Mlada. 
Christmas Eve Revels. Mozart and Salieri. Boy- 
arinya Vera Sheloga. Sadko. The Tsar's Bride. 
The Legend of Tsar Saltan. The use of the leit- 
motif. Servilia. Kastchei the Immortal. Wag- 
nerian influence. Pan Voyevode. The Tale of the 
City of Kitezh. The Golden Cock. 

CHAPTER XIII 

TCHAIKOVSKY 

Tchaikovsky considered apart from the nationalist 
circle. His early love of ItaUan opera. The 
Voyevode. Undine. The Oprichnik. The libretto 
described. Cherevichek, or Le Caprice d'Oxane. 
Passing influence of Balakirev's circle. Eugene 
Oniegin. The Maid of Orleans. The composer's 
enthusiasm for this opera. Mazeppa. Analysis 
of the subject. Charodeika [The Enchantress). 
The Queen of Spades. lolanthe. Analysis 
of Tchaikovsky's operatic styles. 



CONTENTS XV 

CHAPTER XIV 

CONCLUSION 

txas 
Some minor composers. Napravnik : The Citizens of 
Nijny-Novgorod, Harold, Doubrovsky, Francesca 
da Rimini. Blaramberg : Skomorokhi, The Rous- 
salka-Maiden, Touskinets, The Wave. Arensky : 
A Dream on the Volga, Raphael, Nal and Damyanti. 
Rachmaninov : Aleko. Grechyaninov ; Dobrynia 
NikiUch. Ippolitov-Ivanov : Ruth, Assya. Kalin- 
nikov : The Year 1812. Taneiev : Orestes. Foreign 
influence in contemporary Russian music. Rebi- 
kov : In the Storm, The Christmas Tree. Kaza- 
chenko, Korestchenko, Kochetov, Stravinsky, 
Famous operatic singers : Platonova, Petrov, 
Melnikov, the Figners, Shaliapin. Mamantov 
and the Moscow Private Opera Company. Great 
increase of opera companies in Russia. Conclud- 
ing observations. 362 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

FEODOR IVANOVICH SHALiAPiN Frontispiece 

10 FACE FAaS 

TSAR ALEXIS MIKHAILOVICH - - 20 

CHURCH SERVICE 

PROCESSION OF BOYARDS - - 46 

GLINKA, FROM A PAINTING BY REPIN - 68 

DARGOMIJSKY, FROM A PORTRAIT BY 

MAKOVSKY - - - - 116 

SEROV, FROM A PORTRAIT BY HIS SON V. 

SEROV _ - _ 136 

STASSOV, FROM A PHOTOGRAPH - - 212 

MOUSSORGSKY, FROM A PORTRAIT BY 

REPIN ----- 220 

SHALIAPIN AS BORIS GODOUNOV - - 23O 

SHALIAPIN AS DOSITHEUS IN Khovanst- 

china ----- 246 

BORODIN _ - - - 264 

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV, FROM A PORTRAIT 

BY REPIN - - - . 306 

THE IMPERIAL OPERA HOUSE, MOSCOW - 340 

SHALIAPIN AS MEPHISTOPHELES - - 374 

SHALIAPIN AS DON QUIXOTE - - 386 



THE 

RUSSIAN 

OPERA 



THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

CHAPTER I 

THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 

THE early history of the development 
of the national music, like that of 
most popular movements in Russia, 
has its aspects of oppression and conflict with 
authority. On the one hand we see a strong 
natural impulse moving irresistibly towards ful- 
filment ; on the other, a policy of repression 
amounting at moments to active persecution. 
That the close of the nineteenth century has 
witnessed the triumph of Russian music at 
home and abroad proves how strong was the 
innate capacity of this people, and how deep 
their love of this art, since otherwise they could 
never have finally overcome every hindrance 
to its development. That from primitive times 
the Slavs were easily inspired and moved by 
music, and that they practised it in very early 
phases of their civilisation, their early historians 
are all agreed. In the legend of " Sadko, the Rich 
Merchant" (one oi the byline oi the Novgorodian 

B 



2 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Cycle) the hero, a kind of Russian Orpheus, 
who suffers the fate of Jonah, makes the Sesi- 
king dance to the sound of his gusslee, and only 
stays his hand when the wild gyrations of the 
marine deity have created such a storm on earth 
that all the ships on the ocean above are in 
danger of being wrecked. In the " Epic of the 
Army of Igor," when the minstrel Boyan sings, 
he draws " the grey wolf over the fields, and the 
blue-black eagle from the clouds." In peace 
and war, music was the joy of the primitive 
Slavs. In the sixth century the Wends told 
the Emperor in Constantinople that music was 
their greatest pleasure, and that on their travels 
they never carried arms but musical instru- 
ments which they made themselves. Pro- 
copius, the Byzantine historian, describing a 
night attack made by the Greeks, A.D. 592, 
upon the camp of the Slavs, says that the latter 
were so completely absorbed in the delights of 
singing that they had forgotten to take any pre- 
cautionary measures, and were oblivious of 
the enemy's approach. Early in their history, 
the Russian Slavs used a considerable number 
of musical instruments : the gusslee, a kind of 
horizontal harp, furnished with seven or eight 
strings, and the svirel, a reed pipe (chalumet), 
being the most primitive. Soon, however, we 
read of the goudok, a species of fiddle with 
three strings, played with a bow ; the dombra, 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 3 

an instrument of the guitar family, the fore- 
runner of the now fashionable balalaika, the 
strings of which were vibrated with the fingers ; 
and the handoura, or kobza, of the Malo- 
Russians, which had from eight to twenty 
strings. Among the primitive wind instru- 
ments were the sourna, a shrill pipe of Eastern 
origin, and the doudka, the bagpipe, or corne- 
muse. The drum, the tambourine, and the 
cymbals were the instruments of percussion 
chiefly in use. 

Berezovsky makes a convenient division of 
the history of Russian music into four great 
periods. The first, within its Umits, was purely 
national. It included all the most ancient folk- 
songs arid byline, or metrical legends ; it saw 
the rise and fall of the Skomorokhi, the minstrels 
who were both the composers and preservers 
of these old epics and songs. This period 
reached its highest development in the reign 
of Vladimir, " The Red Sun," first Christian 
prince of Russia, about a.d. 988. The second 
period, which Berezovsky describes as already 
faUing away from the purely national ideal, 
dates from the establishment of Christianity 
in Russia, at the close of the tenth century, 
when the folk music lost much of its independ- 
ence and fell under Byzantine influence. Rus- 
sian music entered upon its third period about 
the middle of the eighteenth century ; national 



4 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

songs now regained some of their former import- 
ance, but its progress was checked because the 
tastes of Western Europe were already para- 
mount in the country. Italian music had 
reached the capital and long held the field. 
The first twenty years of the nineteenth century 
witnessed a passionate revival of interest in 
the national music, and when, in 1836, Glinka 
created A Life for the Tsar, he inaugurated 
a fourth period in the history of national art, the 
limits of which have yet to be ultimately defined. 
Of the first, the primitive period in Russian 
music, there are few records beyond the allusions 
to the love of minstrelsy which we find in the 
earliest known songs and legends of the Russian 
Slavs. When we reach the second period, at 
which the national music entered upon a struggle 
with the spiritual authorities, we begin to 
realise from the intolerance of the clerical 
attitude how deeply the art must have already 
laid hold upon the spirit of the people. Whether 
from a desire to be faithful to oriental asceticism, 
and to the austere spirit which animated the 
Church during the first centuries which followed 
the birth of Christ, or because of the need to 
keep a nation so recently converted, and still 
so deeply impregnated with paganism, fenced 
off from all contaminating influences, the 
Church soon waged relentless war upon every 
description of profane recreation. The Orthodox 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 5 

clergy were not only opposed to music, but to 
every form of secular art. Moreover the folk- 
songs were of pagan origin ; therefore, just as 
the priests of to-day still look askance at the 
songs and legends of the Brittany peasants 
which perpetuate the memory of heathen cus- 
toms, so the Byzantine monks of the eleventh 
century, and onwards, denounced the national 
songs of Russia as being hostile to the spirit 
of Christianity. Songs, dances, and spectacular 
amusements were all condemned. Even at 
the weddings of the Tsars, as late as the seven- 
teenth century, dancing and singing were rigor- 
ously excluded, only fanfares of trumpets, with 
the music of flutes and drums, and fireworks, 
being permitted. Professor Milioukhov, in his 
"Sketch for aHistory of Russian Culture," quotes 
one of the austere moralists of mediaeval times 
who condemns mirth as a snare of the evil one ; 
" laughter does not edify or save us ; on the 
contrary it is the ruin of edification. Laughter 
displeases the Holy Spirit and drives out 
virtue, because it makes men forget death and 
eternal punishment. Lord, put mirth away 
from me ; give me rather tears and lamenta- 
tions." So persistent and effectual was the 
repression of all secular enjoyments that one 
monkish chronicler was able to remark with 
evident satisfaction that, for the time being, 
" there was silence in all the land of Russia." 



6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Under these conditions the primitive music 
had little chance of development. Driven from 
the centres of dawning civilisation, it took 
refuge in forest settlements and remote villages. 
With it fled the bards and the mummers, the 
gleemen — those " merry lads " as the Russians 
called them — so dear to the hearts of the people. 
These musicians were originally of two classes : 
minstrels and gusslee players (harpists), such as 
the famous Skald, Bayan ; and the Skomorokhi, 
or mummers, who sang and juggled for the 
diversion of the people. In course of time we 
find allusions to several subdivisions in the 
band of Skomorokhi, all of which may now be 
said to have their modern equivalents in Russia. 
There was the Skomorokh-pievets, or singer of 
the mythical or heroic songs, who afterwards 
became absorbed into the ranks of the poets 
with the rise of a school of poetry at the close 
of the sixteenth century ; the Skomorokh- 
goudets, who played for dancing, and was after- 
wards transformed into the orchestral player, 
exchanging his gusslee or dombra for some more 
modern western instrument ; the Skomorokh- 
plyassoun, the dancer, now incorporated in the 
corps-de-ballet ; and the Skomorokh-gloumossl0ii 
vets, the buffoon or entertainer, who eventually 
became merged in the actor. 

Monkish persecution could not entirely stamp 
out the love of music in the land. To attain 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 7 

that end it would have been necessary to uproot 
the very soul of the nation. Despite the 
fulminations of the clergy, the nobles still 
secretly cherished and patronised their singers, 
who beguiled the tedium of the long winters 
in their poteshni palati. These dependents 
of the aristocracy were the first actors known 
to the Russians. At the same time such 
fanatical teaching could not fail to alter in some 
degree the temper of a people wholly uneducated 
and prone ta superstition. The status of the 
minstrels gradually decUned. They ceased to 
be " welcome guests " in hut and hall, and the 
Skomorokhi degenerated into companies of rov- 
ing thieves, numbering often from fifty to a 
hundred, who compelled the peasants to supply 
them with food, as they moved from place to 
place, driven onward by their clerical denuncia- 
tors. By way of compromise, the gleemen 
now appear to have invented a curious class 
of song which they called " spiritual," in which 
pagan and Christian sentiments were mingled 
in a strange and unedifying jumble. The pure 
delight of singing having been condemned as a 
sin, and practised more or less sub rosa, the 
standard of songs became very much cor- 
rupted. The degeneracy of music and kindred 
forms of recreation was most probably the out- 
come of this intolerant persecution. But though 
theyhadhelpedto bring about this state of affairs, 



8 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

there was no doubt something to be said. for 
the attitude of the clergy, if we may believe the 
testimony of western travellers in Russia in 
the sixteenth century. The minstrels in the 
service of the richer nobles deteriorated as a 
class, and claimed their right to give entertain- 
ments in towns and villages, which were often 
of scandalous coarseness and profanity. The 
same may be said of the puppet-shows {Koukol- 
naya teatr), of somewhat later date, the abomin- 
able performances of which shocked the traveller 
Adam Olearius when he accompanied the ambas- 
sador sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein to 
the Great Duke of Muscovy in 1634 and 1636. 
The long struggle between spiritual authority 
and the popular craving for secular recreation 
continued until the reign of Alexis MikhMlovich 
(1645-1676). 

In a measure the Church was successful in 
turning the thoughts of the people from worldly 
amusements to the spiritual drama enacted 
within her doors. During these long dark 
centuries, when Russia had neither universities 
nor schools, nor any legitimate means of recrea- 
tion, the people found a dramatic sensation in 
the elaborate and impressive ritual of the Ortho- 
dox Church. Patouillet, in his book " Le 
Theatre de Moeurs Russes," says : " the icono- 
stasis, decorated with paintings, erected between 
the altar and the faithful, resembles, with its 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 9 

three doors, an antique proscenium. The ' im- 
perial ' door, reserved for the officiating priest, 
and formerly for the Emperor, recalls by its 
name, if not by its destination, the ' royal ' 
entrance of the Greek theatre. Thus there is, as 
it were, a double scene being enacted, one which 
takes place before the eyes of the congregation, 
the other hidden from them during certain 
portions of the ritual, particularly at the moment 
of the ' Holy Mysteries ' (the Consecration of 
the elements). These alternations of publicity 
and mystery; the celebrant reappearing and 
disappearing ; the deacon, who goes in and out 
at the side doors and stands upon the Ambon, 
like a kind of Xoyetov, to declare the divine 
word to the assembled Christians, dialoguing 
sometimes with them, sometimes with the 
officiating priest ; the double choir of singers, 
arranged even in this day on each side of the 
iconostasis, and finally the attitude of the 
faithful themselves — rather that of a crowd of 
spectators than of participants — ^all these details 
formed a spectacle full of dramatic interest 
in times of simple faith." 

On certain religious festivals, allegorical repre- 
sentations, such as the Washing of the Feet 
and the Entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, 
were enacted in public places. The early 
marriage service of the Orthodox Church, with 
its pompous religious ceremonial and social 



10 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

customs, such as the pretended lamentations 
of the bride, and the choruses of the young 
girls, held distinctly dramatic elements. In 
these ecclesiastical ceremonies and social usages 
may be traced the first germs of the Russian 
drama. 

In Western Russia we find the school drama 
(Shkolnaya-drama) established in the ecclesi- 
astical Academy of Kiev as early as the close 
of the fifteenth century. The students used 
to recite the events of the Nativity in public 
places and illustrate their words by the help 
of the Vertep, a kind of portable retable on which 
were arranged figures representing the Birth 
of Christ. The Passion of Our Lord was repre- 
sented in the same way, and the recital was 
interspersed with choral singing, and not in- 
frequently with interludes of a secular or comic 
nature. This form of drama had found its 
way into Russia from Poland. In 1588 Giles 
Fletcher, Queen Elizabeth's ambassador to 
Russia, gives an account of a representation 
in Moscow, which reminds us of the Scoppio 
del Carro, the Easter ceremony at Florence, 
when a mechanical dove carrying the " Pazzi 
fire," lit from the sacred flint brought back 
from the Holy Sepulchre, is set rushing along a 
wire from the altar to the car, hung about with 
fireworks, which stands outside the great West 
Door of the Duomo, When the bird comes in 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA ii 

contact with the car the pyrotechnical display 
is ignited, and if all goes without a hitch the 
vintage and harvest will prosper. 

Says Fletcher : " The weeke before the 
Nativitie of Christ every bishop in his cathedral 
church setteth forth a shew of the three children 
in the oven.^ Where the Angell is made to 
come flying from the roof of the church, with 
great admiration of the lookers-on, and many 
terrible flashes of fire are made with rosen and 
gun-powder by the Chaldeans (as they call 
them), that run about the town all the twelve 
days, disguised in their plaiers coats, and make 
much good sport for the honour of the bishop's 
pageant. At the Mosko, the emperour him- 
self e and the empfess never faile to be at it, 
though it be but the same matter plaid every 
yeere, without any new invention at all." 

Dr. Giles Fletcher was a member of the family 
so well-known in the history of English litera- 
ture ; he was the uncle of John Fletcher, the 
dramatist, and the father of Phineas Fletcher, 
the author of the poem "The Purple Island." 
How njuve and almost barbarous must this 
Russian mystery play have seemed to the 
Englishman who had probably witnessed some 
of the innumerable comedies, tragi-comedies, 
farces, and tragedies which were then enacted 

^ The show refers to a legend of St. Nicholas, Bishop 
of Myra, the saint held in most honour by the Russians. 



12 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

at home in the universities, the Inns of Court, 
and elsewhere ; and who may very likely already 
have frequented the theatre in Blackfriars 
or Shoreditch, and seen the plays of Marlowe 
and Greene, although as yet hardly anything 
of Shakespeare ! 

Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584), who first sent 
for printers from Germany and published the 
earliest Russian book (containing the Acts of 
the Apostles and the Epistles) in 1564, did 
nothing towards the secidar education of his 
Court or of the people. Nor was there much 
progress in this respect in the reign of Boris 
Godounov (1598-1605). Secular dramatic art 
continued to be discouraged by the Church, 
without any patronage being accorded to it 
in high places until the reign of Alexis Mikhailo- 
vich. This prince, who may justly be called 
the founder of a national theatre in Russia, 
showed a real interest in the fine arts. He 
summoned a few musicians to Moscow, who 
taught the Russians the use of instruments 
hitherto unused by them. This encourage- 
ment of music at his Court provoked a final 
outburst of clerical intolerance. In 1649, by 
order of the Patriarch Joseph, all the musical 
instruments in the city of Moscow were confis- 
cated and burnt in the open market place. 
Those belonging to the Tsar's private band were 
spared, perhaps from a fear of offending their 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 13 

royal patron, but more probably because their 
owners, being Germans, were welcome to go to 
perdition in their own way. 

When we come to the middle of the seven- 
teenth century and the advent of the enlightened 
Alexis Mikhailovich, the history of Russian 
drama, so closely associated with that of its 
opera, assumes a more definite outUne. This 
prince married Natalia Naryshkin, the adopted 
daughter of the Boyard Artamon Matveiev. 
Matveiev's wife was of Scottish origin — ^her 
maiden name was Hamilton — so that the out- 
look of this household was probably somewhat 
cosmopolitan. The Tsaritsa Natalia was early 
interested in the theatre ; partly perhaps because 
she had heard of it from her adopted parents, 
but most probably her taste was stimulated 
by witnessing one of the performances which 
were given from time to time among the 
foreigners in the German quarter of Moscow. 
Lord Carlisle, in his " Relation of Three Em- 
bassies from His Majesty Charles II. to the 
Great Duke of Moscovy," makes mention of one 
of these performances in 1664. He says : 
" Our Musique-master composed a Handsome 
Comedie in Prose, which was acted in our 
house." 

Travelled nobles and ambassadors also told 
of the great enjoyment derived from the theatre 
in Western Europe. Likhatchev, who was sent 



14 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

to Florence in 1658, wrote with naive enthusiasm 
of an opera which he had seen there ; but he 
seems to have been more impressed by the scenic 
effects, which included a moving sea filled with 
fish, and a vanishing palace, than by the music 
whiph accompanied these wonders. Potemkin, 
who represented the Tsar at the Court of the 
Grand Monarque, saw Moliere's company in 
" Amphitryon," in 1668, and doubtless com- 
municated his impressions to his sovereign. 
But before this date, as early as 1660, Alexis 
MikhaiQovich had given ordqrs to an English- 
man in his service to engage for him " Master 
Glassblowers, Master Engravers and Master 
Makers of comedies." It was long, however, 
before Russia actually attained to the possession 
of this last class of workers. Finally, incited 
by his wife's tastes, by the representations of 
his more polished nobles, and not a little by 
personal inclinations, Alexis issued an Oukaz, 
on May 15th, 1672, ordering Count Von-Staden 
to recruit in Courland all kinds " of good master 
workmen, together with very excellent skilled 
trumpeters, and masters who would know how 
to organise plays." Unfortunately the reputa- 
tion of Russia as a dwelling-place was not attrac- 
tive. Doubtless the inhabitants of Eastern 
Europe still spoke with bated breath of the 
insane cruelties of Ivan the Terrible which 
had taken place a hundred years earlier. At 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 15 

any rate the Courlanders showed no great 
anxiety to take, service under the Tsar, and 
Staden returned from his mission to Riga and 
other towns, in December, 1672, with only 
" one trumpeter " and " four musicians." Never- 
theless the Oukaz itself is an important landmark 
in the cultural evolution of Russia, marking, 
according to Tikhonraviev, the end of her long 
term of secular isolation as regards the drama. 
These five imported musicians formed the nucleus 
of what was to expand one day into the orchestra 
of the imperial Opera. 

Alexis Mikhailovich was evidently impatient 
to see some kind of drama enacted at his Court ; 
for in June of the same year, without waiting 
for " the masters who would know how to 
organise plays," he determined to celebrate 
the birthday of his son Peter — Plater to be known 
as Peter the Great — with a theatrical perform- 
ance. The Tsar therefore commissioned Yagan 
(otherwise Johann) Gottfried Gregory, one of 
the protestant pastors residing in the German 
quarter of Moscow, to write a play, or " act " as 
it is described in the Tsar's edict, dealing with 
the Biblical subject of Esther. As a temporary 
theatre, a room was specially arranged at 
Preobrajensky, a village on the outskirts of 
Moscow which now forms part of the city. Red 
and green hangings, carpets and tapestries 
of various sorts were lent from the Tsar's 



i6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

household to decorate the walls and the seats 
of honour ; the bulk of the aucUence, however, 
had to content themselves with bare wooden 
benches. The scenery was painted by a Dutch- 
man named Peter Inglis, who received the 
pompous title of " Master-Perspective-Maker." 
The Boyard Matveiev, the Tsaritsa's adoptive 
father, took an active interest in the organisa- 
tion of this primitive theatre, and was appointed 
about this time, " Director of the Tsar's Enter- 
tainments," being in fact the forerunner of the 
later " Intendant " or Director of the Imperial 
Opera. Pastor Gregory, aided by one or two 
teachers in the German school, wrote the text of 
a " tragi-comedy " entitled The Acts of Artaxerxes, 
Gregory, who had been educated at the Univer- 
sity of Jena, probably selected just such a 
subject as he had been accustomed to see pre- 
sented in German theatres in his early youth. 
Although he had long resided in Moscow he 
does not seem to have acquired complete com- 
mand of the Russian language, which was 
then far from being the subtle and beautiful 
medium of expression which it has since become. 
The tragi-comedy was written in a strange 
mixture of Russian and German, and we read 
that he had the assistance of two translators 
from the Chancellery of Ambassadors. A com- 
pany numbering sixty-four untrained actors 
was placed at his service ; they were drawn 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 17 

from among the children of foreign residents 
and from the better class of tradesfolk. Music 
evidently played an important part in the per- 
formance ; the orchestra consisting of Germans, 
and of servants from Matveiev's household 
who played on " organs, viols and other instru- 
ments." The organist of the German church, 
Simon Gutovsky, was among the musicians. 
A chorus also took part in the play, consisting 
of the choir of the Court Chapel, described as 
"the Imperial Singing-Deacons." 

The actual performance of The Acts of Arta- 
xerxes took place on October 17th, 1672 (O.S.), 
and is said to have lasted ten hours, making 
demands upon the endurance of the audience 
which puts Wa^erian enthusiasts completely 
to shame. The Tsar watched the spectacle 
with unflagging attention and afterwards 
generously rewarded those who had taken part 
in the performance. The attitude of the 
clergy had so far changed that the Tsar's 
chaplain, the Protopope Savinov, undertook 
to set at rest his master's last scruples of con- 
science by pointing to the example of the Greek 
emperors and other potentates. 

Gaining courage, and also a growing taste 
for this somewhat severe form of recreation, 
Alexis went on to establish a more permanent 
theatrical company. In the following yeaf 
(1673) Pastor Gregory was commanded to 

c 



i8 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

instruct twenty-six young men, some drawn 
from the clerks of the Chancellery of State, 
others from the lower orders of the merchants 
or tradespeople, who were henceforth to be 
known as " the Comedians of His Majesty the 
Tsar." At first the audience consisted only 
of the favoured intimate circle of the Tsar, and 
apparently no ladies were present ; but after 
a time the Tsaritsa and the Tsarevnas were 
permitted to witness the performance from the 
seclusion of a Royal Box protected by a sub- 
stantial grille. The theatre was soon trans- 
ferred from Preobrajensky to the Poteshny 
Dvorets in the Kremlin. 

The Acts ofArtaxerxes was followed by a series 
of pieces, nearly all of a highly edifying nature, 
written or arranged by Gregory and others: 
Tobias, The Chaste Joseph, Adam and Eve, 
Orpheus and Eurydice (with couplets and chor- 
uses) and How Judith cut off the head of Holo- 
femes. The libretto of the last-named play 
is still in existence, and gives us some idea 
of the patient endurance of primitive theatre- 
goers in Russia. It is in seven acts, subdivided 
into twenty-nine scenes, with a prologue and an 
interlude between the third and fourth acts'; 
the characters number sixty-three ; all the 
female parts were acted by youths. The libretto 
is constructed more or less on the plan of the 
German comedies of the period, biit what gives 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 19 

the piece a special importance in the history 
of Russian opera is the fact that it contains 
arias and choruses linked with the action of 
the piece, such as the Song of the Kings, in 
which they bewail their sad fate when taken 
captive by Holof ernes, a soldier's Drinking Song, 
a Love-Song sung by Vagav at Judith's feast, 
and a Jewish Song of Victory, the words of 
which axe paraphrased from BibUcal sources. 
The author is supposed, without much founda- 
tion in fact, to have been Simeon Polotsky, 
of whom we shall hear later. The piece was 
probably translated from German sources. A 
custom was then started, which prevailed for a 
considerable time in Russia, of confiding the 
translation of plays to the clerks in the Chancel- 
lery of the Ambassadors, which department 
answered in some measure to our Foreign Office. 
The composer of the music is unknown, but 
Cheshikin, in his " History of Russian Opera," 
considers himself fully justified in describing 
it as the first Russian opera. Two hundred 
years later Serov composed a popular opera 
on the subject of Judith, an account of which 
will be found on page 150. 

All the Russian operas of the eighteenth 
century follow this style of drama, or comedy, 
with some musical numbers interpolated ; it 
is the type of opera which is known in Germany 
as the Singspiel. As Judith represents the 



20 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

prototype of many succeeding Russian operas, 
a few details concerning it will not be out of 
place here. The work is preserved in manu- 
script in the Imperial Public Library. It is 
evident that the dramatic action was strongly 
supported by the music ; for instance, to quote 
only one scenic direction in the piece, " Seloum 
beats the drum and cries aloud," alarm is here 
expressed by the aid of trumpets and drums. 
The action deVdops very slowly, and the 
h^oine does not appear until the fourth act. 
In Act I. Nebuchadnezzar and his great men 
take counsel about the invasion of Judea ; the 
king summons Holofernes and appoints him 
leader of Ms army. In Act II. the sufferings 
of the Jews are depicted ; and the embassy 
to Holofernes from the Asiatic kings. Act III. 
is concerned with the speech which the God- 
fearing man Achior delivers in honour of Israel, 
in the presence of Holofernes ; and with the 
wrath of the leader who orders the punishment 
of Achior. Act IV. contains a conversation 
between Judith and her handmaiden Arboya 
about the miserable plight of Judea. In Act 
V. occurs the Lament of Israel : Judith per' 
shades the peojde not to capitulate to Holo- 
fernes and prays God to come to their rescue. 
Act VI., Judith's Farewell to the Jewish Eldets, 
and her departure for the camp of Holoferftes; 
she slays Holofernes and the Jews return to 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 21 

Bethulia. The whole work concludes with 
Israel's Song of Victory. Side by side with 
these dramatic scenes are interpolated comic 
interludes in the characteristic German style 
of "the seventeenth century. The language 
contains many Germanisms and South Russian 
locutions, as though the translator had been a 
Malo-Russian. The piece is certainly tedious 
and contains much sententious moralising, with 
a reflection of sentiment which seems to belong 
peculiarly to the Orthodox Church. The pious 
tone of the work was indispensable at that 
period, and it was not until the Tsar's patronage 
of the drama became more assured that Pastor 
Gregory ventured on the production of a secular 
play founded on a distant echo of Marlowe's 
"Tamerlane the Great " (1586), written on the 
same lines as Judith, and containing also musical 
numbers. 

Besides pieces of the nature of the Singspiel, 
Patouillet tells us that there were ballets at the 
Court of Alexis Mikhailovich. School dramas 
were in vogue at the Ecclesiastical Academy 
(of Zaikonospasskaya), for which Simeon Polot- 
sky, and later on Daniel Touptalo (afterwards 
canonised as Saint Dimitri of Rostov), wrote 
sacred plays. Polotsky, educated at the Aca- 
demy of Kiev, joined the Ecclesiastical School 
of Moscow, in 1660, as professor of Latin. He 
adapted, or wrote, St. Alexis, Nebuchadnezzar, 



32 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

The Golden Calf, and the Three Children who were 
not consumed in the Fiery Furnace, and The 
Prodigal Son. The last-named play was un- 
doubtedly performed before the Court, and was 
reprinted in 1685 with a number of plates 
showing the costumes of the actors and spec- 
tators. 

Dimitri of Rostov, who was also a student 
at Kiev, composed a series of Mystery Plays 
with rhymed verse. The Prodigal Son, by 
Simeon Polotsky, says Patouillet, " had inter- 
ludes which have not been preserved, and in 
Dimitri of Rostov's Nativity, the scene of the 
Adoration of the Shepherds was long in favour 
on account of a certain naive folk-style of 
diction." None of these plays can be claimed 
as literature, but they are interesting as marking 
the transition from sacred to secular drama, 
and in some of them there was a faint reflection 
of contemporary manners. But this was not 
a spontaneous or popular movement ; it was 
merely a Court ordinance. The clerks and 
artisans who were trained as actors often took 
part in these spectacles against the wish of 
their parents, who were only partly reconciled 
by the Tsar's example to seeing their sons 
adopt what they had long been taught to regard 
as a disorderly and irreligious career. Because the 
movement had no roots in the life of the people 
it could not flourish healthily. When Alexis 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 23 

died in 1670, the " Chamber of Comedians " 
was closed, Matveiev was exiled, and there was 
a reaction in favour of asceticism. 

But the impetus had been given, and hence- 
forth the drama was never to be entirely banished 
from Russian life. Some of the westernised 
Boyards now maintained private theatres — 
just as their ancestors had maintained the bards 
and the companies of Skomorokhi — ^in which were 
played pieces based upon current events or upon 
folk legends ; while the School Drama long 
continued to be given within the walls of the 
Ecclesiastical Academy of Zaikonospasskaya. 
Thus the foundations of Russian dramatic art, 
including also the first steps towards the opera 
and the ballet, were laid before the last decade 
of the seventeenth century. 

The advent of Peter the Great to the throne 
was not on the whole favourable to music. The 
fine arts made no special appeal to the utilitarian 
mind of this monarch. Music had now ceased 
to be regarded as one of the seven deadly sins, 
but suffered almost a worse fate, since in the 
inrush of novel cosmopolitan ideas and customs 
the national songs seem for a time to have been 
completely forgotten. With the drama things 
advanced more quickly. Peter the Great, who 
conceived his mission in life to be the more or 
less forcible union of Russia with Western 
Europe, realised the importance of the theatre 



24 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

as a subordinate means to this end. During 
his travels abroad he had observed the influence 
exercised by the drama upon the social life 
of other countries. In 1697 he was present 
at a performance of the ballet " Cupidon," at 
Amsterdam, and in Vienna and London he 
heard Italian opera, which was just coming 
into vogue in this country, and waxed enthusi' 
astic over the singing of our prima donna Cross, 
During his sojourn in Vienna he took part 
himself, attired in the costume of a Friesland 
peasant, in a pastoral pageant {Wirthschaft) 
given at the Court. Thus the idea of reorganis- 
ing the " Comedians' Chamber " founded by 
his father was suggested to him. As Alexis 
had formerly sent Von-Staden to find foreign 
actors for Russia, so Peter now employed a 
Slovak, named Splavsky, a captain in the Russian 
army, on a similar mission. The Boyard Golo- 
vin was also charged with the erection of a 
suitable building near to the Kremlin. After 
two journeys, Splavsky succeeded in bringing 
back to Russia a German troupe collected by an 
entrepreneur in Dantzig, Johann Christian Kunst. 
At first the actors were as unwilling to come 
as were those of a previous generation, having 
heard bad accounts of the country from a 
certain Scottish adventurer, Gordon, who had 
been connected with a puppet-show, and who 
seems to have been a bad character and to have 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 25 

been punished with the knout for murd^f. 
Finally, in April, 1702, Kunst signed a contract 
by which his principal comedians undertook for 
the yearly sum of about 4,200 roubles in the 
present currency " to make it their duty like 
faithful servants to entertjiin an^ cheer His 
Majesty the Tsar by all sorts of inventions and 
diversions, and to this end to keep always 
sober, vigilant and in readiness." Kunst's 
company consisted of himself, designated 
" Director of the Comedians of His Majesty 
the Tsar," his wife Anna, and seven actors. 
Hardly had he settled in Moscow before he 
complained that Splavsky had hastened his 
departure from Germany before he had had 
time or opportunity to engage good comedians 
skilled in " singing-plays." The actors played 
in German, but a certain number of clerks 
in the Chancellery of the Embassies were 
sent to Kunst to be taught the repertory in 
Russian. It was not until 1703 that the first 
public theatre in Russia, a wooden building, 
was erected near the Kremlin . in Moscow. 
Meanwlule the plays were given at the residence 
of General Franz Lefort, in the German quarter 
of the city. Here^ on the occasion of the state 
entry of Peter into Moscow, Kunst performed 
4lexander and Darius, followed by The 
Cruelty of Nero, a comedy in seven acts, 
Le Midecin malgre lui, and Mahomet and 



26 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Zulima, a comedy interspersed with songs 
and dances. The new theatre was a genuine 
attempt on the part of the Tsar Peter to bring 
this form of entertainment within reach of a 
larger pubhc than the privileged circle invited 
to witness the plays given at the Court of Alexis, 
For the country and period, the installation was 
on quite a sumptuous scale. There were seats 
at four prices : ten, six, five and three kopecks. 
In 1704 there were two performances in the week 
which usually lasted about five hours, from 
five to ten p.m. Peter the Great gave orders 
in 1705 that the pieces should be given alter- 
nately in Russian and German, and that at the 
performance of the plays " the musicians were 
to play on divers instruments." Russians of 
all ranks, and foreigners, were bidden to attend 
" as they pleased, quite freely, having nothing 
to fear." On the days of performance the gates 
leading into the Kremlin, the Kitai-gorod and 
the Bieli-gorod were left open till a later hour 
in order to facilitate the passage of theatre- 
goers. From the outset Kunst demanded 
facilities for the mounting of opera, and also 
an orchestra. Seven musicians were engaged 
by special contract in Hamburg and an agent 
was commissioned " to purchase little boys 
in Berlin with oboes and pipes." By this time 
a few Russian magnates had started private 
bands in imitation of those maintained by some 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 27 

of the nobility in Germany. Prince Gregory 
Oginsky contributed four musicians from his 
private band for the royal service in Moscow. 
To the director of the musicians from Hamburg, 
Sienkhext, twelve Russian singers were handed 
over to be taught the oboe. We learn nothing 
as to the organisation of a company of singers, 
because in all probability, in accordance with 
the custom of those days, the actors were also 
expected to be singers. 

In the comedy of Scipio Africanus, and The 
Fall of Sophonisba, The Numidian Queen, an 
adaptation from Loenstein's tragedy Sophon- 
isba (1666), short airs and other incidental 
music formed part of the play. Music also 
played a subordinate part in an adaptation of 
Cicconini's tragic opera II tradimento per I'honore, 
overo il vendicatore pentito (Bologna, 1664), and 
in an adaptation of Moli&re's Dpn Juan. These 
and other pieces from the repertory of the day 
were culled from various European sources, 
but almost invariably passed into the Russian 
through the intermediary of the German lan- 
guage. The work continued to be carried on 
in the Chancellery of the Embassies, where 
alone could be found men with some knowledge 
of foreign tongues. The translations were per- 
functory and inaccurate, and there is no literary 
vitality whatever in the productions of this 
period, unless it is found in the interludes of a 



28 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

somewhat coarse humour which found more 
favour with the uncultivated pubUc than did the 
pieces themselves . Simeon Smirno v was the first 
Russian who wrote farcical interludes of this kind, 
which were almost as rough and scandalous as 
the plays of the Skomorokhi of earlier centuries. 
It cannot be proved that in the time of Peter 
the Great an opera in the sense of a drama in 
which music preponderated was ever put upon 
the stage, but it is an undoubted fact, accordjjig 
to Cheshikin, that there exists the manuscript 
of a libretto for an opera on the subject of 
Daphne. It seems to be the echo of what had 
taken place in Florence at least a hundred years 
previously, when translations of the book of 
" Daphne," composed by Caccini and Peri in 
1594, gradually made their way into various 
parts of Europe, In 1635 we hear of its being 
given in Warsaw in the original ItaUan, and 
two or three years later it was translated into 
Polish, running through three editions ; from 
one of these it was put into Russian early in 
the eighteenth century by an anonymous author. 
The manuscript of the translation exists in the 
Imperial Pubhc Library, under one of the usual 
voluminous titles of the period, Daphnis pur- 
sued by the love of Apollo is changei into a 
laurel bush, or the Act of Apollo and the fair 
Daphne; how Apollo conquered the evil snake 
Python and was himself overcome by little Cupii. 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 29 

It bears the signature of one Dimitri Ilyinski, 
graduate of the Slaviano-Latin Academy of 
Moscow, who appears to have been merely the 
copyist, not the author, and the date "St. Peters- 
burg, 1715." The pupils of this Academy kept 
alive for some time the traditions of the 
" School Drama " side by side with the official 
theatre subsidised by the state. The plays 
continued to consist chiefly of Biblical episodes, 
and Were usually so framed as to be a defence 
of the Orthodox Church. They were given 
periodically and were bare of all reference to 
contemporary life. Side by side with these 
we may place the allegorical and panegyrical 
plays performed by the medical students of 
the great hospital in Moscow. Crude as were 
the productions of these two institutions they 
represent, however, the more spontaneous move- 
ment of the national life rather than the purely 
imported literary wares of the official theatre. 
Kunst died in 1703, and was succeeded by 
Otto Fiirst, whose Russian name was Artemiem. 
He was a fair Russian scholar, and in a short 
time the company became accustomed to play- 
ing in the vernacular. But it cannot be said 
that this tentative national theatre was truly 
a success. It was a hothouse plant, tended 
and kept alive by royal favour, and when the 
T^ar removed his Court to St. Petersburg it 
gradually failed more and more to hold th^e 



30 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

attention of the public. The theatre in the 
Red Square was demoHshed before 1707. Fiirst's 
company, however, continued to give perform- 
ances at Preobrajensky, the residence of the 
Tsarevna Nataha Alexseievna, youngest sister 
of Peter the Great, and later on at the palace of 
the Tsaritsa Prascovya Feodorovna at Ismailov. 
The private theatre of this palace was never 
closed during the life of the widowed Tsaritsa, 
who died in 1723. Her eldest daughter, the 
Duchess of Mecklenburg, was fond of all sorts 
of gaiety ; while her second daughter, the 
Duchess of Courland, afterwards the Empress 
Anne of Russia, who often visited her mother 
at Ismailov, was also a lover of the theatre. 
The ladies in waiting joined Fiirst's pupils 
in the performance of plays, while the Duchess 
of Mecklenburg frequently acted as stage man- 
ager. The entrance was free, and although 
the places were chiefly reserved for the courtiers, 
the public seems to have been admitted some- 
what indiscriminately, if we can believe the 
account of the page in waiting, Bergholds, who 
says that once his tobacco was stolen from his 
pocket and that two of his companions com- 
plained of losing their silk handkerchiefs. 

About 1770 a theatrical company, consisting 
entirely of native actors and actresses, was 
established in St. Petersburg under the patron- 
age of the Tsarevna Natalia Alexseievna, who 



THE DAWN OF MUSIC IN RUSSIA 31 

herself wrote two plays for them to perform. 
This princess did all in her power to second the 
efforts of Peter the Great to popularise the 
drama. In 1720 the Tsar sent Yagoujinsky 
to Vienna to raise a company of actors who could 
speak Czech, thinking that they would learn 
Russian more quickly than the Germans, but 
the mission was not successful. In 1723 a 
German company, under the direction of Mann, 
visited the new capital and gave performances 
in their own tongue. They were patronised 
by the Empress Catherine I. At that time 
the Duke of Holstein, who afterwards married 
the Tsarevna Anne, was visiting St. Peters- 
burg, and the Court seem to have frequently 
attended the theatre ; but there is no definite 
record of Mann's company giving performances 
of opera. A new theatre was inaugurated in 
St. Petersburg in 1725, the year of Peter the 
Great's death. 



CHAPTER II 

RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 

THE history of Russian music enters 
upon a new period with the succes- 
sion of the Empress Anne. The na- 
tional melodies now began to be timidly 
cultivated, but the inauguration of a native 
school of music was still a very remote prospect, 
because the influence of Western Europe was 
now becoming paramount in Russian society. 
Italian music had just reached the capital, and 
there, as in England, it held the field against 
ail rivals for many years to coftie. 

Soon after her coronation, in 1732, the 
pleasure-loving Empress Anne organised private 
theatricals in her Winter Palace and wrote to 
Bishop Theofane Prokovich, asking him to supply 
her with three church singers. The piece given 
was a " school drama " entitled The Act of Joseph, 
and in its mounting and composition, a famous 
pupil of the Slaviano-Latin Academy took part, 
Vassily Cyrillovich Trediakovsky, poet and 
grammarian, and one of the first creators of the 
literary language of Russia. The rest of the actors 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 33 

consisted of the singers lent by the Bishop and 
of pupils selected from the Cadet Corps, among 
them Peter and Carl, sons of Anne's favourite, 
Biron. Some of the actors' parts are still in 
existence, with descriptions of their costumes, 
and details as to the requirements of the 
piece, which seem to show that the entire 
Biblical story of Joseph was presented, and that 
some allegorical personages such as Chastity, 
Splendour, Humility, and Envy, were intro- 
duced into the play. Splendour was attired 
in a red cloth garment, slashed and trimmed 
with silver braid ; Chastity was in white with- 
out ornaments, crowned with a laurel wreath 
and carrying a sheaf of lilies. Besides Jacob, 
Joseph, and his Brethren, there were parts 
for King Pharaoh and two of his senators. Wise 
Men, slaves, attendants, and an executioner, 
who, we read, was clad in a short tunic of red 
linen and wore a yellow cap with a feather. 

These old-fashioned, edifying plays soon bored 
the Empress Anne. Italian actors appeared at 
the Court and gave amusing comedies, occasion- 
ally containing musical interludes. The Empress 
employed Trediakovsky to translate the pieces 
that were played before her ; for she was no 
Italian scholar. The new form of entertain- 
ment was so much to her liking that she deter- 
mined to establish a permanent Italian company 
in St, Petersburg, and was the first to open a 

D 



34 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

theatre in Russia exclusively for opera. This 
brings upon the scene a personality inseparably 
Unked with the history of Russian opera : Fran- 
cesco Araja, who is the first palpable embodiment 
of operatic music in Russia, for all his prede- 
cessors who composed for the plays of Kunst 
and Fiirst have remained anonymous. 

Araja was born at Naples in 1700. His first 
opera, Berenice, was given at the Court of Tus- 
cany in 1730 ; his second, Amore per Regnante, 
was produced soon afterwards in Rome. This 
seemed to have attracted the attention of the 
Russian ambassador to Italy, and in 1735 the 
composer was invited to St. Petersburg as director 
of the new Italian opera company. The per- 
formances took place in the Winter Palace dur- 
ing the winter, and in the summer in the Theatre 
of the Summer Garden. It is possible that 
Araja's first season opened with a performance 
of one of his own works with Russian text. 
Trediakovsky's translation of La Forza dell' 
Amore e dell' Odio is described as " a drama 
for music performed at the New Theatre, by 
command of Her Imperial Highness Anna 
Johannovna, Autocrat of all the Russias. Pub- 
lished in St. Petersburg by the Imperial Academy 
of Science." It is not impossible that this 
comparatively unimportant work actually led 
to Trediakovsky's great literary innovation: 
the replacing of syllabic verse by tonic accent. 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 35 

It is significant that his book on this subject 
came out in the same year, and Cheshikin thinks 
that the study of the Italian opera of the 
eighteenth century, with its correct versifica- 
tion, may have suggested to him the theories 
which he sets forth in it. The same opera was 
given two years later in Italian under the title 
of Abizare. Other operas by Araja given in 
the Russian language are Seleucus (1744), 
Mithriadates (1747), Eudocia Crowned, or Theo- 
dosia II. (175 1), and Dido Forsaken, the libretto 
by Metastasio (1758) ; the last named was given 
in Moscow the following year, and was appar- 
ently the first of Araja's works to be heard in 
the old capital. 

The Empress Elizabeth succeeded her cousin 
Anne in 1741, and Araja continued to be Court 
Capellmeister. Like Peter the Great, EUzabeth 
was anxious to popularise the drama in Russia. 
She showed a taste for Gallic art, and established 
a company which gave French comedies and 
tragedies alternately with Araja's opera com- 
pany. Elizabeth urged her ladies in waiting 
to attend every performance, and occasionally 
announced that the upper classes among the 
merchants might be present on certain nights 
"provided they were properly dressed."^ 

Russian opera made a decided step in advance 

* Gorbounov. "A Sketch for the History of Russian 
Opera " (in Russian). 



36 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

when in 1751 Araja composed music to a purely 
Russian text. The subject, La Clemenza di 
Tito, which Mozart subsequently treated in 
1791, had nothing in common with the national 
life, but the libretto was the work of F. G. 
Volkov, and the effect was quite homogeneous, 
for all the singers sang in the vernacular instead 
of some using the Russian and some the Italian 
language as was formerly done. This tasteless 
custom did not wholly die out until well into 
the nineteenth century, but it became less and 
less general. Thus in 1755 we hear of Araja's 
Cephalus and Procius being confided entirely 
to singers of Russian birth. The book of this 
opera was by Soumarakov, based on materials 
borrowed from the " Metamorphoses " of Ovid. 
The work is said to have been published in 1764, 
and is claimed by some to be the earliest piece 
of music printed in Russia. J. B. Jurgenson, 
head of the famous firm of music publishers in 
Moscow, who has diUgently collected the Russian 
musical publications of the eighteenth century, 
states that he has never found any of Araja's 
operas printed with music type. The fact that 
music was printed in Russia before the reign 
of Catherine II. still needs verification. The 
scenery of Cephalus was painted by Valeriani, 
who bore one of the high sounding titles which 
it was customary to bestow at the Court of 
Russia — being distinguished as " First Historical 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 37 

Painter, Professor of Perspective (scene painting) 
and Theatrical Engineer at the Imperial Court 
of Russia." Among the singers who took 
part in the performance were Elizabeth Bielo- 
gradsky, daughter of a famous lute player. Count 
Razoumovsky, and Gravrilo Martsenkovich, 
known as Gravriloushko . The success of the opera 
was brilliant, and the Empress presented the 
composer with a fine sable coat as a mark of 
her gratification. In 1755, Araja, having 
amassed considerable wealth, returned to Italy 
and spent the remaining years of his life at 
Bologna. 

Music under the Ertipress Elizabeth became 
a fashionable craze. Every great landowner 
started his private band or choir. About this 
time, the influence of the Empress's favourite, 
Razoumovsky, made itself felt in favour of 
Russian melodies. By this time, too, a few tal- 
ented native musicians had been trained either 
in the Court Chapel or in some of the private 
orchestrais established by ihe aristocracy ; but 
the influx of foreigners into Russia threatened 
to swamp the frail craft of native talent which 
had just been launched with pride upon the 
social sea. The majority of these foreigners 
were mediocrities who found it easier to impose 
upon the unsophisticated Russians than to make 
a living in their own country ; but the names 
of Sarti, Paisiello, and Cimarosa stand out as 



38 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

glorious exceptions among this crowd of third 
and fourth rate composers. 

To Feodor Grigorievich Volkov, whose name 
has been already mentioned as the author of 
the first genuine Russian libretto, has been also 
accorded the honour of producing the first 
Russian opera boasting some pretensions to the 
national style. Volkov was born at Kostroma, 
in 1729, the son of a merchant. On his father's 
death and his mother's re-marriage his home 
was transferred to Yaroslav. Here he received 
his early education from a German pastor in the 
service of Biron, Duke of Courland, then in 
banishment at Yaroslav. During a visit to St. 
Petersburg in 1746, Volkov was so captivated 
by his first impressions of Italian opera that he 
determined to start a theatrical company of 
his own in Yaroslav. He gathered together a 
few enthusiastic amateurs and began by giving 
performances in his own home. The attempt 
was so successful that the fame of his enter- 
tainments reached the Empress Elisabeth, and 
the young actors were summoned to her Court in 
1752, where they gave a private performance 
of a " comedy " with musical interludes entitled 
The Sinner's Repentance, by Dimitri, metropoli- 
tan of Rostov. One result of this production was 
that the Empress resolved to continue the 
education of two members of the company, 
one of whom, Ivan Dmitrievsky, became the 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 39 

most famous Russian actor of his day. In 
1759 Volkov was sent to Moscow to establish 
a " Court theatre " there. The festivities with 
which the coronation of Catherine II. was 
celebrated in the old capital included a sumptu- 
ous masquerade entitled Minerva Triumphant, 
arranged by Volkov, in which choral music 
played a part. While engaged in organising 
the procession, Volkov caught a severe chill 
from which he never recovered, and died in April 
1763. He was an amateur of music and made 
use of it in the entertainments which he pro- 
duced ; but there seem to be grave doubts 
as to whether he was capable of composing 
music to the first Russian comic opera, Taniousha 
or The Fortunate Meeting, said to have been pro- 
duced in November 1756. Gorbounov thinks 
it highly improbable that such an opera ever 
existed,^ because Volkov's biographer, Rodi- 
slavsky, had no better foundation for assuming 
its composition and production than some old 
handbills belonging to the actor Nossov, which 
seem to have existed only in the imagination of 
their collector. The assertion that Taniousha 
was the first Russian national opera must 
therefore be accepted with reserve. 

Evstignei Platovich Fomin was born August 
5th 1741 (O.S.), in St. Petersburg. He was a 

^ Gorbounov. " A Sketch for the History of Russian 
Opera." 



40 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

pupil of the Imperial Academy of Arts, and in 
view of his promising musical talent was sent 
to study in Italy, where he entered for a time 
the Academy of Music at Bologna, and made 
rapid progress. He began his musical career in 
Moscow in 1770, but appears to have migrated to 
St. Petersburg before the death of Catherine II. 
He was commissioned to compose the music 
for a libretto from the pen of the Empress her- 
self, entitled Boeslavich, the Novgorodian Hero. 
Catherine not being quite confident as to Fomin's 
powers submitted the score to Martini. The 
result appears to have been satisfactory. In 
1797 Fomin was employed at the Imperial 
Theatres as musical coach and repetiteur ; he 
was also expected to teach singing to the younger 
artists of both sexes in the Schools, and to 
accompany in the orchestra for the French and 
ItaUan operas. For these duties he received 
an annual sum of 720 roubles. Fomin died in 
St. Petersburg in April, 1800. He wrote a 
considerable number of operas, including Aniouta 
(1772), the libretto by M. V. Popov ; The Good 
Maiden {Dobraya Devka), libretto by Matinsky 
(1777) ; Regeneration {Pereiojdenia) , {1777Y ', in 
January 1779 his Wizard-Miller {Melnik-Koldoun) 
an opera in three acts, the libretto by Ablessimov, 
was produced for the first time, and proved one 

^ Some authorities believe that the music, as well as 
the text of this opera, was written by Matinsky. 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 41 

of the most successful operas of the eighteenth 
century ; a one-act opera, the book by Niko- 
laiev, entitled The Tutor Professor, or Love's 
Persuasive Eloquence, was given in Moscow ; and 
in 1786 Boeslavich, in five acts, the text by 
Catherine II., was mounted at the Hermitage 
Palace ; The Wizard, The Fortune Teller and 
The Matchmaker, in three acts, dates from 1791. 
In 1800 appeared two operas, The Americans, 
the libretto by Kloushin, and Chlorida and 
Milon, the words of which were furnished by 
the well-known writer Kapnist. As far as is 
known, Fomin composed ten operas and also 
wrote music to a melodrama entitled Orpheus} 
It is probable, however, that Fomin really 
produced many more musical works for the 
stage, for it has been proved that he occasionally 
took an assumed name for fear of his work 
proving a failure. Of his voluminous output 
only three works need be discussed here. 

Aniouta owed some of its success to Popov's 
libretto, which was a mild protest against the 
feudal aristocracy. The peasant Miron sings in 
the first act some naive verses in which he 
bewails the hard fate of the peasant ; " Ah, 
how tired I am," he says. " Why are we 
peasants not nobles ? Then, we might crunch 
sugar all day long, lie warm a'top of the stove 

^ Karatagyn gives a list of twenty-six operas in the 
preface to Jurgenson's edition of The Miller. 



42 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

and ride in our carriages." If we put aside 
the idea that Volkov's Taniousha was the first 
opera written by a Russian composer, then this 
honour must be rendered to Fomin's Aniouta, 

Contemporary proof of the immense success 
of The Miller {Melnik-Koldoun) is not wanting. 
The Dramatic Dictionary for 1787 informs us 
that it was played twenty-seven nights running 
and that the theatre was always full. Not only 
were the Russians pleased with it, but it inter- 
ested the foreigners at Court. The most obvious 
proof of its popularity may be found in the 
numerous inferior imitations which followed in 
its wake. 

The libretto of The Miller, like that of Aniouta, 
was tinged by a cautious liberalism. Here it 
is not a peasant, but a peasant proprietor, 
who " tills and toils and from the peasants 
collects the rent," who plays the principal r61e. 
The part of the Miller was admirably acted by 
Kroutitsky (1754-83), who, after the first per- 
formance, was called to the Empress's box 
and presented with a gold watch. But undoubt- 
edly Fomin's music helped the success of the 
opera. The work has been reissued with an 
interesting preface by P. Karatagyn (Jurgenson, 
Moscow), so that it is easily accessible to those 
who are interested in the early history of 
Russian opera. The music is somewhat ama- 
teurish and lacking in technical resource. 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 43 

Fomin does not venture upon a chorus, although 
there are occasionally couplets with choral 
refrains ; lyric follows lyric, and the duets 
are really alternating solos with a few phrases 
in thirds at the close of the verses. But the 
public in Russia in the eighteenth century was 
not very critical, and took delight in the novel 
sensation of hearing folk-songs on the stage. 
In the second act the heroine Aniouta sings a 
pretty melody based on a familiar folk-tune 
which awakened great enthusiasm among the 
audience. The songs and their words stand 
so close to the original folk-tunes that no doubt 
they carried away all the occupants of the pit 
and the cheap places ; whUe, for the more 
exacting portion of the audience, the role of 
the Miller was written in the conventional 
style of the opera buffa. This judicious com- 
bination pleased aU tastes. 

We find far greater evidences of technical 
capacity in Fomin's opera The Americans, 
composed some thirteen years later. In the 
second act there is a fairly developed love-duet 
between Gusman and Zimara; the quartets 
and choruses, though brief, are freer and more 
expressive ; there is greater variety of modula- 
tion, and altogether the work shows some reflec- 
tion of Mozart's influence, and faintly fore- 
shadows a more modern school to come. The 
libretto is extremely naive, the Americans 



44 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

being in reality the indigenous inhabitants, the 
Red Indians ; but there is nothing in the music 
allotted to them which differentiates them from 
the Spanish characters in the opera. The 
advance, however, in the music as compared 
with that of his earlier operas proves that 
Fomin must have possessed real and vital 
talent. Yet it is by The Miller that he will live 
in the memory of the Russian people, thanks 
to his use of the folk-tunes. To quote from 
Karatagyn's preface to this work : " Fomin 
has indisputably the right to be called our first 
national composer. Before the production of 
The Miller, opera in Russia had been entirely 
in the hands of travelling Italian maestri. 
Galuppi, Sarti, Paisiello, Cimarosa, Salieri, 
Martini, and others ruled despotically over the 
Court orchestra and singers. Only Italian music 
was allowed to have an existence and Russian 
composers could not make their way at all 
except under the patronage of the Italians." 
This sometimes led to tragic results, as in the 
case of Berezovsky, whose efforts to free him- 
self from the tutelage of Sarti cost him the 
patronage of the great Potemkin and drove 
him to a pitch of despair which ended in suicide. 
Too much weight, however, must not be attached 
to this resentment against the Italian influence, 
so loudly expressed in Russia and elsewhere. 
The Italians only reigned supreme in the lands 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 45 

of their musical conquest so long as there existed 
no national composer strong enough to compete 
with them. Fomin's success clearly proves 
that as soon as a native musician appeared upon 
the scene who could give the people of their 
own, in a style that was not too elevated for 
their immature tastes, he had not to complain 
of any lack of enthusiasm. 

It is to be regretted that none of his contem- 
poraries thought it worth while to write his 
biography, but at that time Russian literature 
was purely aristocratic, and Fomin, though 
somewhat of a hero, was of the people — a serf. 

Contemporary history is equally silent as 
regards Michael Matinsky, who died in the 
second decade of the nineteenth century. He, 
too, was a serf, born on the estate of Count 
Yagjinsky and sent by his master to study music 
in Italy. He composed several operas, the 
most successful of which was The Gostinny 
Dvor in St. Petersburg, a work that eventually 
travelled to Moscow. In his youth Matinsky 
is said to have played in Count Razoumovsky's 
private band. In addition to his musical 
activity he held the post of professor of 
geometry in the Smolny Institute in St. 
Petersburg. 

Vassily Paskievich was chamber-musician 
to the Empress Catherine II. In 1763 he 
was engaged, first as violinist, and then as 



46 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

composer, at the theatres in St. Petersburg ; he 
also conducted the orchestra at the state balls. 
Some of his songs, which are sentimental, but 
pleasingly national in colour, are still popular 
in Russia. He is said to have written seven 
operas in all. The first of these, Love brings 
Trouble, was produced at the Hermitage Theatre 
in 1772. Some years later he was commissioned 
to set to music a libretto written by the Empress 
Catherine herself. The subject of this opera 
is taken from the tale of Tsarevich Fevei, a 
panegyric upon the good son of a Siberian king 
who was patriotic and brave — ^in fact possessed 
of all the virtues. In her choice of subject the 
Empress seems to have been influenced by her 
indulgent affection for her favourite grandchild, 
the future Alexander I. Prince Feveii does 
nothing to distinguish himself, but most of the 
characters in the opera go into ecstasies over 
his charms and qualities, and it is obvious that 
in this libretto Catherine wished to pay a 
flattering compliment to her grandson. There 
are moments in the music which must have 
appealed to the Russian public, especially an aria 
" Ah, thou, my Uttle father," sung in the style 
of an old village dame. Other numbers in the 
opera have the same rather sickly-sweet flavour 
that prevails in Paskievich's songs. The re- 
deeming feature of the opera was probably 
its Kalmuc element, which must have imparted 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 47 

a certain humour and oriental character to 
both words and music. In one place the 
text runs something like this : " Among the 
Kalmuc folk we eat kaimak, souliak, tourmak, 
smoke tabac(co) and drink koumiss," and the 
ring of these unfamiliar words may have afforded 
some diversion to the audiences of those days.^ 

But however dull the subject of Fevei may 
appear to modem opera-goers, that of Paskie- 
vich's third opera, Fedoul and Her Children, 
must surely take the prize for ineptitude even 
among Russian operas of the eighteenth century. 
Fedoul, a widow, announces to her fifteen grown- 
up children her intention of getting married again 
to a young widower ; at first the family not 
unnaturally grumble at the prospect of a step- 
father, but having been scandalised by the 
marriage with the prince in the first act, they 
solemnly sing his praises in the finale of the last. 

In co-operation with Sarti and Canobbio, 
Paskievich composed the music to another book 
by the Empress Catherine, entitled The Early 
Reign of Oleg, produced at the Hermitage 
Theatre, St. Petersburg, September, 1794. Pas- 
kievich's share of this work seems to have been 
the choruses, which give a touch of national 
sentiment to the opera. Here he uses themes 
that have now become familiar to us in the works 

^ A History of Russian Opera [Istoriya Russ. Opert), 
Jurgenson, St. Petersburg, 1905, 



48 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

of later Russian musicians, such as the Slavsia in 
honour of the Tsar, and the Little Russian theme 
" The Crane " (Jouravel), which Tchaikovsky 
employed in his Second Symphony. The orches- 
tral accompaniments sometimes consist of varia- 
tions upon the theme, a form much favoured 
by Russian musicians of a more modern school. 
Other operas by Paskievich are The Two Anions 
(1804) and The Miser (181 1). Paskievich had 
not as strong a talent as Fomin, but we must 
give him credit, if not for originating, at least 
for carrying still further the use of the folk- 
song in Russian opera. 

In a book which is intended to give a general 
survey of the history of Russian opera to 
English readers, it is hardly necessary to enter 
into det£iils about such composers as Vanjour, 
Bulant, Briks, A. Plestcheiev, Nicholas Pomor- 
sky, the German, Hermann Raupach, Canobbio, 
Kerzelli, Troinni, Staubinger, and other music- 
ians, Russian and foreign, who played more 
or less useful minor parts in the musical life of 
St. Petersburg and Moscow during the second 
half of the eighteenth century. 

Three Italians and two Russians, however, 
besides those already mentioned, stand out 
more prominently from the ranks and deserve 
to be mentioned here. 

Vincente Martin (Martin y Solar), of Spanish 
descent, born about 1754, migrated in his 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 49 

boyhood to Italy, where he was known as lo 
Spagnulo. He wrote an opera, Iphigenia in 
Aulis, for the carnival in Florence in 1781, and 
having won some reputation as a composer in 
Italy, went to Vienna in 1785. Here his 
success was immense, so much so that his opera 
Una Cosa Rara was a serious rival to Mozart's 
"Nozze di Figaro." A year later Mozart paid 
Martin the compliment of introducing a frag- 
ment of Una Cosa Rara into the finale of the 
second act of " Don Juan." Martin went to 
St. Petersburg in 1788, at the invitation of the 
Italian opera company. During his stay in 
Russia eight of his operas were given in the ver- 
nacular, including Dianino, an opera d'occasion, 
the text by Catherine the Great ; La Cosa Rara, 
translated by Dmitrievsky ; Fedoul and her 
Children, in which he co-operated with the native 
composer Paskievich ; A Village Festival, the 
libretto by V. Maikov, and a comic opera in one 
act, Good Luke, or Here's my day, the words by 
Kobyakov. The fact that he wrote so fre- 
quently to Russian texts entitles him to a place 
in the history of Russian opera. Martin was 
held in great honour in the capital, and the 
Emperor Paul I. made him a Privy Councillor. 
This did not prevent him, however, from suffer- 
ing from the fickleness of fashion, for in 1808 
the Italians were replaced by a French opera 
company and Martin lost his occupation. He 

E 



50 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

continued, however, to live in Russia, teaching 
at the Smolny monastery and in the aristocratic 
families of St. Petersburg, where he died in May, 
1810. 

Among the foreigners who visited Russia 
in the time of Catherine the Great, none was 
more distinguished than Gfijseppe Sarti. Born 
at Faenza in December, 1729, celebrated as a 
composer of opera by the time he was twenty- 
four, he was appointed in 1753 Director of the 
Italian opera, and Court Capellmeister to 
Frederick V. of Denmark. He lived in Copen- 
hagen, with one interval of three years, until 
the summer of 1775, when he returned to Italy 
and subsequently became Maestro di Capella 
of the cathedral of Milan. Here he spent nine 
years of extraordinary activity composing fifteen 
operas, besides cantatas, masses and motets. 
In 1784 Catherine the Great tempted him to 
visit St. Petersburg, and constituted him her 
Court-composer. His opera Armida was re- 
ceived with great enthusiasm in the Russian 
capital in 1786. It was sung in Italian, for it 
was not until 1790 that Sarti took part in the- 
composition of an opera written to a Russian 
libretto. This was the Early Rule of Oleg, the 
book from the pen of the Empress herself, 
in which he co-operated with Paskievich. He 
eilso composed a Te Deum in celebration of 
the fall of Ochakov before the army of Potem- 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIORITO GLINKA 51 

kin ; this was for double chorus, its triumphal 
effect being enhanced by drums and salvos of 
artillery ; a procedure which no doubt set a 
precedent for Tchaikovsky when he came to write 
his occasional Overture " 1812." Many honours 
fell to Sarti's lot during the eighteen years he 
lived in Russia, among others the membership 
of the Academy of Science. The intrigues of 
the Italian singer Todi obliged him to retire 
for a time to a country estate belonging to 
Potemkin in the Ukraine ; but he was eventually 
reinstated in Catherine's good graces. After 
the Empress's death he determined to return 
to Italy, but stayed for a time in Berlin, where 
he died in 1802. 

Giovanni Paesiello (1741-1816) was another 
famous Italian whom Catherine invited to St. 
Petersburg in 1776, where he remained as " In- 
spector of the Italian operas both serious and 
buff a " until 1784. Not one of the series of 
operas which he wrote during his sojourn in 
St. Petersburg was composed to a Russian 
Ubretto or sung in the Russian tongue. His 
Barber of Seville, written during the time when 
he was living in St. Petersburg, afterwards 
became so popular with the Italians that when 
Rossini ventured to make use of the same 
subject the public regarded it as a kind of 
sacrilege. Paesiello 's influence on Russian opera 
was practically nil. 



52 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

The generous offers of Catherine the Great 
drew Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785) to St. 
Petersburg in 1765. One can but admire the 
spirit of these eighteenth-century Italian musi- 
cians — ^many of them being well advanced in 
years — who were willing to leave the sunny 
skies of Italy for the "Boreal clime " of St. 
Petersburg. Galuppi acted as the Director 
of the Imperial Court Chapel for three years, 
and was the first foreigner to compose music 
to a text in the ecclesiastical Slavonic, and to 
introduce the motet (the Russian name for 
which is "concert") into the service of the Or- 
thodox Church. His operas, II Re Pastore, 
Didone, and Iphigenia in Taurida, the last 
named being composed expressly for the St. 
Petersburg opera, were all given during his 
sojourn in the capital, but there is no record 
to prove that any one of these works was sung 
in Russian. 

Maxim Sozontovich Berezovsky^ (i745-i777) 
studied at the School of Divinity at Kiev, whence, 
having a remarkably fine voice, he passed into 
the Imperial Court Chapel. In 1765 he was sent 
at the Government expense to study under the 
famous Padre Martini at Bologna. His studies 
were brilliant, and he returned to St. Peters- 

^ He must not be confounded with V. V. Berezovsky, 
whose "Russian Music" (Rousskaya Muzyka : Kritiko- 
istorichesky Ocherk) appeared in i8g8. 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 53 

burg full of hope and ambition, only to find 
himself unequal to coping with the intrigues 
of the Italian musicians at Court. Discouraged 
and disappointed, his mind gave way, and he 
committed suicide at the age of thirty-two. He 
left a few sacred compositions {a capella) which 
showed the highest promise. While in Italy 
he composed an opera to an Italian libretto 
entitled Demofonti which was performed with 
success at Bologna and Livorno. 

Dmitri Stepanovich Bortniansky, born in 
1751, also began his career as a chorister in the 
Court Choir, where he attracted the attention 
of Galuppi, who considered his talents well worth 
cultivation. When Galuppi returned to Italy 
in 1768, Bortniansky was permitted to join 
him the following year in Venice, where he 
remained until 1779. He was then recalled to 
Russia and filled various important posts con- 
nected with the Imperial Court Choir. He is 
now best known as a composer of sacred music, 
some of his compositions being still used in the 
services of the Orthodox Church. Although 
somewhat mellifluous and decidedly Italianised 
in feeling, his church music is not lacking in 
beauty. He wrote four operas, two to Italian 
and two to French texts. The titles of the 
Italian operas are as follows : Alcide, Azioni 
teatrale postea in musica da Demetrio Bort- 
nianski, 1778, in Venezia ; and Quinto Fabio, 



54 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

drama per musica rappresentata nel ducal teatro 
di Modena, il carnavale dell' anno 1779. The 
French comic opera Le Faucon was composed 
for the entertainment of the Tsarevich Paul 
Petrovich and his Court at Gatchina (1786) ; 
while Le Fils Rival was produced at the private 
theatre at Pavlovsk in 1787, also for the Tsare- 
vich Paul and his wife Maria Feodorovna. 

Throughout the preceding chapters I have 
used the word " opera " as a convenient general 
term for the works reviewed in them ; but 
although a few such works composed by Italians, 
or under strong Italian influences, might be 
accurately described as melodic opera, the 
nearer they approach to this type the less they 
contain of the Russian national style. For 
the most part, however, these productions of the 
eighteenth century were in the nature of vaude- 
villes : plays with couplets and other incidental 
music inserted, in which, as Cheshikin points 
out, the verses were often rather spoken than 
sung ; consequently the form was more de- 
clamatory than melodic. Serov, in a sweeping 
criticism of the music of this period, says 
that it was for the most part commissioned 
from the pack of needy Italians who hung about 
the Court in the various capacities of maitres 
d'hotel, wig-makers, costumiers, and confec- 
tioners. This, as we have seen, is somewhat 
exaggerated, since Italy sent some of her best 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 55 

men to the Court of Catherine II. But even 
adrnittmg that a large proportion of the musicians 
who visited Russia were less than second- 
rate, yet beneath this tawdry and superficial 
foreign disguise the pulse of national music 
beat faintly and irregularly. If some purely 
Italian tunes joined to Russian words made 
their way into various spheres of society, and 
came to be accepted by the unobservant as 
genuine national melodies, on the other hand 
some true folk-songs found their way into semi- 
Itahan operas and awoke the popular enthusiasm, 
as we have witnessed in the works of Fomin 
and Paskievich. In one respect the attitude of 
the Russian public in the eighteenth century 
towards imported opera differed from our own. 
All that was most successful in Western Europe 
was brought in course of time to St. Peters- 
burg, but a far larger proportion of the foreign 
operas were translated into the vernacular 
than was the case in this country. 

With regard to the location of opera, the first 
"opera house " was erected by the Empress 
Anne in St. Petersburg, but was not used 
exclusively for opera, French plays and other 
forms of entertainment being also given there. 
The building was burnt down in 1749, and the 
theatrical performances were continued tem- 
porarily in the Empress's state apartment. A 
new, stone-built opera house was opened in St. 



56 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Petersburg in 1750, after the accession of the 
Empress Elizabeth. It was situated near the 
Anichkov Palace. Catherine the Great added 
another stone theatre to the capital in 1774, 
which was known as " The Great Theatre." 
After damage from fire it was reconstructed 
and reopened in 1836.^ Rebuilt again in 1880, 
it became the home of the Conservatoire and 
the office of the Imperial Musical Society. Be- 
sides these buildings, the Hermitage Theatre, 
within the walls of the Winter Palace, was 
often used in the time of Catherine the Great. 
In Moscow the Italian entrepreneur Locatelli 
began to solicit the privilege of building a new 
theatre in 1750. Six years later he was accorded 
the necessary permission, and the building was 
opened in January, 1759. But Locatelli was 
not very successful, and his tenure only lasted 
three years. Titov managed the Moscow theatre 
from 1766 to the death of Catherine in 1796. 
After this the direction passed into the hands 
of Prince Ouroussov, who in association with a 
Jew named Medoks^ proceeded to build a new 
and luxurious theatre in Petrovsky Street. 
Prince Ouroussov soon retired, leaving Medoks 
sole manager. The season began with comic 
operas such as The Miller by Fomin. In 1805 

1 The first performance of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar 
took place here in November of that year. 
^ Possibly Madox, 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 57 

the Petrovsky theatre shared the fate of so 
many Russian buildings and was destroyed by 
fire. 

Alexander I. succeeded the unfortunate Paul 
Petrovich, done to death in the Mikhailovsky 
Palace during the night of March 23rd, 1801. 
With his advent, social sentiment in Russia 
began to undergo a complete revolution. The 
Napoleonic wars in Western Europe, in which 
the Russian troops took part, culminating in the 
French invasion of 1812, awoke all the latent 
patriotism of the nation. The craze for every- 
thing foreign, so marked under the rule of 
Catherine II., now gave place to ultra-patriotic 
enthusiasm. This reaction, strongly reflected 
in the literature of the time, was not without 
its influence on musical taste. In Russia, 
music and literature have always been closely 
allied, and the works of the great poet Poushkin, 
of the fabulist Krylov, and the patriotic his- 
torian Karamzin, gave a strong impulse and a 
new tone to the art. At the sa;me time a wave 
of romanticism passed over Russia. This was 
partly the echo of Byron's popularity, then at 
its height in England and abroad ; and partly 
the outcome of the annexation of the old 
kingdom of Georgia, in 1801, which turned the 
attention of Young Russia to the magic beauty 
and glamour of the Caucasus. 

There was now much discussion about national 



58 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

music, and a great deal was done to encourage 
its progress ; but during the first quarter of the 
nineteenth century composers had but a super- 
ficial idea of the meaning of a national school, 
and were satisfied that a Russian subject and a 
selection of popular tunes constituted the only 
formula necessary for the production of a native 
opeftEu- 

During his short reign the Emperor Paul had 
not contributed to the advancement of music, 
but in spite of somewhat unfavourable condi- 
tions, an Italian opera company under the 
management of Astarito^ visited St. Peters- 
burg in 1797. Among their number was a 
talented young Italian, Catterino Cavos, whose 
name is inseparably connected with the musical 
history of Russia. Born at Venice in 1776, 
the son of the musical director of the cele- 
brated " Fenice " Theatre, it is said that at 
fourteen Cavos was the chosen candidate for 
the post of organist of St. Mark's Cathedral, 
but relinquished his chance in favour of a poor 
musician. The story is in accordance with 
what we read of his magnanimity in later life. 
His gifts were remarkable, and in 1799 he was 
appointed Court Capellmeister. In 1803 he 
became conductor of the Italian, Russian and 
French opera companies. Part of his duties 
consisted in composing for all three institutions. 
1 Sometimes written Astaritta, 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 59 

Light opera and ballet, given by the French 
company, was then all the fashion in St. Peters- 
burg. CPa^vos quickly realised the direction and 
scope of the public taste, and soon began to 
write operas to romantic and legendary subjects 
borrowed from Russian history and folk-lore, 
and endeavoured to give his music a decided 
touch of national colour^ In May, 1804, he 
made an immense success with his Roussalka 
of the Dneiper, in which he had the co-operation 
of Davidov. The following year he dispensed 
with all assistance and produced a four-act opera 
to a Russian text called The Invisible Prince, 
which found great favour with the public. 
Henceforth, through over thirty years of unrest- 
ing creative activity, Cavos continued to work 
this popular vein. His operas have practically 
all sunk into oblivion, but the catalogue of 
their titles is still of some interest to students 
of Russian opera, because several of his sub- 
jects have since been treated and re-vitalised 
by a more recent generation of native com- 
posers. His chief works, given chronologically, 
are as follows : Ilya the Hero, the libretto by 
Krilov (1806) ; The Three Hunchback Brothers 
(1808) ; The Cossack Poet (1812) ; The Peasants, 
or the Unexpected Meeting (1814) ; Ivan Sousanin 
(1815) ; The Ruins of Babylon (1818) ; Dobrinya 
Nikitich (1810) ; and The Bird of Fire (1822) — 
the last two in co-operation with AntonoUni ; 



6o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Svietlana, text by Joukovsky (1822) ; The 
Youth of Joan III. (1822) ; The Mountains of 
Piedmont, or The Devil's Bridge (1825) ; Miros- 
lava, or the Funeral Pyre (1827). 

The foregoing list does not include any works 
which Cavos wrote to French or Italian texts, 
amounting to nearly thirty in all. In Ilya 
the Hero Cavos made his first attempt to pro- 
duce a national epic opera. Founded on the 
Legend of Ilya Mouromets, from the Cycle of 
Kiev, the opera is not lacking in spirit, and 
evoked great enthusiasm in its day, especi- 
ally one martial aria, " Victory, victory, Russian 
hero ! " Cavos was fortunate in having secured 
as hbrettist a very capable writer, Prince 
Shakovsky, who also supplied the text for Ivan 
Sousanin, the most successful of all Cavos's 
national operas ; although we shall see in the 
next chapter how completely it was supplanted 
in the popular favour by Glinka's work dealing 
with the same subject. 

In the spring of 1840 Cavos's health began 
to fail, and he received leave of absence from 
his many arduous but lucrative official posts. 
He became, however, rapidly much worse and 
had to abandon the idea of a journey. He died 
in St. Petersburg on April 28th (O.S.). His 
loss was deeply felt by the Russian artists, to 
whom, unlike many of his Italian predecessors, 
he had always shown generous sympathy; 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 6i 

they paid him a last tribute of respect by singing 
Cherubini's Requiem at his funeral. 

The Russian musician Youry Arnold, who was 
well acquainted with Cavos in the later years 
of his Ufe, describes him at sixty as a robust 
and energetic man, who was at his piano by 
9 a.m., rehearsing the soloists till i p.m., when 
he took the orchestral rehearsals. If by 
any chance these ended a little sooner than he 
expected, he would occupy himself again with 
the soloists. At 5 p.m. he made his report to 
the Director of the Imperial Theatres, and then 
went home to dine. But he never failed to 
appear at the Opera House punctually at 
7 o'clock. On evenings when there was no per- 
formance he devoted extra time to his soloists. 
He worked thus conscientiously and indefatig- 
ably year after year. He was not, however, 
indifferent to the pleasures of the table and was 
something of a gourmet. Even in the far- 
distant north he managed to obtain consign- 
ments of his favourite " vino nero." " He told 
me more than once," said Arnold, " that 
except with tea, he had never in the whole 
course of his life swallowed a mouthful of water : 
' Perche cosa snaiuraUe, insoffribile e noce- 
vole !"• 

Cavos was an admirable and painstaking con- 
ductor, and his long regime must have greatly con- 
tributed to the discipline and good organisation 



62 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

of the opera, both as regards orchestra and 
singers. His own works, as might be expected 
from a musician whose whole Ufe was spent in 
studying the scores of other composers, were 
not highly original. He wrote well, and with 
knowledge, for the voice, and his orchestration 
was adequate for that period, but his music 
lacks homogeneity, and reminiscences of Mozart, 
Cherubini and Mehiil mingle with echoes of 
the Russian folk-songs in the pages of his operas. 
But the public of his day were on the whole 
well satisfied with Russian travesties of Italian 
and Viennese vaudevilles. It is true that new 
sentiments were beginning to rouse the social 
conscience, but the public was still a long way 
from desiring idealistic truth, let alone realism, 
in its music and literature. In spite of the one 
electrical thrill which Glinka administered to 
the public in A Life for the Tsar, opera was 
destined to be regarded for many years to come 
as a pleasing and not too exacting form of 
recreation. The libretto of Cavos's Ivan Sous- 
anin shows what society demanded from opera 
even as late as 1815 ; for here this tragedy 
of unquestioning loyalty to an ideal is made 
to end quite happily. At the moment when the 
Poles were about to slay him in the forest, 
Sousanin is rescued by a Russian boyard and 
his followers, and the hero, robust and jovial, 
lives to moralise over the footlights in the 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 63 

following couplets, in which he takes leave of 
the audience : 

Now let the cruel foe beware, 
And tremble all his days ; 
But let each loyal Russian heart 
Rejoice in songs of praise. 

At the same time it must be admitted that 
in this opera Cavos sometimes gives an echo 
of the genuine national spirit. The types of 
Sousanin and his young son Alexis, and of 
Masha and her husband, Matthew, are so clearly 
outlined, says Cheshikin, that Glinka had only 
to give them more relief and finish. The well- 
constructed overture, the duet between Masha 
and Alexis, and the folk-chorus " Oh, do not 
rave wild storm- wind " are all far in advance 
of anything to be found in the Russian operas 
of the eighteenth century. 
r^Among those who were carried along by the 
TOe of hationajl: Jeefai g ^wE rcB ro se^ stead^^ 
Russia from^B^2OT[ward was the gifted amateur 
Alexis Nicholaevich Vef stovsky . "Born in 1799", 
near Tambov, the son of a country gentleman, 
Verstovsky was educated at the Institute of 
Engineers, St. Petersburg, where he took piano- 
forte lessons from John Field, and later on from 
Steibelt. He also learnt some theory from 
Brandt and Steiner ; singing from an operatic 
artist named Tarquini ; and violin from Bohm 
and Maurer, Verstovsky composed his first 



64 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

vaudeville at nineteen and its success encouraged 
him to continue on the same lines. In 1823 he 
was appointed Director of the Moscow Opera, 
where he produced a whole series of operettas 
and vaudevilles, many of which were settings 
of texts translated from the French. After 
a time he became ambitious of writing a serious 
opera, and in May 1828, he produced his Pan 
Tvardovsky, the libretto by Zagoskin and Aksa- 
kov, well known Hterary men of the day. The 
book is founded on an old Polish or Malo-Russian 
legend, the hero being a kind of Slavonic Faust. 
The music was influenced by Mehul and Weber, 
but Verstovsky introduced a gipsy chorus 
which in itself won immediate popularity for 
the opera. Its success, though brilliant, was 
short-lived. 

Pan Tvardovsky was followed by Vadim, 
or the Twenty Sleeping Maidens, based on a 
poem by Joukovsky, but the work is more of 
the nature of incidental music to a play than 
pure opera. 

Askold's Tomb, Verstovsky 's third opera, by 
which he attained his greatest fame, will be 
discussed separately. 

Homesickness [Toska po rodine), the scene 
laid in Spain, was a poor work produced for 
the benefit night of the famous Russian bass 
O. A. Petrov, the precursor of Shaliapin. 

The Boundary Hills, or the Waking Dream, 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 65 

stands nearest in order of merit to Askold's 
Tomb. The scene is laid in mythical times, and 
the characters are supernatural beings, such as 
Domovoi (the House Spirit), Vodyanoi (the 
Water Sprite) and liessnoi (the Wood Spirit). 
The music breathes something of the spirit of 
Russian folk-song, and a Slumber Song, a Tri- 
umphal March, and a very effectively mounted 
Russian Dance, which the composer subse- 
quently added to the score, were the favourite 
numbers in this opera. 

Verstovsky's last opera Gromohoi was based 
upon the first part of Joukovsky's poem " The 
Twenty Sleeping Maidens." An oriental dance 
{Valakhsky Tanets) from this work was played 
at one of the concerts of the Imperial Russian 
Musical Society, and Serov speaks of it as being 
quite Eastern in colour, original and attractive 
as regards melody but poorly harmonised and 
orchestrated as compared with the Lezginka 
from Glinka's Russian and Liudmilla, the lively 
character of the dance being very similar. 

A few of the composers mentioned in the 
previous chapter were still working in Russia 
at the same time as Verstovsky. Of those whose 
compositions belong more particularly to the 
first forty years of the nineteenth century, the 
following are most worthy of notice : 

Joseph Antonovich Kozlovsky (1757-1831), of 
Polish birth, began life as a soldier in Prince 

F 



66 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Potemsky's army. The prince's attention hav- 
ing been called to the young man's musical 
talents, he appointed him director of his private 
band in St. Petersburg. Kozlovsky after- 
wards entered the orchestra of the Imperial 
Opera. He wrote music to Oserov's tragedy 
(Edipus in Athens (1804) ; to Fingal (1805), 
Deborah, libretto by Shakovsky (1810), (Edipus 
Rex (1811), and to Kapnist's translation of 
Racine's Esther (1816). 

Ludwig Maurer (1789-1878), a famous German 
vioHnist, played in the orchestra at Riga in his 
early days, and after touring abroad and in 
Russia settled in St. Petersburg about 1820, 
where he was appointed leader of the orchestra 
at the French theatre in 1835. Ten years later 
he returned to Germany and gave many con- 
certs in Western Europe ; but in 1851 he went 
back to St. Petersburg as Inspector-General of 
all the State theatrical orchestras. Maurer is 
best known by his instrumental compositions, 
especially his Concertos for four violins and 
orchestra, but he wrote music for several 
popular vaudevilles with Russian text, and co- 
operated occasionally with Verstovsky and 
Alabiev. 

The brothers Alexis and Sergius Titov were 
types of the distinguished amateurs who 
played such an important part in the musical 
life of Russia during the first half of the last 



RUSSIAN OPERA PRIOR TO GLINKA 67 

century. Alexis (d. 1837) was the father of 
that Nicholas Titov often called " the ancestor 
of Russian song." He served in the Cavalry 
Guards and rose to the rank of Major-General- 
An admirable violinist, he was also a voluminous 
composer. Stassov gives a list of at least 
fourteen operas, melodramas, and other musical 
works for the stage, many of which were written 
to French words. His younger brother Sergius 
(b. 1770) is supposed to have supplied music to 
The Forced Marriage, text by Plestcheiev (1789), 
La Veillee des Paysans (1809), Credulity (1812), 
and, in co-operation with Bluhni, Christmas 
Festivals of Old (1813). It is probable that he 
had a hand in the long list of works attributed 
to his brother Alexis, and most of the Russian 
musical historians seem puzzled to decide how 
to apportion to each of the brothers his due share 
of creative activity. 

A composer belonging to this period is known 
by name even beyond the Russian frontiers, 
owing to the great popularity of one of his songs, 
" The Nightingale." Alexander Alexandrovich 
Alabiev was born at Moscow, August 4th, 1787^ 
(O.S.). He entered the military service and, 
becoming acquainted with Verstovsky, co- 

' In Grove's Dictionary of Music I give the date of 
Alabiev's birth as August 30th, 1787, following most of 
the approved authorities of the day. But more recent 
investigations have revealed the correct date as August 4th. 



68 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

operated in several of his vaudevilles. For 
some breach of discipline Alabiev was exiled 
for a time to Tobolsk. Inspired by the success 
of Cavos's semi-national operas, Alabiev 
attempted a Russian fairy opera entitled A 
Moonlight Night or the Domovo'i. The opera 
was produced in St. Petersburg and Moscow, 
but did not long hold a place in the repertory 
of either theatre. He next attempted music 
to scenes from Poushkin's poem The Prisoner 
in the Caucasus, a naive work in which the 
influence of Bellini obscures the faint national 
and Eastern colour which the atmosphere of 
the work imperatively demands. Alabiev, after 
his return from Siberia, settled in Moscow, where 
he died February 22nd, 1851 (O.S.). 



CHAPTEk III 

MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 

IN the preceding chapters I have shown how 
long and persistently Russian society 
groped its way towards an ideal expression 
of nationalism in music. Gifted foreigners, 
such as Cavos, had tried to catch some faint 
echo of the folk-song and reproduce it dis- 
guised in Italian accents ; talented, but poorly 
equipped, Russian musicians had exploited 
the music of the people with a certain measure 
of success, but without sufficient conviction 
or genius to form the soUd basis of a national 
school. Yet all these strivings and aspira- 
tions, these mistaken enthusiasms and imma- 
ture presentiments, were not wasted. Possibly 
the sacrifice of many talents is needed before 
the manifestation of one genius can be ful- 
filled. When the yearning after a musical 
Messiah had acquired sufficient force, the right 
man appeared in the person of Michael Ivano- 
vich Glinka. With his advent we reach the 
first great climax in the history of Russian 
music. 



70 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

It is in accordance with the latent mysticism 
and the ardour smouldering under the semi- 
oriental indolence of the Russian temperament 
that so many of their great men — especially 
their musicians — seem to have arrived at the 
consciousness of their vocation through a kind 
of process of conversion. Moussorgsky, Tchai- 
kovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov, to mention 
but one or two examples, all awoke suddenly 
from a condition of mental sloth or frivolity 
to the conviction of their artistic mission ; and 
some of them were prepared to sacrifice social 
position and an assured livelihood for the sake 
of a new, ideal career. Glinka was no exception. 
He, too, heard his divine call and followed it. 
Lounging in the theatres and concert rooms of 
Italy, listening to Italian singers and fancying 
himself " deeply moved " by Bellini's operas, 
suddenly it flashed upon Glinka, a cultivated 
amateur, that this was not what he needed to 
stimulate his inspiration. This race, this art, 
were alien to him and could never take the place 
of his own people. This swift sense of remote- 
ness, this sudden change of thought and ideal, 
constituted the psychological moment in the 
history of Russian music. Glinka's first impulse 
was merely to write a better Russian opera than 
his predecessors ; but this impulse held the germ 
of the whole evolution of the new Russian School 
as we know it to-day. 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 71 

It is rather remarkable that outside the 
Russian language so little has been written about 
this germinal genius, who summed up the ardent 
desires of many generations and begat a great 
school of national music. The following details 
of his childhood and early youth are taken from 
his Autobiographical Notes and now appear 
for the first time in an English translation, 

" I was bom on June 2nd (May 20th, O.S.), 
1804, in the glow of the summer dawn at the 
village of Novospasskoi, which belonged to my 
father, Ivan Nicolaevich Glinka, a retired army 
captain. . . , Shortly after my birth, my mother, 
Eugenia Andreievna {nee Glinka), was obliged 
to leave my early bringing up to my grand- 
mother who, having taken possession of me, 
had me transferred to her own room. Here in 
company with her, a foster mother, and my 
nurse, I spent the first three or four years of 
my life, rarely seeing anything of my parents. 
I was a child of delicate constitution and of 
nervous tendencies. My grandmother was in 
her declining years, and almost always ailing, 
consequently the temperature of her room in 
which I lived was never less than 20 Reaumur. 
... In spite of this, I was not allowed to take 
off my pelisse, and night and day I was given 
tea with cream and quantities of sugar in it, 
and also cracknels and fancy bread of all kinds. 
I seldom went into the fresh air, and then only 



72 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

in hot weather. There is no doubt that this 
early upbringing had a great influence on my 
physical development and explains my uncon- 
querable affection for warm climates. . . . 

" My grandmother spoilt me to an incredible 
degree and never denied me anything I Wanted. 
In spite of this I was a gentle and well-behaved 
child, and only indulged in passing fits of 
peevishness — as indeed I still do when dis- 
turbed at one of my favourite occupations. 
One of my chief amusements was to lie flat 
on the floor and draw churches and trees with 
a bit of chalk. I was piously inclined, and 
church ceremonies, especially at the great 
festivals, filled me heart and soul with the 
liveliest poetic enthusiasm. Having learnt to 
read at a remarkably early age, I often moved 
my grandmother and her elderly friends to 
tears by reading the Scriptures aloud to them. 
My musical proclivities showed themselves at 
that time in a perfect passion for the sound of 
bells ; I drank in these harsh sounds, and soon 
learnt how to imitate them rather cleverly by 
means of two copper bowls. When I was ill 
they used to give me a little hand-bell to keep 
me amused. 

" On the death of my grandmother, my way 
of living underwent some changes. My mother 
spoUt me rather less, and tried to accustom me 
to the fresh air ; but her efforts in this direction 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 73 

were not very successful. . . . My musical sense 
still remained undeveloped and crude. In my 
eighth year {1812), when we were delivered from 
the French invasion, I listened with aU my old 
delight to the ringing of the bells, distinguishing 
the peals of the different churches, and imitating 
them on my copper bowls. 

" Being entirely surrounded by women, and 
having for playmates only my sister, who was a 
year younger than myself, and my nurse's little 
daughter, I was never like other boys of my 
age ; moreover the passion for study, especially 
of geography and drawing — and in the latter I 
had begun to make sensible progress — drew 
me away from childish pastimes, and I was, 
from the first, of a quiet and gentle disposition. 

" At my father's house we often received many 
relatives and guests ; this was usually the case 
on his name-day, or when someone came to 
stay whom he wished to entertain with special 
honours. On these occasions he would send 
for the musicians belonging to my maternal 
uncle, who lived eight versts away. They often 
remained with us for several days, and when 
the dances were over and the guests departed, 
they used to play all sorts of pieces. I remember 
once (it was in 1814, or 1815, when I was about 
ten) they played a quartet by Cruselli ; this 
music produced in me an inconceivably new 
and rapturous effect ; after hearing it I remained 



74 XpE RtrSSIAN OPERA 

all day long in a state of feverish excitement, 
lost in inexplicably sweet dreamy emotions, and 
the next day at my drawing lesson I was 
quite absent-minded. My distracted condition 
increased as the lesson proceeded, and my 
teacher, remarking that I was drawing very 
carelessly, scolded me repeatedly, until finally 
guessing what was the matter with me, said 
that I now thought of nothing but music. 
' What's to be done ? ' I answered : ' music is 
the soul of me ! ' 

" In truth at that time I loved music passion- 
ately. My uncle's orchestra was the source of 
the liveliest delight to me. When they played 
dances, such as ecossaises, quadrilles and valses, 
I used to snatch up a violin or piccolo and join 
in with them, simply alternating between tonic 
and dominant. My father was often annoyed 
with me because I did not dance, and deserted 
our guests ; but at the first opportunity I slipped 
back again among the musicians. During 
supper they generally played Russian folk-songs 
arranged for two flutes, two clarinets, two 
horns, and two bassoons ; this poignantly 
tender, but for me perfectly satisfactory, com- 
bination delighted me (I could hardly endure 
shrill sounds, even the lower notes of the horn 
when they were not played loud), and perhaps 
these songs, heard in my childhood, were the 
first cause of my preference in later years for 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 75 

Russian folk-melodies. About this time we 
had a governess from St. Petersburg called 
Barbara Klemmer. She was a girl about 
twenty, very tall, strict and exacting. She 
taught us Russian, French, German, geography 
and music. . . . Although our music lessons, 
which included reading from notes and the 
rudiments of the piano, were rather mechanical, 
yet I made rapid progress with her, and shortly 
after she came one of the first violins from my 
uncle's band was employed to teach me the 
fiddle. Unfortunately he himself did not play 
quite in tune and held his bow very stiffly, a bad 
habit which he passed on to me. 

" Although I loved music almost uncon- 
sciously, yet I remember that at that time I pre- 
ferred those pieces which were most accessible 
to my immature musical intelligence, I enjoyed 
the orchestra most of all, and next to the 
Russian songs, my favourite items in their 
repertory were : the Overtures to ' Ma Xante 
Aurore,' by Boieldieu, to ' Lodoiiska,' by Ro- 
dolph Kreutzer, and to ' Les Deux Aveugles,' 
by Mehul. The last two I liked playing on the 
piano, as well as some of Steibelt's sonatas, 
especially ' The Storm,' which I played rather 
neatly." 

I have quoted verbatim from Glinka's record 
of his childish impressions, because they un- 
doubtedly influenced his whole after career, and 



76 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the nature of his genius was conditioned by 
them. Like most of the leading representatives 
of Russian music, GUnka was born and spent 
the early years of his life in the country, where 
he assimilated subconsciously the purer elements 
of the national music which had already begun 
to be vulgarized, if not completely obliterated, 
in the great cities. Saved from the multi- 
tudinous distractions of town life, the love of 
the folk-music took root in his heart and grew 
undisturbed. Had he been brought up in one 
of the capitals, taken early, as Russian children 
often were, and still are, to the opera and to 
concerts, his outlook would have been widened 
at the expense of his individuality. Later on, 
as we shall see, he was led away from the tracks 
of nationality by his enthusiasm for Italian 
opera ; but the strong affections of his child- 
hood guided him back instinctively to that way 
of art in which he could best turn his gifts to 
account. It has been said that Glinka remained 
always somewhat narrow in his ideas and 
activities ; but it was precisely this exclusive- 
ness and concentration that could best serve 
Russia at the time when he appeared. In his 
letters and Autobiographical Notes, he often 
adopts the tone of a genius misunderstood, and 
hints that an unkind Providence enjoyed putting 
obstacles in his path. It is true that in later 
life, after the production of his second opera, 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 'j'j 

Russian and Liudmilla, he had some grounds 
for complaining of the fickleness and mental 
indolence of the Russian public. But his mur- 
murings against destiny must be discounted by 
the fact that Glinka, the spoilt and delicate 
child, grew up into Glinka, the idolised and 
hypochondriacal man. On the whole his life 
was certainly favourable to his artistic develop- 
ment. 

Stassov, in his fine monograph upon the 
composer, lays stress on this view of Glinka's 
career. The history of art, he argues, contains 
only too many instances of perverted talent ; 
even strongly gifted natures have succumbed 
to the ill-judged advice of friends, or to the 
mistaken promptings of their own nature, so 
that they have wasted valuable years in the 
manufacture of works which reached to a 
certain standard of academic excellence, and 
even beauty, before they realised their true 
individual vocation and their supreme powers. 
Glinka was fortunate in his parents, who never 
actually opposed his inclinations ; and perhaps 
he was equally lucky in his teachers, for if they 
were not of the very highest class they did not 
at any rate interfere with his natural tenden- 
cies, nor impose upon him severe restrictions 
of routine and method. Another happy cir- 
cumstance in his early life, so Stassov thinks, 
was his almost wholly feminine environment. 



78 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Glinka's temperament was dual ; on the one 
hand he possessed a rich imagination, both 
receptive and creative, and was capable of 
passionate feeling ; in the other side of his 
nature we find an element of excessive sensi- 
bility, a something rather passive and morbidly 
sentimental. Women had power to soothe 
and at the same time to stimulate his tempera- 
ment. Somewhere in his memoirs. Glinka, 
speaking of his early manhood, says : "At that 
time I did not care for the society of my own 
sex, preferring that of women and girls who 
appreciated my musical gifts." Stassov con- 
siders that these words might be apphed to 
the whole of Glinka's life, for he always seemed 
most at ease in the company of ladies. 

In the autumn of 1817, being then thirteen, 
he was sent to the newly opened school for the 
sons of the aristocracy, where he remained until 
1822. His schooldays appear to have been 
happy and profitable. He was industrious and 
popular alike with the masters and pupils. 
In the drawing class the laborious copying from 
the fiat, with its tedious cross-hatching and 
stipphng then in vogue, soon disgusted him. 
Mathematics did not greatly interest him. 
Dancing and fencing were accomplishments 
in which he never shone. But he acquired 
languages with a wonderful ease, taking up 
Latin, French, German, English and Persian. 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 79 

In after years he dropped to some extent 
Persian and English, but became proficient in 
Italian and Spanish. Geography and zoology 
both attracted him. That he loved and observed 
nature is evident from all his writings ; and the 
one thing in which he resembled other boys 
was in his affection for birds, rabbits, and other 
pets. While travelling in the Caucasus in 
1823 he tamed and kept wild goats, and some- 
times had as many as sixteen caged birds in his 
room at once, which he would excite to song by 
playing the violin. 

Glinka's parents spared nothing to give their 
son a good general education, but the idea that 
they were dealing with a budding musical genius 
never occurred to them. As he had shown 
some aptitude for the piano and violin in child- 
hood, he was allowed to continue both these 
studies while at school in St. Petersburg. He 
started lessons with the famous Irish composer 
and pianist John Field, who, being on the eve 
of his departure for Moscow, was obliged to 
hand Glinka over to his pupil Obmana. After- 
wards he received some instruction from Zeuner, 
and eventually worked with Carl Meyer, an 
excellent pianist and teacher, with whom he 
made rapid progress. At the school concert 
in 1822, Glinka was the show pupil and played 
Hummel's A minor Concerto, Meyer accompany- 
ing him on a second piano. With the violin 



8o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

he made less progress, although he took lessons 
from Bohm, a distinguished master and virtuoso 
who had not, however, so Glinka declared, the 
gift of imparting his own knowledge to others. 
Bohm would sigh over his pupil's faulty bowing 
and remark : " Messieu KUnka, fous ne chouerez 
chamais dufiolon." 

GUnka's repertory at nineteen contained 
nothing more profound than the virtuoso music 
of Steibelt, Herz, Hummel and Kalkbrenner. 
Although Beethoven had already endowed the 
world with his entire series of sonatas, and was 
then at the zenith of his fame, his music only 
began to make headway in Russia some ten 
years later. As time went on. Glinka heard 
and met most of the great pianists of his day, 
and his criticisms of their various styles are 
unconventional and interesting, but would lead 
us far away from the subject of Russian opera. 

Imperfect as his mastery of the violin appears 
to have been, it was of more importance to his 
subsequent career than his fluency as a pianist, 
because during the vacations at home he was 
now able to take part in earnest in his uncle's 
small orchestra. The band generally visited 
the Ghnkas' estate once a fortnight, and some- 
times stayed a whole week. Before the general 
rehearsal, the son of the house would take each 
member of the orchestra tlurough his part — 
with the exception of the leaders — and see that 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 8i 

they were all note perfect and played in tune. 
In this way he learnt a good deal about 
instrumentation and something about the tech- 
nique of conducting. Their repertory included 
overtures by Cherubini, M6hul, and Mozart ; 
and three symphonies, Haydn in B, Mozart 
in G minor, and Beethoven's second sjonphony, 
in D major, the last named being Glinka's special 
favourite. 

In St. Petersburg he began to frequent the 
opera, which was not then so exclusively given 
over to Italian music as it was a few years later. 
Mehul's "Joseph," Cherubini's "Water-Carriers," 
Isouard's " Gioconda " and Boieldieu's " Le 
Bonnet Rouge " were among the works which 
he heard and admired in the early 'twenties. 

In 1824 Glinka entered the Government 
service as a clerk in the Ministry of Ways and 
Communications. Here he found several ama- 
teurs as enthusiastic as himself, and was soon 
launched in a social circle where his musical 
gifts were greatly appreciated and he ran the 
risk of degenerating into a spoilt dilettante. 
From the beginning to the end of his career 
Glinka remained an amateur in that higher 
sense of the word which implies that he merely 
wrote what he liked and was exempt from the 
necessity of composing to order for the sake of a 
livelihood. 

He himself has related the circumstances of 

G 



82 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

his first creative impulse. In the spring of 1822, 
when he was about nineteen, he made the 
acquaintance of a young lady " of fascinating 
appearance, who played the harp and had also 
a beautiful voice. This voice was not to be 
compared to any musical instrument ; it was 
just a resonant silvery soprano, and she sang 
naturally and with extraordinary charm. Her 
attractive qualities and her kindness to me 
(she called me her nephew and I called her aunt) 
stirred my heart and my imagination." We 
see the rest of the picture : a Petersburg drawing 
room with its semi-French decoration, an ami- 
able grandpapa reposing in his armchair, while 
Glinka played by the hour and the young lady 
joined in with her silvery soprano. So the first 
compositions were written — " to do her a service 
and laid at her feet " — variations upon her 
favourite theme from Weigel's " Swiss Family," 
an opera then all the vogue, variations for harp 
and piano on a theme by Mozart and an original 
Valse in F for piano. Of these only the varia- 
tions for harp survive. 

At twenty Glinka took singing lessons from 
the Italian Belloli. This led to his first essays 
in song writing, and after one hopeless failure 
he succeeded in setting some words by Bara- 
tynsky, " Do not needlessly torment me," 

Henceforth Glinka began to be conscious of 
his powers, and between 1825 ^-^d 1830 he was 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 85 

constantly composing. Although the best of 
relations existed between himself and his father, 
he does not seem to have shown him anything 
of his deeper artistic nature, and Glinka's 
family accepted his music merely as an agreeable 
addition to his social qualities. Meanwhile he 
wrote many of the songs of his first period, and 
a few isolated dramatic scenas with orchestral 
accompaniment, including the Chorus on the 
Death of a Hero, in C minor, and an Aria for 
baritone, a part of which he used in the finale 
of the second act of his opera Russian and 
Liudmilla. He also learnt Italian and received 
some instruction in theory from Zamboni. 
In 1829 he published an album containing most 
of his early compositions. 

From time to time Glinka was incapacitated 
by an affection of the eyes, and his general health 
was far from satisfactory. He was possessed 
of a craving to travel in Spain or Italy, and his 
father's refusal to let him go abroad " hurt me," 
he says, " to the point of tears." However, 
a famous doctor having examined him, reported 
to his father that the young man had " a whole 
quadrille of ailments " and ought to be sent 
to a warm climate for at least three years. 
Glinka left Russia for Italy in 1830, and remained 
abroad until the spring of 1834. 

During his visit to Italy, Glinka wrote regularly 
and fully to his family, but unfortunately the 



84 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

correspondence was not deemed worthy of 
preservation, and the letters were destroyed 
shortly after his return. If we may judge by 
the communications to his friends sent later 
in life from Spain, France and Germany, the 
destruction of these records of his early impres- 
sions is a real loss to musical biography. 

The two chief objects of Glinka's journey 
abroad were to improve his physical condition 
and to perfect his musical studies. As regards 
his health, he was benefited perhaps but not 
cured. " All his life," says Stassov, " Glinka 
was a martyr to doctors and remedies," and his 
autobiography is full of details concerning his 
fainting fits and nervous depression, and his 
bodily sufferings in general. He had, however, 
sufficient physical and moral strength to work 
at times with immense energy. 

As regards his musical education, Glinka had 
now begun to realise that his technical equip- 
ment did not keep pace with his creative impulse. 
He felt the need of that theoretical knowledge 
which Kirnberg says is to the composer what 
wings are to a bird. He was by no means so 
completely ignorant of the theory of his art 
as many of his critics have insinuated. He 
had already composed music which was quite 
on a level with much that was popular in his 
day, and had won some flattering attentions from 
musical society in St. Petersburg. We must 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 85 

respect the self-criticism which prompted him to 
put Mmself to school again at six-and-twenty. 
But Italy could not give him that deeper and 
sounder musical culture of which he was in 
search. In Milan he began to work under 
Basili, the Director of the Milan Conservatoire, 
distinguished for having refused a scholarship 
to Verdi because he showed no aptitude for 
music. Basili does not seem to have had la 
main heu/reuse with budding genius ; Glinka 
found his methods so dry and pedantic that he 
soon abandoned his lessons as a waste of time. 
Nevertheless Italy, then and now the Mecca 
of all aspiring art students, had much to give 
to the young Russian. He was deeply impressed 
by the beauty of his surroundings, but, from the 
practical side, it was in the art of singing and 
writing for the voice that Glinka made real 
progress during his sojourn in the South. He 
had arrived in Italy in company with Ivanov, 
who became later on the most famous Russian 
operatic tenor. Glinka's father had persuaded 
the tenor to accompany his son abroad and had 
succeeded in getting him two years leave of 
absence from the Imperial Chapel. The opera 
season 1830-1831 was unusually brilliant at Milan, 
and the two friends heard Grisi, Pasta, Rubini, 
Galli and Orlandi. Their greatest experience 
came at the end of the season, when Bellini's 
" La Sonnambula " was mounted for the first 



86 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

time, " Pasta and Rubini singing their very best 
in order to uphold their favourite maestro." 
" We, in our box," continues GUnka, " shed 
torrents of tears — tears of emotion and enthusi- 
asm." But still more important to his apprecia^ 
tion of vocal music was his acquaintance in 
Naples with Nozzari and Fodor-Mainville. 
Ivanov studied with both masters, and Glinka 
was permitted to be present at his lessons. 
Nozzari had already retired from the stage, but 
his voice was still in its fullest beauty. His 
compass was two octaves, from B to B, and his 
scale so perfect that Glinka says it could only 
be compared to Field's scale upon the piano. 
Under the influence of Italian music, he wrote 
at this time a few piano pieces and two songs to 
Russian words. His setting of Koslov's " Vene- 
tian Night " was merely an echo of his surround- 
ings ; " The Victor," music to Joukovsky's 
words, showed more promise of originality, 
and here we find for the first time the use of 
the plagal cadence which he employed so 
effectively in A Life for the Tsar. 

During the third year of his visit, he felt a 
conviction that he was moving on the wrong 
track, and that there was a certain insincerity 
in all that he was attempting. " It cost me some 
pains to counterfeit the Italian sentimento 
brillfante," he says. " I, a dweller in the 
North, felt quite differently (from the children of 



MICHAEL IVANOVICH GLINKA 87 

the sunny South) ; with us, things either 
make no impression at all, or they sink deep 
into the sotd ; it is either a frenzy of joy or 
bitter tears." These reflections, joined to an 
acute fit of homesickness, led to his decision 
to return to Russia. After a few pleasant days 
spent in Vienna, he travelled direct to Berlin, 
where he hoped to make up some of the defi- 
ciencies of his Italian visit with the assistance 
of the well-known theorist Siegfried Dehn. 

Dehn saw at once that his pupil was gifted 
with genius, but impatient of drudgery. He 
gave himself the trouble to devise a short cut 
to the essentials of musical theory. In five 
months he succeeded in giving Glinka a bird's- 
eye view of harmony and counterpoint, fugue 
and instrumentation ; the whole course being 
concentrated into four small exercise books. 
" There is no doubt," writes Glinka, " that I 
owe more to Dehn than to any of my masters. 
He not only put my musical knowledge into 
order but also my ideas, on art in general, and 
after his lessons I no longer groped my way 
along, but worked with the full consciousness 
of what I was doing." 

While studying with Dehn, he still found time 
for composition, and it is noticeable that what 
he wrote at this time is by no means Germanised 
music. Two songs, " The Rustling Oak," words 
by Joukovsky, and Delvig's poem, " Say not 



88 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

that love has fled," the Variations for piano 
on Alabiev's " Nightingale," and outUnes of 
the melody fot the Orphan's Song " When they 
slew my mother," afterwards used in a Lifefot 
the Tsar, besides a sketch for one of the chief 
themes in the overture of the opera,, all tend 
to prove that he was now deeply preoccupied 
with the expression of national sentiment in 
music. 

In April 1834 his profitable studies with 
Dehn were cut short by the death of his father, 
which necessitated his immediate return to 
Russia. Stassov sums up the results of this 
period abroad in the words : " Glinka left us a 
dilettante and returned a maestro." 



CHAPTER IV 
glinka's operas 

THE idea of composing a national opera 
now began to take definite shape in 
Glinka's mind. In the winter of 1834-' 
1835, the poet Joukovsky was living in the Winter 
Palace at St. Petersburg as tutor to the young 
Tsarevich, afterwards Alexander II. The 
weekly gatherings which he held there were 
frequented by Poushkin, Gogol, Odoievsky, 
Prince Vyazemsky — ^in short, by all the higher 
intelligentsia of the capital. Here Glinka, the 
fame of whose songs sufficed to procure him 
the entree to this select society, was always 
welcome. When he confided to Joukovsky 
his wish to create a purely Russian opera, the 
poet took up the idea with ardour and sug- 
gested the subject of Ivan Sousanin, which, as 
we have seen, had already been treated by 
Cavos. At first Joukovsky offered to write 
the text of the work and actually supplied verses 
for the famous trio in the last act : " Not to 
me, unhappy one, the storm wind brought his 
last sign." But his many occupations made it 



90 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

impossible for him to keep pace with GUnka's 
creative activity once his imagination had been 
fired. Consequently the libretto had to be 
handed over to Baron Rozen, a Russianised 
German, secretary to the young Tzarevich. 
Rozen could hardly have been a whole-hearted 
patriot ; certainly he was no poet. The words 
of the opera leave much to be desired, but we 
must make allowances for the fact that Glinka, 
in his impatience, sometimes expected the 
librettist to supply words to ready-made music. 
The opera was first called Ivan Sousanin. Among 
Glinka's papers was found the original plan for 
the work : " Ivan Sousanin, a native tragi- 
heroic opera, in five acts or sections. Actors : 
Ivan Sousanin (Bass), the chief character ; 
Antonida, his daughter (Soprano), tender and 
graceful ; Alexis (afterwards Bogdan) Sobinin, 
her affianced husband (tenor), a brave man ; 
Andrew (afterwards Vanya), an orphan boy of 
thirteen or fourteen (alto), a simple-hearted 
character." 

While at work upon the opera in 1835, Glinka 
married. This, the fulfilment of a long-cher- 
ished wish, brought him great happiness. Soon 
after his marriage he wrote to his mother, " my 
heart is once more hopeful, I can feel and pray, 
rejoice and weep — my music is re-awakened ; 
I cannot find words to express my gratitude to 
Providence for this bliss." In this beatific 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 91 

state of mind he threw himself into the 
completion of his task. During the summer he 
took the two acts of the libretto which were then 
ready into the country with him. While travel- 
ling by carriage he composed the chorus in 
5-4 measure : " Spring waters flow o'er the 
fields," the idea of which had suddenly occurred 
to him. Although a nervous man, he seems to 
have been able to work without having recourse 
to the strictly guarded padded-room kind of 
isolation necessary to so many creative geniuses. 
" Every morning," he says in his autobiography, 
" I sat at a table in the big sitting-room of our 
house at Novospasskoi, which was our favourite 
apartment ; my mother, my sister and my wife — 
in fact the whole family — were busy there, and 
the more they laughed and talked and bustled 
about , the quicker my work went . " All through 
the winter, which was spent in St. Petersburg, 
he was busy with the opera. " The scene where 
Sousanin leads the Poles astray in the forest, 
I read aloud while composing, and entered so 
completely into the situation of my hero that 1 
used to feel my hair standing on end and cold 
shivers down my back." During Lent, 1836, 
a trial rehearsal of the first act was given at the 
house of Prince Youssipov, with the assistance 
of his private orchestra. Glinka, satisfied with 
the results, then made some efforts to get his 
opera put on the stage, but at first he met with 



92 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

blank refusals from the Direction of the Imperial 
Theatres. His cause was helped by the generous 
spirit of Cavos, who refused to see in Glinka 
a rival in the sphere of patriotic opera, and was 
ready to accept his work. Even then the 
Director of the Opera, Gedeonov, demanded 
from Glinka a written undertaking not to claim 
any fee for the rights of public performance. 
Glinka, who was not dependent upon music for 
a livelihood, submitted to this injustice. The 
rehearsals were then begun under the super- 
vision of Cavos. The Emperor Nicholas I. 
attended one of the rehearsals at the great 
Opera House and expressed his satisfaction, 
and also his willingness to accept the dedication 
of the opera. It was then that it received the 
title by which it has since become famous, 
Glinka having previously changed the name 
of Ivan Sousanin to that of Death for the 
Tsar. 

The first performance took place on November 
27th (O.S.), 1836, in the presence of the Emperor 
and the Court. " The first act was well 
received," wrote Glinka, " the trio being loudly 
and heartily applauded. The first scene in 
which the Poles appear (a ballroom in Warsaw) 
was passed over in complete silence, and I went 
on the stage deeply wounded by the attitude 
of the public." It seems, however, that the 
silence of the audience proceeded from a certain 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 93 

timidity as to how they ought to receive the 
appearance of these magnificent, swaggering 
Poles in the presence of the Emperor, the 
PoUsh insurrection of 1830-1831 being still pain- 
fully fresh in the public memory. The rest 
of the opera was performed amid a scene of 
unparalleled enthusiasm. The acting of the 
Russian chorus seems to have been even more 
realistic in those days than it is now. " In the 
fourth act," to quote the composer himself, 
" the representatives of the Polish soldiers in the 
scene in the forest, fell upon Petrov (the famous 
bass who created the part of Sousanin) with such 
fury that they broke his arm, and he was 
obliged to defend himself from their attacks 
in good earnest." After the performance, Glinka 
was summoned to the Emperor's box to receive 
his compliments, and soon afterwards he was 
presented with a ring, worth 4,000 roubles, and 
offered the post of Capellmeister to the Imperial 
Chapel. 

Some account of the story of A Life for the 
Tsar will be of interest to those who have not 
yet seen the opera, for the passionate idealism 
of the subject still appeals to every patriotic 
Russian. The action takes place at one of the 
most stirring periods of Russian history, the 
Russo-Polish war of 1633, just after the boy- 
king Michael Feodorovich — first of the present 
Romanov line — had been elected to the throne. 



94 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Glinka himself sketched out the plot, which 
runs as follows : The Poles, who have been 
supporting the claims of their own candidate 
for the Russian throne, form a conspiracy 
against the life of the young Romanov. A 
Polish army corps is despatched to Moscow, 
ostensibly on a peaceful embassy, but in reality 
to carry out this sinister design. On the march, 
they enter the hut of a loyal peasant, Ivan 
Sousanin, and compel his services as a guide. 
Sousanin, who suspects their treachery, forms 
a heroic resolve. He secretly sends his adopted 
son, the orphan Vanya, to warn the Tsar of his 
danger ; while, in order to gain time, he misleads 
the Poles in the depths of the forest and falls 
a victim to their vengeance when they dis- 
cover the trick which has been played upon 
them. 

Whether the story be true or not — and modern 
historians deny its authenticity^ — Ivan Sou- 
sanin will always remain the typical embodiment 
of the loyalty of the Russian peasant to his 
Tsar, a sentiment which has hitherto resisted 
most of the agitations which have affected 
the upper and middle classes of Russian 
society. 

The music of A Life for the Tsar was an 

^ Soloveiv asserts that Sousanin did not save the Tsar 
from the Poles but from the Russian Cossacks who had 
become demoralised during the long interregnum. 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 95 

immense advance on anj^hing that had been 
previously attempted by a Russian composer. 
Already the overture — though not one of Glinka's 
best symphonic efforts — shows many novel 
orchestral effects, which grew out of the funda- 
mental material of his music, the folk-songs 
of Great Russia. Generally speaking, his ten- 
dency is to keep his orchestra within modest 
limits. Although he knew something of the 
orchestration of Berlioz, it is Beethoven rather 
than the French musician that Glinka takes 
as his model. " I do not care," he says, " to 
make use of every luxury." Under this cate- 
gory he places trombones, double bassoons, 
bass drum, English horn, piccolo and even the 
harp. To the wind instruments he applies the 
term "orchestral colour," while he speaks of, 
the strings as " orchestral motion." With re- 
gard to the strings, he thought that " the more 
these instruments interlace their parts, the 
nearer they approach to their natural character 
and the better they fulfil their part in the 
orchestra." It is remarkable that GUnka usu- 
ally gives free play to the various individual 
groups of instruments, and that his orchestra- 
tion is far less conventional and limited than 
that of most operatic composers of his time. 
The thematic material of A Life for the Tsar is 
partly drawn from national sources, not so 
much directly, as modelled on the folk-song 



96 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

pattern. The crude folk-stuff is treated in a 
very different way to that which prevailed in 
the early national operas. Glinka does not 
interpolate a whole popular song — often har- 
monised in a very ordinary manner — ^into his 
opera, in the naive style of Fomin in his Aniouta 
or The Miller. With Glinka the material 
passes through the melting pot of his genius, 
and flows out again in the form of a plastic na- 
tional idiom with which, as he himself expresses 
it, " his fellow-countrymen could not fail to 
feel completely at home." Here are one or 
two instances in which the folk-song fdement is 
recognisable in A Life for the Tsar. In the first 
act, where Sousanin in his recitative says it is 
no time to be dreaming of marriage feasts, 
occurs a phrase which Glinka overheard sung 
by a cab-driver^ ; the familiar folk-song " Down 
by Mother Volga," disguised in binary rhythm, 
serves as accompaniment to Sousanin's words 
in the forest scene " I give ye answer," and 
" Thither have I led ye," where its gloomy 
character is in keeping with the situation; 
the recitative sung by Sobinin in the first act, 
" Greeting, Mother Moscow," is also based upon 
a folk-tune. But Glinka has also melodies of 

^ This fragment of a familiar melody drew down on 
Glinka the criticism of an aristocratic amateur that the 
music of A Life for the Tsar was fit for coachmen and serfs, 
and piovoked Glinka's sarcastic retort : " What matter, 
since the servants are better than their masters." 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 97 

his awn invention which are profoundly national 
in character. As Alfred Bruneau remarks : " By 
means of a harmony or a simple orchestral 
touch he can give to an air which is apparently 
as Italian as possible a penetrating perfume of 
Russian nationality." An example of this is 
to be found in Antonida's aria " I gaze upon the 
empty fields " (Act I). The treatment of his 
themes is also in accordance with national 
tradition ; thus in the patriotic chorus in the first 
Act. " In the storm and threatening tempest," 
we have an introduction for male chorus, led 
by a precentor (Zapievets), a special feature of 
the folk-singing of Great Russia. Another 
chorus has a pizzicato accompaniment in imita- 
tion of the national instrument, the Balalaika, 
to the tone of which we have grown fairly 
familiar in England during the last few years. 
Many of Glinka's themes are built upon the 
mediaeval church modes which lie at the 
foundation of the majority of the national 
songs. 

For instance, the Peasants' chorus, " We 
go to our work in the woods," is written in 
the hjTpo-dorian mode ; the Song of the Rowers 
is in the ^olian mode, which is identical with 
" the natural minor," which was the favourite 
tonality of Glinka's predecessors. The strange 
beauty of the Slavsia lies in the use of the 
mixolydian mode, and its simple harmonisation. 

H 



98 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

The introduction to the opera is treated con- 
trapuntally, in the style of the folk-singing with 
its cantus firmus (zapievkoya) and its imitations 
(podgolossky). 

Glinka wrote the role of Sousanin for a bass. 
He has, indeed, been reproached with giving 
preference for the bass at the expense of the 
tenor parts, and other Russian composers have 
followed his example. But when we bear 
in mind that Russia produces some of the most 
wonderful bass voices in the world the prefer- 
ence seems natural enough, and even assumes 
a certain national significance. Upon Sousanin's 
part centres the chief interest of the opera 
and it is convincingly realised and consistently 
Russian throughout. His opening phrases, in 
the Phrygian mode, seem to delineate his 
individuality in a few clear broad touches. 
Serov is disposed to claim for Glinka the definite 
and conscious use of a leitmotif which closely 
knits the patriotism of his hero with the per- 
sonality of the Tsar. Towards the close of the 
first act, Sousanin sings a phrase to the words 
taken from the old Russian Slavsia or Song of 
Glory. Making a careful analysis of the score, 
Serov asserts that traces of this motive may be 
found in many of Sousanin's recitatives and 
arias, tending to the fusion of the musical and 
poetical ideas. Serov, an enthusiastic Wagnerian 
student, seems to see leitmotifs in most unsus- 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 99 

pected places and is inclined, we think, to 
exaggerate their presence in A Life Joy the Tsar. 
But there are certainly moments in the opera 
in which Glinka seems to have recourse con- 
sciously to this phrase of the Slavsia as befitting 
the dramatic situation. Thus in the quartet 
in the third act, " God love the Tsar," the melody 
of the Slavsia may be recognised in the har- 
monic progression of the instrumental basses 
given in 3-4 instead of 4-4 ; the treatment 
here is interesting, because, as Cheshikin 
points out, it is in the antiphonal style of 
the Orthodox Church, the vocal quartets 
singing " God love the Tsar," while the string 
quartet replies with " Glory, glory, our Russian 
Tsar." Again in another solemn moment in 
the opera the phrase from the Slavsia stands 
out still more clearly. When the Poles com- 
mand Sousanin to lead them instantly to 
the Tsar's abode, the hero answers in words 
which rise far above the ordinary level of 
the libretto : 

" O high and bright our Tsar's abode, 
Protected by the power of God, 
All Russia guards it day and night, 
While on its walls, in raiment white, 
The angels, heaven's winged sentries, wait 
To keep all traitors from the gate." 

These words are sung by Sousanin to a 
majestic cantilena in a flowing 6-4 measure, 



100 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

while the orchestra accompany in march 
rhythm with the Slavsia, which, in spite of 
being somewhat veiled by the change of rhythm 
and the vocal melody, may be quite easily 
identified. 

Two great scenes are allotted to Sousanin. 
The first occurs when the Poles insist on his 
acting as their guide and he resolves to lay down 
his life for the Tsar. Here the orchestra plays 
an important part, suggesting the agitations 
which rend the soul of the hero ; now it reflects 
lus super-human courage, and again those inevit- 
able, but passing, fears and regrets without which 
his deed would lose half its heroism. The 
alternating rhythms — Sousanin sings in 2-4 
and the Poles 3-4 — are effectively managed. 
Sousanin's second great moment occurs when 
the Poles, worn out with hunger and fatigue, 
fall asleep round their camp fire and the peasant- 
hero,^ watching for the tardy winter sunrise 
which will bring death to him and safety to 
the young Tsar, sings in a mood of intense 
exaltation the aria " Thou comest Dawn, 
for the last time mine eyes shall look on 
thee ! " a touching and natural outburst of 
emotion that never fails to stir a Russian 
audience to its emotional depths, although some 
of the national composers have since reached 
higher levels, judged from a purely musical 
standpoint. 



GLINKA'S OPERAS loi 

In A Life for the Tsar Glinka conceived the 
idea, interesting in itself, of contrasting the 
characters of the two nations by means of their 
national music. To this end he devotes the 
whole of the second act entirely to the Poles. 
Here it seems to me that he is far less successful 
than with any other portion of the work. Some 
critics have supposed that the composer really 
wished to give an impression of the Poles as a 
superficial people literally dancing and revelling 
through life, and possessed of no deeper feelings 
to be expressed in music. But Glinka was too 
intelligent a man to take such naive views of 
national character. It seems more probable 
that not being supersaturated with Pohsh as 
he was with Russian folk-music, he found it 
difficult to indicate the personality of the 
Pole in anything but conventional dance 
rhythms. This passes well enough in the second 
act, where the scene is laid at a brilliant festival 
in the Polish capital, and the ballroom dances 
which follow constitute the ballet of the opera. 
But in other parts of the work, as, for instance, 
when the Polish soldiers burst into Sousanin's 
cottage and order him to act as their guide, the 
strains of a stately polonaise seem distinctly 
out of place ; and again, when they have lost 
their way in the forest and their situation is 
extremely precarious, they express their alarm 
and suspicion in mazurka rhythm. The polo- 



102 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

naise, cracoviak, the valse in 6-8 time and 
the mazurka and finale which form the ballet are 
somewhat ordinary in character, but presented 
with a charm and piquancy of orchestration 
which has made them extremely popular. 
The representative theme of the Poles, a 
phrase from the polonaise, hardly suggests the 
part they play in the opera — ^their evil designs 
upon Moscow and the young Michael Feodorovich, 
about which they sing in the succeeding chorus. 
But others seem to find this music more im- 
pressive, for, says M. Camille Bellaigue, " even 
when restricted to strictly national forms 
and formulas, the Russian genius has a tendency 
to enlarge them. In the polonaise and especi- 
ally in the sombre and sinister mazurka in A 
Life for the Tsar Glinka obtains from local 
rhjrthms an intimate dramatic emotion. . . . 
He raises and generalises, and from the music 
of a race makes the music of humanity." 

In the last act of A Life for the Tsar Glinka 
has concentrated the ardent patriotism and the 
profound human sympathy which is not only a! 
feature of his music but common to the whole 
school of which he is the prototype. The 
curtain rises upon a street in Moscow, the people 
are hurrying to the Kremhn to acclaim the young 
Tsar, and as they go they sing that beautiful 
hymn-march " Glory, glory, Holy Russia," a 
superb representation of the patriotic ideal. 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 103 

In contrast to the gladness of the crowd, GUnka 
shows us the unfortunate children of Ivan 
Sousanin, the lad Vanya, Antonida, and her 
betrothed, Sobinin. Some of the people stop to 
ask the cause of their sadness, and in reply they 
sing the touching trio which describes the fate 
of Sousanin. Then the scene changes to the 
Red Square under the walls of the Kremlin, and 
all individual sentiment is merged in a flood 
of loftier emotion. The close of the act is the 
apotheosis of the Tsar and of the spirit of loyalty. 
Here on the threshold of the Kremlin Michael 
Feodorovich pauses to salute the dead body of 
the peasant-hero. Once again the great crowd 
takes up the Slavsia or Glory motive, and amid 
the pealing of the bells the opera ends with a 
triumphant chorus which seems to sum up the 
whole character of the Russian people. " Every 
element of national beauty, " says M. Camilla 
Bellaigue," is pressed into the service here. The 
people, their ruler and God himself are present. 
Not one degree in all the sacred hierarchy 
is lacking ; not one feature of the ideal, 
not one ray from the apotheosis of the father- 
land." 

With all its weaknesses anjd its occasional 
lapses into Italian phraseology, A Life for the 
Tsar still remains a patriotic and popular opera, 
comparable only in these respects with some of 
the later works which it engendered, or, among 



104 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

contemporary operas, with Weber's Der Frei- 
schutz. 

With the unparalleled success of A Life for 
the Tsar, Glinka reached the meridian of his 
fame and power. He followed up the opera 
by some of his finest songs, contained in the 
collection entitled " Farewell to St. Peters- 
burg," and by the beautiful incidental music 
to Koukolnik's tragedy Prince Kholmsky, of 
which Tchaikovsky, by no means an indulgent 
critic of his great predecessor, says : " Glinka 
here shows himself to be one of the greatest 
symphonic composers of his day. Many touches 
in Prince Kholmsky recall the brush of Beet- 
hoven. There is the same moderation in the 
means employed, and in the total absence of 
all striving after mere external effects ; the 
same sober beauty and clear exposition of ideas 
that are not laboured but inspired ; the same 
plasticity of form and mould. Finally there 
is the same inimitable instrumentation, so 
remote from all that is affected or far-fetched. 
. . . Every entr'acte which follows the over- 
ture is a little picture drawn by a master-hand. 
These are symphonic marvels which would 
suffice a second-rate composer for a whole 
series of long symphonies." 

The idea of a second national opera began to 
occupy Glinka's mind very soon after the pro- 
duction of A Life for the Tsar. It was his 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 105 

intention to ask Poushkin to furnish him with a 
libretto based upon his epic poem "Russian 
and LiudmiUa." The co-operation of Russia's 
greatest poet with her leading musical genius 
should have been productive of great restdts. 
Unhappily the plan was frustrated by the tragic 
death of Poushkin, who was shot in a duel in 1837. 
Glinka, however, did not renounce the subject 
to which he had been attracted, and sketched 
out the plot and even some musical numbers, 
falling as before into the fatal mistake of expect- 
ing his librettist to supply words to music 
already written. The text for Russian and 
LiudmiUa was supplied by Bakhtourin, but 
several of Glinka's friends added a brick here 
and there to the structure, with very patchy 
results. The introduction and finale were 
sketched out in 1839, ^^^ ^^e composer, partly 
on account of failing health, did not work 
steadily at the opera until the winter of 1841. 
The score was actually completed by April 
1842, when he submitted it on approval to 
Gedeonov. This time Glinka met with no 
difficulties from the Director of the Imperial 
Opera; the work was accepted at once and the 
date of the first production fixed in the follow- 
ing November. 

The subject of Russian and LiudmiUa, though 
equally national, has not the poignant human 
interest that thrills us in A Life for the Tsar. 



io6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

The story belongs to a remote and legendary 
period in Russian history, and the characters 
are to a great extent fantastic and mythical. 
It had none of those qualities which in the first 
opera made for an immediate popular success 
in every stratum of Russian society. The days 
are now long past when the musical world of 
Russia was split into two hostile camps, the 
one led by Serov, who pronounced Russian to 
be the last aberration of a lamentably warped 
genius ; the other by Stassov, who saw in it the 
mature expression of Glinka's inspiration. At 
the same time Stassov was quite alive to the 
weaknesses and impossible scenic moments of the 
libretto, faults which are doubtless the reason 
why seventy years have not sufficed to win 
popularity for the work, although the lapse 
of time has strengthened the conviction of all 
students of Russian opera as to the actual 
musical superiority of Russian and Liudmilla 
over A Life for the Tsar. 

The story of the opera runs as follows : 
In days of old — when the Slavs were still 
Pagans — Prince Svietozar of Kiev had one 
beautiful daughter, Liudmilla. The maiden had 
three suitors, the knights-errant Russian and 
Farlaf, and the young Tatar prince, Ratmir. 
Liudmilla's love was bestowed upon Russian, 
and Prince Svietozar prepares to celebrate 
their marriage. Meanwhile the wicked wizard 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 107 

Chemomor has fallen desperately in love with 
Liudmilla. At the wedding feast he carries off 
the bride by means of his magic arts. Prince 
Svietozar sends the three knights to rescue 
his daughter and promises to give her to the 
one who succeeds in the quest. The knights 
meet with many adventures by the way. Far- 
laf seeks the help of the sorceress Naina, who 
agrees to save him from the rivalry of Ratmir, 
by luring the ardent young Oriental aside from 
his quest. Russian takes council with the 
benevolent wizard Finn, who tells him how to 
acquire a magic sword with which to deliver 
his bride from the hands of Chernomor. Russ- 
ian saves Liudmilla, but on their homeward 
journey to Kiev they are intercepted by Farlaf, 
who casts them both into a magic slumber. 
Leaving Russian by the wayside, Farlaf 
carries the heroine back to her father's house, 
where he passes himself off as her deliverer 
and claims her for his bride. Russian awakes 
and arrives in time to denounce his treachery, 
and the opera ends with the marriage of the 
true lovers, which was interrupted in the first 
act. 

The overture to Russian and Liudmilla is a 
sohd piece of work, sketched on broad lines 
and having a fantastic colouring quite in keeping 
with the subject of the opera. The opening 
subject is national in character, being divided 



io8 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

into two strains which lend themselves to con- 
trapuntal treatment. 

An introduction follows, consisting of a chorus 
and two solos for Bayan (tenor), the famous 
bard of old, who is supposed to relate the 
legend. This introduction is largely built upon 
a phrase of eight notes, the characteristic utter- 
ance of Bayan when he speaks of the " deeds 
of long ago . ' ' Afterwards this phrase is repeated 
in the Dorian mode, and the music acquires an 
archaic character in conformity with the remote 
period of the action. 

The opera itself may be said to begin with a 
wedding chorus, followed by a cavatina for 
Liudmilla in which she takes leave of her father. 
In writing for his primadonne Glinka seems to 
have found it difficult to avoid the conventional 
Italian influence, and this solo, in common with 
most of the music for Liudmilla, lacks vigour 
and originality. Far more interesting from the 
musical point of view is the chorus in 5-4 
measure, an invocation to Lei, the Slavonic God 
of Love. At the close of this number a loud 
clap of thunder is heard and the scene is plunged 
in darkness, during which the wizard Chernomor 
carries away the bride. The consternation of 
the guests is cleverly depicted over a pedal point 
for horn on E fiat which extends for a hundred 
and fifty bars. Prince Svietozar then bids the 
knights-errant to go in search of his daughter, 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 109 

and with a short chorus imploring the aid of 
Perun upon their quest the act comes to an end. 

The orchestral prelude to the second act is 
based upon a broad impetuous theme which 
afterwards appears as the motive of the Giant's 
head in Act III. The first scene represents a 
hilly region and the cave of the good wizard 
Finn. The character of Finn^ half humorous and 
half pathetic, with its peculiar combination of 
benevolence, vacillation, and pessimistic regret, 
is essentially Russian. Such characters have 
been made typical in the novels of Tourgeniev 
and Tolstoy. Finn relates how, in a vain endea- 
vour to win Naina the sorceress, he has changed 
himself into a shepherd, a fisherman, and a 
warrior, and finally into a wizard. In this 
last character he has succeeded in touching her 
heart. But now alas, they have awakened to 
the realisation that there is nothing left to them 
but regret for lost possibilities fled beyond recall. 
Glinka expresses all these psychological changes 
in Finn's famous Ballade which forms the open- 
ing number of this act ; but admirable as it is, 
critics have some ground for their reproach 
that its great length delays the action of the 
plot. Russian, having listened to Finn's love- 
story, receives from him the sword with 
which he is to attack the Giant's Head. In 
the next scene Farlaf meets the elderly but 
once beautiful Naina, and the two sing a 



no THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

humorous duet. Farlaf's chief air, a rondo 
in opera-bouffe style, is rather ordinary, but 
Naina's music is a successful piece of character- 
painting. The last scene of the second act is 
one of the most fantastic* in this fantastic 
opera. The stage is enveloped in mist. Russian 
enters and sings his aria, of which the opening 
recitative is the strongest part, the Allegro 
section, which Glinka has written in sonata- 
form, being somewhat diffuse. While he is sing- 
ing, the mist slowly disperses, and the rising moon 
reveals the lonely steppe and shines upon the 
bleached bones which strew an ancient battle- 
field. Russian now sees with horror the appari- 
tion of the Giant's Head. This in its turn sees 
Russian, and threatens the audacious knight 
who has ventured upon the haunted field. But 
Russian overcomes the monster head with the 
magic sword, as directed by Finn. In order 
to give weight to the Giant's voice Glinka has 
supplemented the part by a small male chorus 
which sings from within the head. 

The prelude to the third act is generally 
omitted, and is not in fact printed in the piano- 
forte score of the opera. The opening number, 
a Persian chorus for female voices, "The Night 
lies heavy on the fields," is full of grace and 
oriental languor. The subject of the chorus 
is a genuine Persian melody and the variations 
which form the accompaniment add greatly 



GLINKA'S OPERAS iii 

to the beauty of these pages. The chorus is 
followed by an aria for Gorislava (soprano), 
Ratmir's former love, whom he has deserted 
for Liudmilla. This air with its clarinet obbli- 
gato is one of the most popular solos in the 
opera. In answer to Gorislava's appeal, Ratmir 
appears upon the scene and sings a charming 
nocturne accompanied by cor anglais. The 
part of the young oriental lover is usually taken 
by a woman (contralto). For this number 
Glinka makes use of a little Tatar air which 
Ferdinand David afterwards introduced, trans- 
posed into the major, in his symphonic poem 
" Le Desert." It is a beautiful piece of land- 
scape painting which makes us feel the peculiar 
sadness of the twilight in Russia as it falls on 
the vast spaces of the Steppes. A French critic 
has said that it might have been written by an 
oriental Handel. The scene described as the 
seduction of Ratmir consists of a ballet in rococo 
style entitled " Naina's magic dance." Then 
follows a duet for Gorislava and Ratmir, after 
which the maidens of the harem surround 
Ratmir and screen Gorislava from him. After- 
wards the enchanted palace created by Naina to 
ensnare Ratmir suddenly vanishes and we see 
the open plain once more. The act concludes 
with a quartet in which Russian and Fmn take 
part with the two oriental lovers. 
The entr'acte preceding the fourth act consists 



112 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

of a march movement {Marcia allegro risoluto). 
The curtain then rises upon Chemomor's 
enchanted garden, where Liudmilla languishes 
in captivity. An oriental ballet then follows, 
but this is preceded by the March of the Wizard 
Chemomor. This quaint march which per- 
sonifies the invisible monster is full of imagin- 
ation, although it tells its tale so simply that it 
takes us back to the fairyland of childhood. 
The first of the Eastern dances {allegretto quasi 
andante) is based upon a Turkish song in 
6-8 measure. Afterwards follows the Danse 
Arabesque and finally a Lezginka, an immensely 
spirited dance built upon another of the Tatar 
melodies which were given to Glinka by the 
famous painter Aivazovsky. A chorus of 
naiads and a chorus of flowers also form part 
of the ballet, which is considered one of Glinka's 
chefs d'oeuvre. While the chorus is being sung 
we see in the distance an aerial combat between 
Russian and Chernomor, and throughout the 
whole of the movement the wizard's leitmotif is 
prominent in the music. Russian, having over- 
come Chernomor, wakes Liudmilla from the 
magic sleep into which she has been cast by his 
spells. 

The first scene of the last act takes place in 
the Steppes, where Ratmir and Gorislava, now 
reconciled, have pitched their tent. Russian's 
followers break in upon the lovers with the 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 113 

news that Faxlaf has treacherously snatched 
Liudmilla from their master. Then Finn arrives 
and begs Ratmir to carry to Russian a magic 
ring which will restore the princess from her 
trance. In the second scene the action returns 
to Prince Svietozar's palace. Liudmilla is still 
under a spell, and her father, who believes her 
to be dead, reproaches Farlaf in a fine piece of 
recitative (Svietozar's music throughout the 
work is consistently archaic in character). 
Farlaf declares that Liudmilla is not dead and 
claims her as his reward. Svietozar is reluc- 
tantly about to fulfil his promise, when Russian 
arrives with the magic ring and denounces the 
false knight. The funeral march which had 
accompanied the Prince's recitative now gives 
place to the chorus " Love and joy." Liud- 
milla in her sleep repeats the melody of the 
chorus in a kind of dreamy ecstasy. Then 
Russian awakens her and the opera concludes 
with a great chorus of thanksgiving and con- 
gratulation. Throughout the finale the charac- 
teristics of Russian and Eastern music are 
combined with brilUant effect. 

Russian and Liudmilla was received with 
indifference by the public and with pronounced 
hostility by most of the critics. Undoubtedly 
the weakness of the libretto had much to do 
with its early failure ; but it is equally true that 
in this, his second opera, Glinka travelled so 

I 



114 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

far from Italian tradition and carried his use 
of national colour so much further and with 
such far greater conviction, that the music 
became something of an enigma to a public 
whose enthusiasm was still wholly reserved for 
the operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini. 
Looking back from the present condition of 
Russian opera we can trace the immense 
influence of Russian and Liudmilla upon the 
later generation of composers both as regards 
opera and ballet. It is impossible not to 
realise that the fantastic Russian ballets of the 
present day owe much to Ghnka's first intro- 
duction of Eastern dances into Russian and 
Liudmilla. 

The coldness of the public towards this work, 
the fruit of his mature conviction, was a keen 
disappointment to Glinka. He had not the 
alternative hope of being appreciated abroad, 
for he had deliberately chosen to appeal to his 
fellow-countrymen, and when they rejected him 
he had no heart for further endeavour. His later 
symphonic works, " Kamarinskaya " and " The 
Jot a Aragones^," show that his gift had by no 
means deteriorated. Of the former Tchdkovsky 
has truly said that Ghnka has succeeded in 
concentrating in one short work what a dozen 
second-rate talents could only have invented 
with the whole expenditure of their powers. 
Possibly Glinka would have had more courage 



GLINKA'S OPERAS 115 

and energy to meet his temporary dethrone- 
ment from the hearts of his own people had not 
his health been already seriously impaired. 
After the production of Russian he lived chiefly 
abroad. In his later years he was much at- 
tracted to the music of Bach and to the older 
polyphonic schools of Italy and Germany. 
Always preoccupied with the idea of nation- 
ality in music, he made an elaborate study of 
Russian church music, but his failing health 
did not permit him to carry out the plans which 
he had formed in this connection. In April 
1856 he left St. Petersburg for the last time and 
went to Berlin, where he intended to pursue 
these studies with the assistance of Dehn. Here 
he Uved very quietly for some months, working 
twice a week with his old master and going 
occasionally to the opera to hear the works 
of Gluck and Mozart. In January 1857 he 
was taken seriously ill, and passed peacefully 
away during the night of February 2nd. In 
the following May his remains were brought from 
Germany to St. Petersburg and laid in the ceme- 
tery of the Alexander Nevsky monastery near 
to those of other national poets, Krylov, 
Baratinsky and Joukovsky. 

Glinka was the first inspired interpreter of 
the Russian nationality in music. During 
the period which has elapsed since his death 
the impress of his genius upon that of his 



ii6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

fellow countr5niien has in no way weakened. 
For this reason a knowledge of his music is an 
indispensable introduction to the appreciation 
of the later school of Russian music ; for in his 
works and in those of Dargomijsky, we shall 
find the key to all that has since been accom- 
plished. 




A. S. DAI«.;o.MIJ:SKY 



Makojvsky, CO. 



CHAPTER V 

DARGOMIJSKY 

GLINKA, in his memoirs, relates how in 
the autumn of 1834 he met at a musical 
party in St. Petersburg, " a little man 
with a shrill treble voice, who, nevertheless, 
proved a redoubtable virtuoso when he sat down 
to the piano." The little man was Alexander 
Sergeivich Dargomijsky, then about twenty- 
one years of age, and already much sought after 
in society as a brilliant pianist and as the com- 
poser of agreeable drawing-room songs. Dargo- 
mijsky 's diary contains a corresponding entry 
recording this important meeting of two men 
who were destined to become central points 
whence started two distinct currents of tendency 
influencing the whole future development of 
Russian music. " Similarity of education and 
a mutual love of music immediately drew us 
together," wrote Dargomijsky, " and this in 
spite of the fact that Glinka was ten years my 
senior," For the remainder of Glinka's life 
Dargomijsky was his devoted friend and fellow- 
worker, but never his unquestioning disciple. 



ii8 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Dargomijsky was born, February 2/14, 1813, 
at a country estate in the government of Toula, 
whither his parents had fled from their own home 
near Smolensk before the French invaders in 
1812. It is said that Dargomijsky, the future 
master of declamation, only began to articulate 
at five years of age. In 1817 his parents migrated 
to St. Petersburg. They appear to have taken 
great interest in the musical education of their 
son ; at six he received his first instruction on 
the piano, and two years later took up the violin ; 
while at eleven he had already tried his hand at 
composition. His education being completed, 
he entered the Government service, from which, 
however, he retired altogether in 1843. Thanks 
to his parents' sympathy with his musical 
talent, Dargomij sky's training had been above 
the average and a long course of singing lessons 
with an excellent master, Tseibikha, no doubt 
formed the basis of his subsequent success as 
a composer of vocal music. But at the time 
of his first meeting with Glinka, both on 
account of his ignorance of theory and of the 
narrowness of his general outlook upon music, 
he can only be regarded as an amateur. One 
distinguishing feature of his talent seems to 
have been in evidence even then, for Glinka, 
after hearing his first song, written to humorous 
words, declared that if Dargomijsky would 
turn his attention to comic opera he would 



DARGOMIJSKY 119 

certainly surpass all his predecessors in that 
line. Contact with Glinka's personality effected 
the same beneficial change in Dargomijsky that 
Rubinstein's influence brought about in Tchai- 
kovsky some thirty years later ; it changed 
him from a mere dilettante into a serious 
musician. " Glinka's example," he wrote in 
his autobiography, " who was at that time 
(1834) taking Prince Usipov's band through the 
first rehearsals of his opera A Life, for the Tsar, 
assisted by myself and Capellmeister Johannes, 
led to my decision to study the theory of music. 
Glinka handed over to me the five exercise 
books in which he had worked out Dehn's 
theoretical system and I copied them in my own 
hand, and soon assimilated the so-called mys- 
terious wisdom of harmony and counterpoint, 
because I had been from childhood practically 
prepared for this initiation and had occupied 
myself with the study of orchestration." These 
were the only books of theory ever studied by 
Dargomijsky, but they served to make him 
realise the possession of gifts hitherto unsus- 
pected. After this course of self-instruction 
he felt strong enough to try his hand as an 
operatic composer, and selected a libretto 
founded on Victor Hugo's " Notre Dame de 
Paris." Completed and translated into Russian 
in 1839, the work, entitled Esmeralda, was not 
accepted by the Direction of the Imperial Opera 



120 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

until 1847, when it was mounted for the first 
time at Moscow. By this time Dargomijsky 
had completely outgrown this immature essay. 
The light and graceful music pleased the Russian 
pubUc, but the success of this half -forgotten 
child of his youth gave little satisfaction to the 
composer himself. He judged the work in the 
following words : " The music is slight and 
often trivial — ^in the style of Hal6vy and Meyer- 
beer ; but in the more dramatic scenes there are 
already some traces of that language of force 
and realism which I have since striven to develop 
in my Russian music." 

In 1843 Dargomijsky went abroad, and while 
in Paris made the acquaintance of Auber, 
Meyerbeer, Halevy, and Fetis. The success of 
Esmeralda encouraged him to offer to the 
Directors of the Imperial Theatre an opera- 
ballet entitled The Triumph of Bacchus, which 
he had originally planned as a cantata ; but the 
work was rejected, and only saw the light some 
twenty years later, when it was mounted in 
Moscow. Dargomij sky's correspondence during 
his sojourn abroad is extremely interesting, and 
shows that his views on music were greatly 
in advance of his time and quite free from the 
influences of fashion and convention. 

In 1853 we gather from a letter addressed to a 
friend that he was attracted to national music. 
As a matter of fact the new opera, upon which 



DARGOMIJSKY 121 

he had already started in 1848, was based upon 
a genuine Russian folk-subject — Poushkin's 
dramatic poem "The Roussalka" (The Water 
Sprite). Greatly discouraged by the refusal 
of the authorities to accept The Triumph of 
Bacchus, Dargomijsky laid aside The Roussalka 
until 1853. During this interval most of his 
finest songs and declamatory ballads were 
written, as well as those inimitably humorous 
songs which, perhaps, only a Russian can fully 
appreciate. But though he matured slowly, his 
intellectual and artistic development was serious 
and profound. Writing to Prince Odoevsky 
about this time, he says : " The more I 
study the elements of our national music, the 
more I discover its many-sidedness. Glinka, 
who so far has been the first to extend the sphere 
of our Russian music, has, I consider, only 
touched one phase of it — the lyrical. In The 
Roussalka I shall endeavour as much as possible 
to bring out the dramatic and humorous 
elements of our national music. I shall be 
glad if I achieve this, even though it may seem 
a half protest against Glinka." Here we see 
Dargomijsky not as the disciple, but as the 
independent worker, although he undoubtedly 
kept Russian and Liudmilla in view as the model 
for The Roussalka. The work was given for 
the first time at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. 
Petersburg, in 1856, but proved too novel in 



122 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

form and treatment to please a public that was 
still infatuated with Italian opera. 

In 1864-1865 Dargomijsky made a second tour 
in Western Europe, taking with him the scores 
of The Roussalka and of his three Orchestral Fan- 
tasias, " Kazachok " (The Cossack), a " Russian 
Legend," and " The Dance of the Mummers " 
(Skomorokhi) . In Leipzig he made the acquain- 
tance of many prominent musicians, who con- 
tented themselves with pronouncing his music 
" sehr neu " and " ganz inter essant," but made 
no effort to bring it before the public. In Paris 
he was equally unable to obtain a hearing ; but 
in Belgium— always hospitable to Russian musi- 
cians — he gave a concert of his own composi- 
tions with considerable success. On his way 
back to Russia he spent a few days in London 
and ever after spoke of our capital with en- 
thusiastic admiration. 

In i860 Dargomijsky had been appointed 
director of the St. Petersburg section of the 
Imperial Russian Musical Society. This brought 
him in contact with some of the younger con- 
temporary musicians, and after his return from 
abroad, in 1865, he became closely associated 
with Balakirev and his circle and took a leading 
part in the formation of the new national and 
progressive school of music. By this time he 
handled that musical language of " force and 
realism," of which we find the first distinct 



DARGOMIJSKY 123 

traces in The Roussalka, with ease and convinc- 
ing eloquence. For his fourth opera he now 
selected the subject of The Stone Guest (Don 
Juan) ; not the version by Da Ponte which had 
been immortalised by Mozart's music, but the 
poem in which the great Russian poet Poushkin 
had treated this ubiquitous tale. This work 
occupied the last years of Dargomij sky's life, 
and we shall speak of it in detail a little further 
on. Soon after the composer's return from 
abroad his health began to fail and the new 
opera had constantly to be laid aside. From 
contemporary accounts it seems evident that 
he did not shut himself away from the world 
in order to keep alive the flickering flame of 
life that was left to him, but that on the con- 
trary he liked to be surrounded by the younger 
generation, to whom he gave out freely of his 
own richly gifted nature. The composition of 
The Stone Guest was a task fulfilled in the 
presence of his disciples, reminding us of some 
of the great painters who worked upon their 
masterpieces before their pupils' eyes. Dargo- 
mijsky died of heart disease in January 1869. 
On his deathbed he entrusted the unfinished 
manuscript of TheStoneGuest to Cui and Rimsky- 
Korsakov, instructing the latter to carry out the 
orchestration of it. The composer fixed three 
thousand roubles (about £330) as the price of 
his work, but an obsolete law made it illegal 



124 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

for a native composer to receive more than £i6o 
for an opera. At the suggestion of Vladimir Stas- 
sov, the sum was raised by private subscription, 
and The Stone Guest was performed in 1872. 
Of its reception by the pubUc something will 
be said when we come to the analysis of the 
work. 

We may dismiss Esmeralda as being practic- 
ally of no account in the development of Russian 
opera ; but the history of The Roussalka is 
important, for this work not only possesses 
intrinsic qualities that have kept it alive for 
over half a century, but its whole conception 
shows that Dargomijsky was already in advance 
of his time as regards clear-cut musical character- 
isation and freedom from conventional restraint. 
In this connection it is interesting to remember 
that The Roussalka preceded Bizet's "Carmen" 
by some ten or twelve years. 

As early as 1843 Dargomijsky had thought 
of The Roussalka as an excellent subject for 
opera. He avoided Glinka's methods of en- 
trusting his libretto to several hands. In pre- 
paring the book he kept as closely as possible 
to Poushkin's poem, and himself carried out the 
modifications necessary for musical treatment. 
It is certain that he had begun the work 
by September 1848. It was completed in 

1855. 
As we have already seen, he was aware that 



DARGOMIJSKY 125 

Glinka was not fully in touch with the national 
character ; there were sides of it which he had 
entirely ignored in both his operas, because 
he was temperamentally incapable of reflect- 
ing them. GUnka's humour, as Dargomijsky 
has truthfully said, was not true to Russian 
life. His strongest tendency was towards a 
slightly melancholy lyricism, and when he 
wished to supply some comic reliei he borrowed 
it from cosmopolitan models. The composer of 
The Roussalka, on the other hand, deliberately 
aimed at bringing out the dramatic, realistic, 
and humorous elements which he observed 
in his own race. The result was an opera con- 
taining a wonderful variety of interest. 

Russian folk-lore teems with references to 
the Roussalki, or water nymphs, who haunt 
the streams and the still, dark, forest pools, 
lying in wait for the belated traveller, and of all 
their innumerable legends none is more racy 
of the soil than this dramatic poem by Poushkhi 
in which the actual and supernatural worlds are 
sketched by a master hand. The story of the 
opera runs as follows : 

A young Prince falls in love with Natasha, 
the Miller's daughter. He pays her such de- 
voted attention that the father hopes in time 
to see his child become a princess. Natasha 
returns the Prince's passion, and gives him not 
only her love but her honour. Circumstances 



126 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

afterwards compel the Prince to marry in his 
own rank. Deserted in the hour of her need, 
Natasha in despair drowns herself in the mill- 
stream. Now, in accordance with Slavonic 
legends, she becomes a Roussalka, seeking always 
to lure mortals to her watery abode. Mis- 
fortune drives the old Miller crazy and the 
mill falls into ruins. Between the second act, 
in which the Prince's nuptials are celebrated, 
and the third, a few years are supposed to elapse. 
Meanwhile the Prince is not happy in his married 
life, and is moreover perpetually haunted by the 
remembrance of his first love and by remorse 
for her tragic fate. He spends hours near the 
ruined mill dreaming of the past. One day a 
little Roussalka child appears to him and tells 
him that she is his daughter, and that she dwells 
with her mother among the water-sprites. 
All his old passion is reawakened. He stands 
on the brink of the water in doubt as to whether 
to respond to the calls of Natasha and the child, 
or whether to flee from their maUgn influence. 
Even while he hesitates, the crazy Miller appears 
upon the scene and fulfils dramatic justice 
by flinging the betrayer of his daughter into the 
stream. Here we have the elements of an 
exceedingly dramatic libretto which offers fine 
opportunities to a psychological musician of 
Dargomijsky's type. The scene in which the 
Prince, with caressing grace and tenderness. 



DARGOMIJSKY 127 

tries to prepare Natasha for the news of his 
coming marriage ; her desolation when she 
hears that they must part ; her bitter disen- 
chantment on learning the truth, and her cry 
of anguish as she tries to make him realise the 
full tragedy of her situation — all these emotions, 
coming in swift succession, are followed by the 
music with astonishing force and flexibility. 
Very effective, too, is the scene of the wedding 
festivities in which the wailing note of the 
Roussalka is heard every time the false lover 
attempts to kiss his bride — ^the suggestion of an 
invisible presence which throws all the guests 
into consternation. As an example of Dar- 
gomijsky's humour, nothing is better than the 
recitative of the professional marriage-maker, 
" Why so silent pretty lassies," and the answer- 
ing chorus of the young girls (in Act II.). 
As might be expected with a realistic tempera- 
ment like Dargomijsky's, the music of the 
Roussalki is the least successful part of the work. 
The sub-aquatic ballet in the last act is rather 
commonplace ; while Natasha's music, though 
expressive, has been criticised as being too 
human and warm-blooded for a soulless water- 
sprite. Undoubtedly the masterpiece of the 
opera is ihe musical presentment of the Miller. 
At first a certain sardonic humour plays about this 
crafty, calculating old peasant, but afterwards, 
when disappointed greed and his daughter's 



128 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

disgrace have turned his brain, how subtly 
the music is made to suggest the cunning of 
mania in that strange scene in which he babbles 
of his hidden treasures, " stored safe enough 
where the fish guard them with one eye ! " 
With extraordinary power Dargomijsky repro- 
duces his hideous meaningless laugh as he 
pushes the Prince into the swirling mill-stream. 
The character of the Miller alone would suffice 
to prove that the composer possesses dramatic 
gifts of the highest order. 

The Roussalka, first performed at the Maryin- 
sky Theatre in May 1856, met with very little 
success. The Director of the opera, Glinka's 
old enemy Gedeonov, having made up his mind 
that so " unpleasing " a work could have no 
future, mounted it in the shabbiest style. 
Moreover, as was usually the case with national 
opera then — and even at a later date — ^the inter- 
pretation was entrusted to second-rate artists. 
Dargomijsky, in a letter to his pupil Madame 
KarmaUna, comments bitterly upon this ; un- 
happily he could not foresee the time, not so 
far distant, when the great singer Ossip Petrov 
would electrify the audience with his wonderful 
impersonation of the Miller ; nor dream that 
fifty years later ShaUapin would make one of 
his most legitimate triumphs in this part. The 
critics met Dargomij sky's innovations without 
in the least comprehending their drift. Serov- 



DARGOMIJSKY 129 

it was before the days of his opposition to the 
national cause — alone appreciated the novelty 
and originality shown in the opera ; he placed 
it above A Life for the Tsar ; but even his 
forcible pen could not rouse the public from their 
indifference to every new manifestation of art, 
Dargomijsky himself perfectly understood the 
reason of its unpopularity. In one of his 
letters written at this time, he says : " Neither 
our amateurs nor our critics recognise my 
talents. Their old-fashioned notions cause them 
to seek for melody which is merely flatter- 
ing to the ear. That is not my first thought. 
I have no intention of indulging them with 
music as a plaything. / want the note to he the 
direct equivalent of the word. I want truth and 
realism. This they cannot understand." 

Ten years after the first performance of The 
Roussalka, the pubUc began to reconsider its 
verdict. The emancipation of the serfs in 
1 861 changed the views of society towards the 
humble classes, and directed attention towards 
all that concerned the past history of the peasan- 
try. A new spirit animated the national ideal. 
From Poushkin's poetry, with its somewhat 
" Olympian " attitude to Ufe, the reading public 
turned to the people's poets, Nekrassov and 
Nikitin ; while the realism of Gogol was now 
beginning to be understood. To these circum- 
stances we may attribute the reaction in favour 

K 



130 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

of The Roussalka, which came as a tardy com- 
pensation towards the close of the composer's 
Ufe. 

During the ten years which followed the 
completion of The Roussalka, Dargomijsky was 
steadily working towards the formulation of new 
principles in vocal, and especially in dramatic 
music. We may watch his progress in the 
series of songs and ballads which he produced 
at this time. It is, however, in The Stone Guest 
that Dargomijsky carries his theories of operatic 
reform to a logical conclusion. One of his chief 
aims, in which he succeeded in interesting the 
little band of disciples whose work we shall 
presently review, was the elimination of the 
artificial and conventional in the accepted forms 
of Italian opera. Wagner had already experi- 
enced the same dissatisfaction, and was solving 
the question of reform in the light of his own 
great genius. But the Russian composers could 
not entirely adopt the Wagnerian theories. 
Dargomijsky, while rejecting the old arbitrary 
divisions of opera, split upon the question of the 
importance which Wagner gave to the orchestra. 
Later on we shall see how each member of the 
newly-formed school tried to work out the 
principles of reformation in his own way, keeping 
in view the dominant idea that the dramatic 
interest should be chiefly sustained by the 
singer, while the orchestra should be regarded 



DARGOMIJSKY 131 

as a means of enhancing the interest of the 
vocal music. Dargomijsky himself was the 
first to embody these principles in what must 
be regarded as one of the masterpieces of Russian 
music — ^his opera The Stone Guest. Early in 
the 'sixties he had been attracted to Poushkin's 
fine poem, which has for subject the story of 
Don Juan, treated, not as we find it in Mozart's 
opera, by a mere librettist, but with the dra- 
matic force and intensity of a great poet. 
Dargomijsky was repelled by the idea of mutilat- 
ing a fine poem ; yet found himself overwhelmed 
by the difficulties of setting the words precisely 
as they stood. Later on, however, the illness 
from which he was suffering seems to have 
produced in him a condition of rare musical 
clairvoyance. " I am singing my swan song," 
he wrote to Madame Karmelina in 1868 ; "I 
am writing The Stone Guest. It is a strange 
thing : my nervous condition seems to generate 
one idea after another. I have scarcely any 
physical strength. ... It is not I who write, 
but some unknown power of which I am the 
instrument. The thought of The Stone Guest 
occupied my attention five years ago when I 
was in robust health, but then I shrank from the 
magnitude of the task. Now, ill as I am, I 
have written three-fourths of the opera in two 
and a half months. . . . Needless to say the 
work will not appeal to the many." 



132 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

" Thank God," comments Stassov, in his 
energetic language, " that in"i863 Dargomijsky 
recoiled before so colossal an undertaking, since 
he was not yet prepared for it. His musical 
nature was still growing and widening, and he 
was gradually freeing himself from all stiffness 
and asperity, from false notions of form, and 
from the Italian and French influences which 
sometimes predominate in the works of his 
early and middle periods. In each new com- 
position Dargomijsky takes a step forward, 
but in 1866 his preparations were complete. 
A great musician was ready to undertake a 
great work. Here was a man who had cast 
off all musical wrong thinking, whose mind 
was as developed as his talent, and who found 
such inward force and greatness of character 
as inspired him to write this work while he lay 
in bed, subject to the terrible assaults of a mortal 
malady." 

The Stone Guest, then, is the ultimate expres- 
sion of that realistic language which Dargomij- 
sky employs in his early cantata The Triumph 
of Bacchus, in The Roussalka, and in his best 
songs. It is applied not to an ordinary ready- 
made libretto, but to a poem of such excellence 
that the composer felt it a sacrilege to treat it 
otherwise than as on an equal footing with the 
music. This effort to follow with absolute 
fidehty every word of the book, and to make 



DARGOMIJSKY 133 

the note the representative of the word, led 
to the adoption of a new operatic form, and to 
the complete abandonment of the traditional soli, 
duets, choruses, and concerted pieces. In The 
Stone Guest the singers employ that melos, or 
mezzo-recitativo, which is neither melody nor 
speech, but the connecting link between the 
two. Some will argue, with Serov, that there 
is nothing origined in these ideas ; they had 
already been carried out by Wagner; and that 
The Stone Guest does not prove that Dargomijsky 
was an innovator but merely that he had the 
intelligence to become the earliest of Wagner's 
disciples. Nothing could be further from the 
truth. By 1866 Dargomijsky had some theore- 
tical knowledge of Wagner's views, but he can 
have heard little, if any, of his music. Whether 
he was at all influenced by the former, it is 
difficult to determine ; but undoubtedly his 
efforts to attain to a more natural and realistic 
method of expression date from a time when 
Wagner and Wagnerism were practically a 
sealed book to him. One thing is certain : from 
cover to cover of The Stone Guest it would be 
difficult to find any phrase which is strongly 
reminiscent of Wagner's musical style. What 
he himself thought of Wagner's music we 
may gather from a letter written to Serov in 
1856, in which he says : "I have not returned 
your score of " Tannhauser," because I have not 



134 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

yet had time to go through the whole work. 
You are right ; in the scenic disposition there 
is much poetry ; in the music, too, he shows us 
a new and practical path ; but in his unnatural 
melodies and spiciness, although at times his 
harmonies are very interesting, there is a sense 
of effort — will und kann nicht! Truth — above 
all truth — but we may demand good taste as 
well." 

Dargomijsky was no conscious or deliberate 
imitator of Wagner. The passion for realistic 
expression which possessed him from the first 
led him by a parallel but independent path 
to a goal somewhat similar to that which was 
reached by Wagner. But Dargomijsky adhered 
more closely to the way indicated a century 
earlier by that great musical reformer Gluck. 
In doing this justice to the Russian composer, 
a sense of proportion forbids me to draw further 
analogies between the two men. Dargomijsky 
was a strong and original genius, who would 
have found his way to a reformed music drama, 
even if Wagner had not existed. Had he been 
sustained by a Ludwig of Bavaria, instead of 
being opposed by a Gedeonov, he might have 
left his country a larger legacy from his abund- 
ant inspiration ; but fate and his surroundings 
willed that his achievements should be com- 
paratively small. Whereas Wagner, moving on 
from strength to strength, from triumph to 



DARGOMIJSKY 135 

triumph, raised up incontestable witnesses to 
the greatness of his genius. 

In The Stone Guest Dargomijsky has been 
successful in welding words and music into an 
organic whole ; while the music allotted to each 
individual in the opera seems to fit like a skin. 
" Poetry, love, passion, arresting tragedy, humour, 
subtle psychological sense and imaginative treat- 
ment of the supernatural,^ all these quaUties," 
says Stassov, " are combined in this opera." 
The chief drawback of the work is probably 
its lack of scenic interest, a fault which inevit- 
ably results from the unity of its construction. 
The music, thoughtful, penetrative, and emo- 
tional, is of the kind which loses little by the 
absence of scenic setting. The Stone Guest is 
essentially an opera which may be studied at 
the piano. It unites as within a focus many of 
the dominant ideas and tendencies of the school 
that proceeded from Glinka and Dargomijsky, 
and proves that neither nationality of subject 
nor of melody constitutes nationality of style, 
and that a tale which bears the stamp and colour 
of the South may become completely Russian, 
poetically and musically, when moulded by 
Russian hands. The Stone Guest has never 

^ The appearance of the Comm^ndatore is accompanied 
by a sinister progression as thrilling in its way as that 
strange and horrible chord with which Richard Strauss 
leads up to Salome's sacrilegious kiss in the closing scene of 
this opera. 



136 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

attained to any considerable measure of popu- 
larity in Russia. In spite of Dargomijsky's 
personal intimacy with his little circle of disciples, 
in which respect his attitude to his fellow workers 
was quite different to that of Glinka, the example 
which he set in The Stone Guest eventually 
found fewer imitators than Glinka's ideal model 
A Life for the Tsar. At the same time in certain 
particulars, and especisilly as regards melodic 
recitative, this work had a decided influence 
upon a later school of Russian opera. But this 
is a matter to be discussed in a later chapter. 



CHAPTER VI 

WORK AND INFLUENCE OF SEROV 

GLINKA and Dargoriiijsky were to Rus- 
sian music two vitalising sources, to 
the power of which had contributed 
numerous affluent aspirations and activities. 
They, in their turn, flowed forth in two distinct 
channels of musical tendency, fertilising two 
different spheres of musical work. Broadly 
speaking, they stand respectively for lyrical 
idealism as opposed to dramatic realism in 
Russian opera. To draw some parallel between 
them seems inevitable, since together they make 
up the sum total of the national character. 
Their influences, too, are incalculable, for with 
few exceptions scarcely an opera has been pro- 
duced by succeeding generations which does 
not give some sign of its filiation with one or 
the other of these composers. Glinka had the 
versatility and spontaneity we are accustomed 
to associate with the Slav temperament ; Dar- 
gomijsky had not less imagination but was more 
reflective. Glinka was not devoid of wit ; 
but Dargomij sky's humour was full flavoured 



138 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

and racy of the soil. He altogether out- 
distanced Glinka as regards expression and 
emotional intensity. Glinka's life was not rich 
in inward experiences calculated to deepen his 
nature, and he had not, like Dargomijsky, that 
gift of keen observation which supplies the place 
of actual experience. The composer of The 
Stone Guest was a psychologist, profound and 
subtle, who not only observed, but knew how 
to express himself with the laconic force of a 
man who has no use for the gossip of life. 

When Ghnka died in 1857, Russian musical 
life was already showing symptoms of that 
division of aims and ideals which ultimately 
led to the formation of two opposing camps : 
the one ultra-national, the other more or less 
cosmopolitan. In order to understand the 
situation of Russian opera at this time, it is 
necessary to touch upon the long hostility which 
existed between the rising school of young home- 
bred musicians, and those who owed their 
musical education to foreign sources, and in 
whose hands were vested for a considerable 
time all academic authority, and most of the 
paid posts which enabled a musician to devote 
himself wholly to his profession. 

While Dargomijsky was working at his last 
opera, and gathering round his sick bed that 
group of young nationaUsts soon to be known 
by various sobriquets, such as " The Invincible 



SEROV 139 

Band," and " The Mighty Five,"^ Anton 
Rubinstein was also working for the advance- 
ment of music in Russia ; but it was the general 
aspect of musical education which occupied 
his attention, rather than the vindication of the 
art as an expression of national temperament. 
Up to the middle of the eighteenth century there 
had been but two musical elements in Russia, 
the creative and the auditory. In the latter 
we may include the critics, almost a negligible 
quantity in those days. At the close of the 
'fifties a third element was added to the situa- 
tion — the music schools. " The time had come," 
says Stassov, " when the necessity for schools, 
conservatoires, incorporated societies, certifi- 
cates, and all kinds of musical castes and privi- 
leges, was being propagated among us. With 
these aims in view, the services were engaged 
of those who had been brought up to consider 
everything excellent which came from abroad, 
blind believers in all kinds of traditional pre- 
judices. Since schools and conservatoires ex- 
isted in Western Europe, we, in Russia, must 
have them too. Plenty of amateurs were 
found ready to take over the direction of our 
new conservatoires. Such enterprise was part 
of a genuine, but hasty, patriotism, and the 
business was rushed through. It was asserted 

^ Balakirev, Cui, Moussorgsky, Borodin, and Rirasky- 
Korsakov. 



140 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

that music in Russia was then at a very low ebb 
and that ever5^hing must be done to raise the 
standard of it. With the object of extending 
the tone and improving the knowledge of 
music, the Musical Society was founded in 1859, 
and its principal instrument, the St. Petersburg 
Conservatoire, in 1862. . . . Not long before 
the opening of this institution, Rubinstein 
wrote an article,' in which he deplored the 
musical condition of the country, and said that 
in Russia ' the art was practised only by 
amateurs ' . . . and this at a time when Bala- 
kirev, Moussorgsky and Cui had already com- 
posed several of their early works and had them 
performed in public. Were these men really 
only amateurs ? The idea of raising and develop- 
ing the standard of music was laudable, but was 
Russia truly in such sore need of that kind of 
development and elevation when an independent 
and profoundly national school was already 
germinating in our midst ? In discussing Rus- 
sian music, the first questions should have been : 
what have we new in our music ; what is its 
character ; what are its idiosyncrasies, and what 
is necessary for its growth and the preservation 
of its special qualities ? But the people who 
thought to encourage the art in Russia did not, 
or would not, take this indigenous element 
into consideration, and from the lofty pinnacle 
1 In Vek (The Century). No. I, 



SEROV 141 

of the Western Conservatoire they looked down 
on our land as a tabula rasa, a wild unculti- 
vated soil which must be sown with good seed 
imported from abroad. ... In reply to Rubin- 
stein's article I wrote : ' ' How many academies 
in Europe are grinding out and distributing 
certificated students, who occupy themselves 
more or less with art ? But they cannot turn 
out artists ; only people all agog to acquire 
titles, recognised positions, and privileges. Why 
must this be ? We do not give our literary 
men certificates and titles, and yet a profoundly 
national literature has been created and de- 
veloped in Russia. It should be the same with 
music. . . . Academic training and artistic pro- 
gress are not synonymous terms. . . . Germany's 
noblest musical periods preceded the opening 
of her conservatoires, and her greatest geniuses 
have all been educated outside the schools. 
Hitherto all our teachers have been foreigners 
brought up in the conservatoires abroad. Why 
then have we cause to complain of the wretched 
state of musical education in Russia ? Is it 
likely that the teachers sent out into the world 
from our future academies will be any better 
than those hitherto sent to us from abroad ? 
It is time to cease from this importation of 
foreign educative influences, and to consider 
that which will be most truly profitable and 
^ In Severnoy Pchela (The Northern Bee). 



142 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

advantageous for our own race and country. 
Must we copy that which exists abroad, merely 
that we may have the satisfaction of boasting 
a vast array of teachers and classes, of fruitless 
distributions of prizes and scholarships, of reams 
of manufactured compositions, and hosts of 
useless musicians."^ 

I have quoted these extracts from Stassov's 
writings partly for the sake of the sound common- 
sense with which he surrounds the burning 
question of that and later days, and partly 
because his protest is interesting as echoing 
the reiterated cry of the ultra-patriotic musical 
party in this country. 

Such protests, however, were few, while the 
body of public enthusiasm was great ; and 
Russian enthusiasm, it may be observed, too 
often takes the externals into higher account 
than the essentials. Rubinstein found a power- 
ful patroness in the person of the Grand Duchess 
Helena Pavlovna ; the Imperial Russian Musical 
Society was founded under the highest social 
auspices ; and two years later all officialdom 
presided at the birth of its offshoot, the St. 
Petersburg Conservatoire. Most of the evils 
prophesied by Stassov actually happened, and 
prevailed, at least for a time. But foreign 

^ Reprinted in " Twenty-five Years of Russian Art." The 
collected works (Sobranie Sochinenie) of Vladimir Stassov. 
Vol, I. 



SEROV 143 

influences, snobbery, official tyranny and parsi- 
mony, the over-crowding of a privileged pro- 
fession, and mistakes due to the well-intentioned 
interference of amateurs in high places — ^these 
things are but the inevitable stains on the 
history of most human organisations. What 
Cheshikin describes as " alienomania," the craze 
for everything foreign, always one of the weak- 
nesses of Russian society, was undoubtedly 
fostered to some extent under the early cos- 
mopolitan regime of the conservatoire ; but 
even if it temporarily held back the rising tide 
of national feeUng in music, it was powerless 
in the end to limit its splendid energy. The 
thing most feared by the courageous old patriot, 
Stassov, did not come to pass. The intense 
fervour of the group known as " The Mighty 
Band " carried all things before it. Russian 
music, above all Russian opera, triumphs 
to-day, both at home and abroad, in propor- 
tion to its amor patria. It is not the diluted 
cosmopolitan music of the schools, with its 
familiar echoes of Italy, France and Germany, 
but the folk-song operas in their simple, forceful 
and sincere expression of national character that 
have carried Paris, Milan and London by storm. 

The two most prominent representatives of 
the cosmopolitan and academic tendencies in 
Russia were Anton Rubinstein and Alexander 
Serov. Both were senior to any member of 



144 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the nationalist circle, and their work being in 
many respects very dissimilar in character to 
that of the younger composers, I propose to 
give some account of it in this and the following 
chapter, before passing on to that later group of 
workers who made the expression of Russian 
sentiment the chief feature of their operas. 

Alexander Nicholaevich Serov, born in St. 
Petersburg January nth, 1820 (O.S.), was one of 
the first enlightened musical critics in Russia. As 
a child he received an excellent education. Later 
on he entered the School of Jurisprudence, where 
he passed among his comrades as " peculiar," 
and only made one intimate friend. This youth 
— a few years his junior — was Vladimir Stassov, 
destined to become a greater critic than Serov 
himself. Stassov, in his " Reminiscences of 
the School of Jurisprudence," has given a most 
interesting account of this early friendship, 
which ended in something like open hostility 
when in later years the two men developed into 
the leaders of opposing camps. When he left 
the School of Jurisprudence in 1840, Serov had 
no definite views as to his future, only a vague 
dreamy yearning for an artistic career. At his 
father's desire he accepted a clerkship in a 
Government office, which left him leisure for 
his musical pursuits. At that time he was 
studying the violoncello. Gradually he formed, 
if not a definite theory of musical criticism, at 



SEROV 145 

least strong individual proclivities. He had 
made some early attempts at composition, which 
did not amount to much more than improvisa- 
tion. Reading his letters to Stassov, written 
at this early period of his career, it is evident 
that joined to a vast, but vague, ambition was 
the irritating consciousness of a lack of genuine 
creative inspiration. 

In 1842 Serov became personally acquainted 
with Glinka, and although he was not at that 
period a fervent admirer of this master, yet 
personal contact with him gave the younger 
man his first impulse towards more serious work. 
He began to study A Life for the Tsar with 
newly opened eyes, and became enthusiastic 
over this opera, and over some of Glinka's 
songs. But when in the autumn of the same 
year Russian and Liudmilla was performed for 
the first time, his enthusiasm seems to have 
received a check. He announced to Stassov 
his intention of studying this opera more seri- 
ously, but his views of it, judging from what he 
has written on the subject, remain after all 
very superficial. All that was new and lofty 
in its intention seems to have passed clean over 
his head. His criticism is interesting as showing 
how indifferent he was at that time to the great 
musical movement which Wagner was leading 
in Western Europe, and to the equally remark- 
able activity which Balakirev was directing 

L 



146 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

in Russia. He was, indeed, still in a phase of 
Meyerbeer worship. 

In 1843 Serov began to think of composing 
an opera. He chose the subject of " The Merry 
Wives of Windsor," but hardly had he made his 
first essays, when his musical schemes were 
cut short by his transference from St. Peters- 
burg to the dull provincial town of Simferopol. 
Here he made the acquaintance of the revolu- 
tionary Bakounin, who had not yet been exiled 
to Siberia. The personality of Bakounin made 
a deep impression upon Serov, as it did later 
upon Wagner. Under his influence Serov began 
to take an interest in modern German philosophy 
and particularly in the doctrines of Hegel. 
As his intellect expanded, the quality of his 
musical ideas improved. They showed greater 
independence, but it was an acquired originality 
rather than innate creative impulse. He ac- 
quired the theory of music with great difficulty, 
and being exceedingly anxious to master counter- 
point, Stassov introduced him by letter to the 
celebrated theorist Hunke, then residing in 
St. Petersburg. Serov corresponded with Hunke, 
who gave him some advice, but the drawbacks 
of a system of a college by post were only too 
obvious to the eager but not very brilliant 
pupil, separated by two thousand versts from 
his teacher. At this time he was anxious to 
throw up his appointment and devote himself 



SEROV 147 

entirely to music, but his father sternly dis- 
countenanced what he called " these frivolous 
dreams." 

It was through journalism that Serov first 
acquired a much desired footing in the 
musical world. At the close of the 'forties 
musical criticism in Russia had touched its 
lowest depths. The two leading men of the 
day, Oulibishev and Lenz, possessed undoubted 
ability, but had drifted into specialism, the 
one as the panegyrist of Mozart, the other of 
Beethoven. Moreover both of them published 
their works in German. All the other critics 
of the leading journals were hardly worthy 
of consideration. These were the men whom 
Moussorgsky caricatured in his satirical songs 
"The Peepshow" and "The Classicist." It 
is not surprising, therefore, that Serov's first 
articles, which appeared in the " Contemporary" 
in 1851, should have created a sensation in the 
musical world. We have seen that his literary 
equipment was by no means complete, that his 
convictions were still fluctuant and unreliable ; 
but he was now awake to the movements of the 
time, and joined to a cultivated intelligence a 
" wit that fells you like a mace." His early 
articles dealt with Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti, 
Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Spontini, and in dis- 
cussing the last-named, he explained and de- 
fended the historical ideal of the music-drama. 



148 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Considering that at that time Serov was practic- 
ally ignorant of Wagner's work, the conclusions 
which he draws do credit to his foresight and 
reflection. 

As I am considering Serov rather as a com- 
poser than as a critic, I need not dwell at length 
upon this side of his work. Yet it is almost 
impossible to avoid reference to that long and 
bitter conflict which he waged with one whom, 
in matters of Russian art and literature, I 
must regard as my master. The writings of 
Serov, valuable as they were half a century ago, 
because they set men thinking, have now all the 
weakness of purely subjective criticism. He 
was inconstant in his moods, violent in his 
prejudices, and too often hasty in his judgments, 
and throughout the three weighty volumes 
which represent his collected works, there 
is no vestige of orderly method, nor of a reasoned 
philosophy of criticism. The novelty of his 
style, the prestige of his personality, and per- 
haps we must add the deep ignorance of the 
public he addressed, lent a kind of sacerdotal 
authority to his utterances. But, like other 
sacerdotal divulgations, they did not always 
tend to enlightenment and liberty of conscience. 
With one hand Serov pointed to the great 
musical awakening in Western Europe ; with 
the other he sought persistently to blind Rus- 
sians to the important movement that was 



SEROV 149 

taking place around them. In 1858 Serov 
returned from a visit to Germany literally 
hypnotised by Wagner. To quote his own 
words : "I am now Wagner mad. I play him, 
study him, read of him, talk of him, write about 
him, and preach his doctrines. I would suffer 
at the stake to be his apostle." In this exalted 
frame of mind he returned to a musical world 
of which Rubinstein and Balakirev were the 
poles, which revolved on the axis of nation- 
ality. In this working, practical world, busy 
with the realisation of its own ideals and the 
solution of its own problems, there was, as yet, 
no place for Wagnerism. And well it has proved 
for the development of music in Europe that the 
Russians chose, at that time, to keep to the 
high road of musical progress with Liszt and 
Balakirev, rather than make a rush for the 
cul-de-sac of Wagnerism. Serov had exasper- 
ated the old order of critics by his justifiable 
attacks on their sloth and ignorance ; had shown 
an ungenerous depreciation of Balakirev and 
his school, and adopted a very luke-warm 
attitude towards Rubinstein and the newly- 
established Musical Society. Consequently, he 
found himself now in an isolated position. 
Irritated by a sense of being " sent to Coventry," 
he attacked with extravagant temper the friend 
of years in whom, as the champion of nation- 
ality, he imagined a new enemy. The long 



150 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

polemic waged between Serov and Stassov 
is sometimes amusing, and always instructive ; 
but on the whole I should not recommend it 
as light literature. Serov lays on with bludgeon 
and iron-headed mace ; Stassov retaliates with 
a two-edged sword. The combatants are 
not unfairly matched, but Stassov's broader 
culture keeps him better armed at all points, 
and he represents, to my mind, the nobler 
cause. 

When Serov the critic felt his hold on the 
musical world growing slacker, Serov the com- 
poser determined to make one desperate effort 
to recover his waning influence. He was now 
over forty years of age, and the great dream 
of his life — ^the creation of an opera — was still 
unrealised. Having acquired the libretto of 
Judith, he threw himself into the work of com- 
position with an energy born of desperation. 
There is something fine in the spectacle of this 
man, who had no longer the confidence and 
elasticity of youth, carrying his smarting wounds 
out of the literary arena, and replying to the 
taunts of his enemies, " show us something 
better than we have done," with the significant 
words "wait and see." Serov, with his ex- 
travagances and cocksureness of opinion, has 
never been a sympathetic character to me ; 
but I admire him at this juncture. At first, 
the mere technical difficulties of composition 



SEROV 151 

threatened to overwhelm him. The things which 
should have been learnt at twenty were hard 
to acquire in middle-life. But with almost 
superhuman energy and perseverance he con- 
quered his difficulties one by one, and in the 
spring of 1862 the opera was completed. 

Serov had many influential friends in aristo- 
cratic circles, notably the Grand Duchess Helena 
Pavlovna, who remained his generous patroness 
to the last. On this occasion, thanks to the 
good offices of Count Adelberg, he had not, 
like so many of his compatriots, to wait an 
indefinite period before seeing his opera mounted. 
In March 1863 Wagner visited St. Petersburg, 
and Serov submitted to him the score of 
Judith. Wagner was particularly pleased with 
the orchestration, in which he cannot have 
failed to see the reflection of his own in- 
fluence. 

The idea of utilising Judith as the subject 
for an opera was suggested to Serov by K. I. 
Zvantsiev, the translator of some of the Wag- 
nerian operas, after the two friends had witnessed 
a performance of the tragedy " Giuditta," with 
Ristori in the leading part. At first Serov 
intended to compose to an Italian libretto, but 
afterwards Zvantsiev translated into the verna- 
cular, and partially remodelled, Giustiniani's 
original text. After a time Zvantsiev, being 
doubtful of Serov's capacity to carry through 



152 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the work, left the Ubretto unfinished, and it 
was eventually completed by a young amateur, 
D. Lobanov. 

The opera was first performed in St. Peters- 
burg on May i6th, 1862 (O.S.). The part of 
Judith was sung by Valentina Bianchi, that of 
Holof ernes by Sariotti. The general style of 
Judith recalls that of "Tannhauser," and of "Lo- 
hengrin," with here and there some reminiscences 
of Meyerbeer. The opera is picturesque and 
effective, although the musical colouring is 
somewhat coarse and flashy. Serov excels 
in showy scenic effects, but we miss the careful 
attention to detail, and the delicate musical 
treatment characteristic of Glinka's work, quali- 
ties which are carried almost to a defect in some 
of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas. But the faults 
which are visible to the critic seemed virtues to 
the Russian public, and Judith enjoyed a popular 
success rivalling even that of A Life for the Tsar. 
The staging, too, was on a scale of magnificence 
hitherto unknown in the production of national 
opera. The subject of Judith and Holof ernes 
is well suited to Serov's opulent and sensational 
manner. It is said that the scene in the Assyrian 
camp, where Holofernes is depicted surrounded 
by all the pomp and luxury of an oriental court, 
was the composer's great attraction to the 
subject ; the music to this scene was written 
by him before all the rest of the opera, and it is 



SEROV 153 

considered one of the most successful numbers 
in the work. The chorus and dances of the 
Odalisques are full of the languor of Eastern 
sentiment. The March of Holofernes, the 
idea of which is probably borrowed from 
Glinka's March of Chernomor in Russian and 
Liudmilla, is also exceedingly effective ; for 
whatever we may think of the quality of that 
inspiration, which for over twenty years refused 
to yield material for the making of any important 
musical work, there is no doubt that Serov had 
now acquired from the study of Wagner a 
remarkable power of effective orchestration. 
Altogether, when we consider the circumstances 
under which it was created, we can only be 
surprised to find how little Judith smells of the 
lamp. We can hardly doubt that the work 
possesses intrinsic charms and qualities, apart 
from mere external glitter, when we see how it 
fascinated not only the general public, but many 
of the young musical generation, of whom 
Tchaikovsky was one. Although in later years 
no one saw more clearly the defects and make- 
shifts of Serov's style, he always spoke of 
Judith as " one of his first loves in music." " A 
novice of forty-three," he wrote, " presented the 
public of St, Petersburg with an opera which 
in every respect must be described as beautiful, 
and shows no indications whatever of being 
the composer's first work. The opera has many 



154 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

good points. It is written with unusual warmth 
and sometimes rises to great emotional heights. 
Serov, who had hitherto been unknown, and 
led a very humble life, became suddenly the 
hero of the hour, the idol of a certain set, in 
fact a celebrity. This unexpected success turned 
his head and he began to regard himself as a 
genius. The childishness with which he sings 
his own praises in his letters is quite remarkable. 
And Serov had actually proved himself a gifted 
composer but not a genius of the first order." 
It would be easy to find harsher critics of 
Serov's operas than Tchaikovsky, but his opinion 
reflects on the whole that of the majority of 
those who had felt the fascination of Judith 
and been disillusioned by the later works. 

li Judith had remained the solitary and belated 
ofepring of Serov's slow maturity it is doubtful 
whether his reputation would have suffered. 
But there is no age at which a naturally vain 
man cannot be intoxicated by the fumes of 
incense offered in indiscriminate quantities. 
The extraordinary popular success of Judith 
showed Serov the short cut to fame. The 
autumn of the same year which witnessed its 
production saw him hard at work upon a second 
opera. The subject of Rogneda is borrowed 
from an old Russian legend dealing with the 
time of Vladimir, " the Glorious Sun," at the 
moment of conflict between Christianity and 



SEROV 155 

Slavonic paganism. Rogneda was not written 
to a ready-made libretto, but, in Serov's own 
words, to a text adapted piecemeal "as neces- 
sary to the musical situations." It was coin- 
pleted and staged in the autumn of 1865. We 
shall look in vain in Rogneda for the higher 
purpose, the effort at psychological delineation, 
the comparative solidity of workmanship which 
we find in Judith. Nevertheless the work amply 
fulfilled its avowed intention to take the public 
taste by storm. Once more I will quote 
Tchaikovsky, who in his writings has given a 
good deal of space to the consideration of 
Serov's position in the musical world of Russia. 
He says : " The continued success of Rogneda, 
and the firm place it holds in the Russian 
repertory, is due not so much to its intrinsic 
beauty as to the subtle calculation of effects 
which guided its composer. . . . The public 
of all nations are not particularly exacting in 
the matter of aesthetics ; they delight in sen- 
sational effects and violent contrasts, and are 
quite indifferent to deep and original works of 
art unless the mise-en-scene is highly coloured, 
showy, and brilliant. Serov knew how to catch 
the crowd ; and if his opera suffers from poverty 
of melodic inspiration, want of organic sequence, 
weak recitative and declamation, and from 
harmony and instrumentation which are crude 
and merely decorative in effect — yet what 



156 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

sensational effects the composer succeeds in 
piling up ! Mummers who are turned into 
geese and bears ; real horses and dogs, the 
touching episode of Ruald's death, the Prince's 
dream made actually visible to our eyes ; the 
Chinese gongs made all too audible to our ears, 
all this — ^the outcome of a recognised poverty 
of inspiration — ^literally crackles with startUng 
effects. Serov, as I have said, had only a 
mediocre gift, united to great experience, 
remarkable intellect, and extensive erudition ; 
therefore it is not surprising to find in Rogneda 
numbers — ^rare oases in a desert — ^in which the 
music is excellent. As to these numbers which 
are special favourites with the public, as is so 
frequently the case, their real value proves to 
be in inverse ratio to the success they have won." 
Some idea of the popularity of Rogneda may 
be gathered from the fact that the tickets were 
subscribed for twenty representations in advance. 
This success was followed by a pause in Serov's 
literary and musical activity. He could now 
speak with his enemies in the gate, and point 
triumphantly to the children of his imagination. 
Success, too, seems to have softened his hostility 
to the national school, for in 1866 he delivered 
some lectures before the Musical Society upon 
GUnka and Dargomijsky, which are remarkable 
not only for clearness of exposition, but for 
fairness of judgment. 



SEROV 157 

In 1867 Serov began to consider the pro- 
duction of a third opera, and selected one of 
Ostrovsky's plays on which he founded a libretto 
entitled The Power of Evil. Two quotations 
from letters written about this time reveal 
his intention with regard to the new opera. 
" Ten years ago," he says, " I wrote much about 
Wagner. Now it is time to act. To embody 
the Wagnerian theories in a music-drama written 
in Russian, on a Russian subject." And again : 
" In this work, besides observing as far as 
possible the principles of dramatic truth, I aim 
at keeping more closely than has yet been done 
to the forms of Russian popular music, as pre- 
served unchanged in our folk-songs. It is 
clear that this demands a style which has nothing 
in common with the ordinary operatic forms, nor 
even with my two former operas." Here we 
have Serov's programme very clearly put before 
us : the sowing of Wagnerian theories in Russian 
soil. But in order that the acclimatisation 
may be complete, he adopts the forms of the 
folk-songs. He is seeking, in fact, to fuse 
Glinka and W^agner, and produce a Russian 
music-drama. Serov was a connoisseur of the 
Russian folk-songs, but he had not that natural 
gift for assimilating the national spirit and 
breathing it back into the dry bones of musical 
form as Glinka did. In creating this Russo- 
Wagnerian work, Serov created something purely 



158 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

artificial: a hybrid, which could bring forth 
nothing in its turn. It is characteristic, too, 
of Serov's short-sighted egotism that we find 
him constantly referring to this experiment of 
basing an opera upon the forms of the national 
music as a purely original idea ; ignoring the 
fact that Glinka, Dargomijsky and Mous- 
sorgsky had all produced similar works, and 
that the latter had undoubtedly written " music- 
dramas," which, though not strictly upon Wag- 
nerian lines, were better suited to the genius 
of the nation. 

Ostrovsky's play,^ upon which The Power of 
Evil is founded, is a strong and gloomy drama 
of domestic life. A merchant's son abducts 
a girl from her parents, and has to atone by 
marrying her. He soon wearies of enforced 
matrimony and begins to amuse himself away 
from home. One day while drinking at an inn 
he sees a beautiful girl and falls desperately 
in love with her. The neglected wife discovers 
her husband's infidelity, and murders him in a 
jealous frenzy. The story sounds as sordid as 
any of those one-act operas so popular with the 
modern Italian composers of sensational music- 
drama. But in the preparation of the libretto 
Serov had the co-operation of the famous 
dramatist Ostrovsky, who wrote the first three 
acts of the book himself. Over the fourth act a 
^ ' ' Accept life as it comes . ' ' {Nie tak nvi kak khochetsya.) 



SEROV 159 

split occurred between author and composer; 
the former wished to introduce a supernatural 
element, recalling the village festival in " Der 
Freischiitz " into the carnival scene ; but Serov 
shrank from treating a fantastic episode. The 
book was therefore completed by an obscure 
writer, Kalashinkev. Thus the lofty literary treat- 
ment by which Ostrovsky sought to raise the 
libretto above the level of a mere " shocker " 
suffered in the course of its transformation. 
The action of the play takes place at carnival 
time, which gives occasion for some lively scenes 
from national life. The work never attained the 
same degree of popularity as Judith or Rogneda. 
Serov died rather suddenly of heart disease 
in January 1871, and the orchestration of The 
Power of Evil was completed by one of his most 
talented pupils. Solo vie v. 

We have read Tchaikovsky's views upon 
Serov, Vladimir Stassov, after the lapse of 
thirty years* wrote in one of his last musical 
articles as follows : "A fanatical admirer of 
Meyerbeer, he succeeded nevertheless in catching 
up all the superficial characteristics of Wagner, 
from whom he derived his taste for marches, 
processions, festivals, every sort of ' pomp and 
circumstance,' every kind of external decoration. 
But the inner world, the spiritual world, he 
ignored and never entered ; it interested him not 
at all. The individualities of his dramatis 



i6o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

personcB were completely overlooked. They 
axe mere marionettes." His influence on the 
Russian opera left no lasting traces. His 
strongest quality was a certain robust dramatic 
sense which corrected his special tendency to 
secure effects in the cheapest way, and kept 
him just on the right side of that line which 
divides realism from offensive coarseness and 
bathos. 

Two more quotations show an interesting 
light on Serov. The first is a confession of his 
musical tastes, written not long before his death : 
" After Beethoven and Weber, I like Mendels- 
sohn fairly well ; I love Meyerbeer ; I adore 
Chopin ; I detest Schumann and all his disciples. 
I am fond of Liszt, with numerous exceptions, 
and I worship Wagner, especially in his latest 
works, which I regard as the ne plus ultra of 
the symphonic form to which Beethoven led 
the way." 

The second quotation is Wagner's tribute to 
the personality of his disciple, and it seems 
only fair to print it here, since it contradicts 
almost all the views of Serov as a man which 
we find in the writings of his contemporaries 
in Russia. " For me Serov is not dead," says 
Wagner ; "for me he still lives actually and 
palpably. Such as he was to me, such he remains 
and ever will : the noblest and highest-minded 
of men. His gentleness of soul, his purity of 



SEROV i6i 

feeling, his serenity, his mind, which reflected 
all these qualities, made the friendship which 
he cherished for me one of the gladdest gifts of 
my life." 



M 



CHAPTER VII 

ANTON RUBINSTEIN 

ANTON Grigorievich Rubinstein was born 
November 16/28, 1829, in the village 
of Vykhvatinets, in the government of 
PodoUa. He was of Jewish descent, his father 
being, however, a member of the Orthodox 
Church, while his mother — a Lowenstein — came 
from Prussian Silesia. Shortly after Anton's 
birth his parents removed to Moscow, in the 
neighbourhood of which his father set up a 
factory for lead pencils and pins. Anton, and 
his almost equally gifted brother Nicholas, 
began to learn the piano with their mother, and 
afterwards the elder boy received instruction 
from A. Villoins, a well-known teacher in 
Moscow. At ten years of age Anton made his 
first public appearance at a summer concert 
given in the Petrovsky Park, and the following 
year (1840) he accompanied Villoins to Paris 
with the intention of entering the Conservatoire. 
This project was not realised and the boy 
started upon an extensive tour as a prodigy 
pianist. In 1843 he was summoned to play 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 163 

to the Court in St. Petersburg, and afterwards 
gave a series of concerts in that city. The 
following year he began to study music seriously 
in Berlin, where his mother took him first to 
Mendelssohn and, acting on his advice, subse- 
quently placed him imder Dehn. The Revolu- 
tion of 1848 interrupted the ordinary course 
of life in Berlin. Dehn, as one of the National 
Guard, had to desert his pupils, shoulder a musket 
and go on duty as a sentry before some of the 
public buildings, performing this task with a 
self-satisfied air, " as though he had just suc- 
ceeded in solving some contrapuntal problem, 
such as a canon by retrogression." Rubin- 
stein hastened back to Russia, having all his 
music confiscated at the frontier, because it 
was taken for some diplomatic cipher. 

Soon after his return, the Grand Duchess 
Helena Pavlovna appointed Rubinstein her 
Court pianist and accompanist, a position which 
he playfully described as that of " musical 
stoker " to the Court. In April 1852 his first 
essay in opera, Dmitri Donskoi (Dmitri of the 
Don), the libretto by Count SoUogoub, was 
given in St. Petersburg, but its reception was 
disappointing. It was followed, in May 1853, 
by Thomouska-Dourachok (Tom the Fool), which 
was withdrawn after the third performance 
at the request of the composer, who seems to 
have been hurt at the lack of enthusiasm shown 



i64 THE^RUSSIAN OPERA 

for his work. Two articles from his pen which 
appeared in the German papers, and are quoted 
by Youry Arnold in his " Reminiscences," show 
the bitterness of his feelings at this time. " No 
one in his senses," he wrote, " would attempt 
to compose a Persian, a Malay, or a Japanese 
opera ; therefore to write an English, French or 
Russian opera merely argues a want of sanity. 
Every attempt to create a national musical 
activity is bound to lead to one result — dis- 
aster." 

Between the composition of the Dmitri Don- 
skoi and Tom the Fool, Rubinstein's amazingly 
active pen had turned out two one-act operas 
to Russian words : Hadji- Abrek and Sibirskie 
Okhotniki (The Siberian Hunters). But now he 
laid aside composition for a time and undertook 
a long concert tour, starting in 1856 and return- 
ing to Russia in 1858. During this tour^ he 
visited Nice, where the Empress Alexandra 
Feodorovna and the Grand Duchess Helena 
spent the winter of 1856-1857, and it seems 
probable that this was the occasion on which 
the idea of the Imperial Russian Musical 
Society^ was first mooted, although the final 
plans may have been postponed until Rubin- 

■ He also visited England, making his appearance at one 
of the concerts of the Philharmonic Society, in May 1857. 

* Henceforth alluded to as the I. R. M. S., or the Musical 
Society. 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 165 

stein's return to Petersburg in 1858. Little time 
was lost in any case, for the society was started 
in 1859, and the Moscow branch, under the direc- 
tion of his brother Nicholas, was founded in i860. 
Piqued by the failure of his Russian operas, 
Rubinstein now resolved to compose to German 
texts and to try his luck abroad. Profiting 
by his reputation as the greatest of living 
pianists, he succeeded in getting his Kinder der 
Heide accepted in Vienna (1861) ; while Dresden 
mounted his Feramors (based upon Moore's 
" Lalla Rookh ") in 1863. Between two con- 
cert tours — one in 1867, and the other, with 
Wienawski in America, in 1872 — Rubinstein 
completed a Biblical opera The Tower of Babel, 
the libretto by Rosenburg. This type of opera 
he exploited still further in The Maccabees 
(Berlin, 1875) and Paradise Lost, a concert 
performance of which took place in Petersburg 
in 1876, Between the completion of these 
sacred operas, he returned to a secular and 
national subject, drawn from Lermontov's 
poem " The Demon," which proved to be the 
most .popular of his works for the stage. The 
Demon was produced in St. Petersburg on 
January 13th (O.S.), and a more detailed account 
of it will follow. Nero was brought out in 
Hamburg in 1875, and in Berlin in 1879. After 
this Rubinstein again reverted to a Russian 
libretto, this time based upon Lermontov's 



i66 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

metrical tale The Merchant Kalashnikov, but 
the opera was unfortunate, being performed 
only twice, in 1880 and 1889, and withdrawn 
from the repertory on each occasion in conse- 
quence of the action of the censor. The Shula- 
mite, another Biblical opera, dates from 1880 
(Hamburg, 1883), and a comic opera, DerPapagei, 
was produced in that city in 1884. Goriousha, a 
Russian opera on the subject of one of Aver- 
kiev's novels, was performed at the Marjdnsky 
Theatre, St. Petersburg, in the autumn of 1889, 
when Rubinstein celebrated the fiftieth anniver- 
sary of his artistic career. 

The famous series of " Historical Concerts," 
begun in Berlin in October, 1885, was con- 
cluded in London in May, 1886, after which 
Rubinstein returned to St. Petersburg and 
resumed his duties as Director of the Conser- 
vatoire, a position which he had relinquished 
since 1867. During the next few years he 
composed the Biblical operas Moses (Paris, 
1892) and Christus, a concert performance of 
which was given under his own direction at 
Stuttgart, in 1893 ; the first stage performance 
following in 1895, at Bremen. 

In the winter of 1894 Rubinstein became 
seriously ill in Dresden, and, feeling that his 
days were numbered, he returned in haste to 
his villa at Peterhof. He lingered several 
months and died of heart disease in November 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 167 

1895. " His obsequies were solemnly carried 
out," says Rimsky-Korsakov.^ " His coffin 
was placed in the Ismailovsky Cathedral, and 
musicians watched by it day and night. Liadov 
and I were on duty from 2 to 3 a.m. I remember 
in the dim shadows of the church seeing the 
black, mourning figure of Maleziomova '^ who 
came to kneel by the dust of the adored Rubin- 
stein. There was something fantastic about 
the scene." 

With Rubinstein's fame as a pianist, the 
glamour of which still surrounds his name, with 
his vast output of instrumental music, good, 
bad and indifferent, I have no immediate con- 
cern. Nor can I linger to pay more than a 
passing tribute to his generous qualities as a 
man. His position as a dramatic composer 
and his influence on the development of Rus- 
sian opera are all I am expected to indicate 
here. This need not occupy many pages, since 
his influence is in inverse ratio to the volum- 
inous outpourings of his pen. Rubinstein's 
ideal oscillates midway between national and 

i"The Chronicle of my Musical Life" (Lietopis moi 
muzykalnoi Jizn), 1844-1906. N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov 
(Edited by his widow). St. Petersburg, 1909. 

* Mme. Maleziomova, whom I met in St. Petersburg, was 
for many years dame de compagnie, or chaperon, at Rubin ■ 
stein's classes at the Conservatoire. She was a devoted 
friend of the master's, and few people knew more of his 
fascinating personality or spoke more eloquently of his 
teaching. 



i68 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

cosmopolitan tendencies. The less people have 
penetrated into the essential qualities of Russian 
music, the more they are disposed to regard 
him as typically Russian ; whereas those who 
are most sensitive to the vibrations of Russian 
sentiment will find little in his music to awaken 
their national sympathies. The glibness with 
which he spun off music now to Russian, now 
to German texts, and addressed himself in turn 
to either public, proves that he felt superficially 
at ease with both idioms. It suggests also a 
kind of ready opportunism which is far from 
admirable. His attack on the national ideal 
in music, when he failed to impress the public 
with his Dmitri Donskoi, and his rapid change 
of front when Dargomijsky and the younger 
school had compelled the public to show some 
interest in Russian opera, will not easily be for- 
given by his compatriots. We have seen how 
he fluctuated between German and Russian 
opera, and there is no doubt that this diffusion 
of his ideals and activities, coupled with a 
singular lack of self-criticism, is sufficient to 
account for the fact that of his operas — alaout 
nineteen in all ^ — scarcely one has survived him. 
Let a Russian pass judgment upon Rubinstein's 
claims to be regarded as a national composer. 
Cheshikin, who divides his operas into two 

^ Eight Russian and eleven German operas. Six of 
the latter were secular and five based on Biblical subjecl 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 169 

groups, according as they are written to German 
or Russian librettos, sums up the general char- 
acteristics of the latter as follows : 

" Rubinstein's style bears a cosmopolitan 
stamp. He confused nationality in music with 
a kind of dry ethnography, and thought the 
question hardly worth a composer's study. A 
passage which occurs in his ' Music and its 
Representatives ' (Moscow, 1891) shows his 
views on this subject. ' It seems to me,' he 
writes, ' that the national spirit of a composer's 
native land must always impregnate his works, 
even when he lives in a strange land and speaks 
its language. Look for instance at Handel, 
Gluck and Mozart. But there is a kind of 
premeditated nationalism now in vogue. It 
is very interesting, but to my mind it cannot 
pretend to awaken universal sympathies, and 
can merely arouse an ethnographical interest. 
This is proved by the fact that a melody 
that will bring tears to the eyes of a Finlander 
will leave a Spaniard cold ; and that a dance 
rhythm that would set a Hungarian dancing 
would not move an Italian.' Rubinstein [com- 
ments Cheshikin], is presuming that the whole 
essence of nationality in music lies not in the 
structure of melody, or in harmony, but in a 
dance rhythm. It is not surprising that holding 
these superficial views his operas based on Rus- 
sian life are not distinguished for their musical 



170 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

colour, and that he is only unconsciously and 
instinctively successful when he uses the orien- 
tal colouring which is in keeping with his de- 
scent. He cultivated the commonly accepted 
forms of melodic opera which were the fashion 
in the first half of the nineteenth century. His 
musical horizon was bounded by Meyerbeer. 
He held Wagner in something like horror, and 
kept contemptuous silence about all the Russian 
composers who followed Glinka. This may be 
partly explicable on the ground of his principles, 
which did not admit the claims of declamatory 
opera ; but it was partly a policy of tit for tat, 
because Serov and ' the mighty band ' had 
trounced Rubinstein unsparingly during the 
'sixties for his Teutonic tendencies in his double 
capacity as head of the I. R. M. S. and Director 
of the Conservatoire. Narrow and conventional 
forms, especially as regards his arias ; melody 
as the sole ideal in opera ; an indeterminate 
cosmopolitan style, and now and again a suc- 
cessful reflection of the oriental spirit — ^these 
are the distinguishing characteristics of all 
Rubinstein's Russian operas from Dmitri Donskoi 
to Goriousha."^ 

It is impossible to speak in detail of all Rubin- 
stein's operas. The published scores are avail- 
able for those who have time and inclination for 

^ " A History of Russian Opera " (Istoriya Russ. Opera). 
V. Cheshikin. St, Petersburg, 1905. P. Jurgensoij. 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 171 

so unprofitable a study. Such works as Hadji- 
Abrek, based on Lermontov's metrical tale of 
bloodshed and horror ; or Tom the Fool, which 
carries us a little further in the direction of 
nationalism, but remains a mere travesty of 
Glinka's style ; or The Tower of Babel ; or 
Nero, are hardly likely to rise again to the ranks 
of living operatic works. His first national 
opera Dmitri Donskoi, in five acts, is linked, by 
the choice of a heroic and historical subject, 
with such patriotic works as Glinka's A Life 
for the Tsar, Borodin's Prince Igor and Rimsky- 
Korsakov's Maid of Pskov {" Ivan the Terrible ") ; 
but it never succeeded in gripping the Russian 
public. The libretto is based on an event often 
repeated by the contemporary monkish chroni- 
clers who tell how Dmitri, son of Ivan II., 
won a glorious victory over the Mongolian Khan 
Mamai at Kulikovo, in 1380, and freed Russia 
for the time being from the Tatar yoke. Youry 
Arnold, comparing Rubinstein's Dmitri Donskoi 
with Dargomij sky's early work Esmeralda^ finds 
that, judged by the formal standards of the 
period, it was in advance of Dargomij sky's 
opera as regards technique, but, he says, " the 
realistic emotional expression and unforced lyric 
inspiration of Esmeralda undoubtedly makes 

^ Dmitri Donskoi was produced in St. Petersburg in 
1852 ; Esmeralda, first staged in Moscow in 1847, was 
brought out in the modern capital in 1853, 



172 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

a stronger appeal to our sympathies and we 
recognise more innate talent in its author." 

After the failure of Dmitri Donskoi, Rubin- 
stein neglected the vernacular for some years 
and composed only to German texts. But early 
in the 'seventies the production of a whole 
series of Russian operas, Dargomij sky's The Stone 
Guest, Serov's The Powers of Evil, Cui's William 
Ratcliff, Rimsky-Korsakov's Maid of Pskov, 
and Moussorgsky's Boris Godounov, resuscitated 
the pubUc interest in the national ideal and 
Rubinstein was obviously anxious not to be 
excluded from the movement. His comparative 
failure with purely Russian subjects, and the 
knowledge that he felt more at ease among 
Eastern surroundings, may have influenced his 
choice of a subject in this emergency; but 
undoubtedly Lermontov's poetry had a strong 
fascination for him, for The Demon was the 
third opera based upon the works of the Russian 
Byron. Lermontov's romanticism, and the ex- 
quisite lyrical quality of his verse, which almost 
suggests its own musical setting, may jvell have 
appealed to Rubinstein's temperament. Thg^ 
poet Maikov took some part in arranging the 
text for the opera, but the libretto was actually 
carried out by Professor Vistakov, who had 
specialised in the study of Lermontov. When 
The Demon was finished, Rubinstein played 
it through to " the mighty band " who assembled 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 173 

at Stassov's house to hear this addition to 
national opera. It would be expecting too 
much from human nature to look for a wholly 
favourable verdict from such a court of enquiry, 
but " the five " picked out for approval pre- 
cisely the two numbers that have best with- 
stood the test of time, namely, the Dances and 
the March of the Caravan which forms the 
Introduction to the third scene of Act III. 
As a national composer Rubinstein reached 
his highest level in The Demon. The work was 
presented to the English public, in Italian, at 
Covent Garden, on June 21, 1881, but as it is 
unknown to the younger generation some account 
of its plot and general characteristics will not 
be out of place here.^ 

The Demon, that " sad and exiled spirit," 
who is none other than the poet Lermontov 
himself, thinly veiled in a supernatural disguise, 
is first introduced to us hovering over the peak- 
of Kazbec, in the Caucasus, gazing in melancholy 
disenchantment upon the glorious aspects of 
the world below him — a world which he re- 
gards with scornful indifference. The Demon's 
malady is boredom. He is a mortal with 
certain " demoniacal " attributes. Like Ler- 
montov, he is filled with vague regrets for 

^ For a fuller analysis of Lermontov's poem see " Poetry 
and Progress in Russia," by Rosa Newmarch. John Lane, 
The Bodley Head, London and New York. 



174 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

wasted youth and yearns to find in a woman's 
love the refuge from his despair and weariness. 
From the moment he sees the lovely Circassian, 
Tamara, dancing with her maidens on the eve 
of her wedding, the Demon becomes enamoured 
of her, and the first stirrings of love recall the 
long-forgotten thought of redemption. Tamara 
is betrothed to Prince Sinodal, who is slain by 
Tatar brigands on his way to claim his bride in 
the castle of her father. Prince Gudal. The 
malign influence of the Demon brings about 
this catastrophe. In order to escape from her 
unholy passion for her mysterious lover, Tamara 
implores her father to let her enter a convent, 
where she is supposed to be mourning her lost 
suitor. But even within these sacred precincts 
the Demon follows her, although not without 
some twinges of human remorse. For a moment 
he hesitates, and is on the point of conquering 
his sinister desire ; then the good impulse 
passes, and with it the one chance of redemption 
through unselfish love. He meets Tamara's 
good angel on the threshold of the convent, and, 
later on, sees the apparition of the murdered 
Prince. The Angel does not seem to be a 
powerful guardian spirit, but rather the weak, 
tormented soul of Tamara herself. The Demon 
enters her cell, and there follows the long love 
duet and his brief hour of triumph. Suddenly 
the Angel and celestial voices are heard calling 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 175 

to the unhappy girl : " Tamara, the spirit of 
doubt is passing." The nun tears herself from 
the arms of her lover and falls dead at the 
Angel's feet. The Demon, baffled and furious, 
is left gazing upon the corpse of Tamara. In 
the end the gates of Paradise are opened to her, 
as to Margaret in " Faust," because by its 
purity and self-sacrifice her passion works out 
its own atonement. But the Demon remains 
isolated and despairing, " without hope and 
without love." 

The poem, with its inward drama of pre- 
destined passion, unsatisfied yearning and 
possible redemption through love, almost fulfils 
the Wagnerian demand for a subject in which 
emotion outweighs action ; a subject so purely 
lyrical that the drama may be said to be born 
of music. Cheshikin draws a close emotional 
parallel between The Demon and " Tristan and 
Isolde " ; but perhaps its spirit might be more 
justly compared with the romanticism of " The 
Flying Dutchman." Musically it owes nothing 
to Wagner. Its treatment is that of pre- 
Wagnerian German opera strongly tinged with 
orientalism. Rubinstein effectively contrasts 
the tender monotonous chromaticism of eastern 
music, borrowed from Georgian and Armenian 
sources, with the more vigorous melodies based 
on Western and diatonic scales, and, in this 
respect, -his powers of invention were remarkable. 



176 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Among the most successful examples of the 
oriental style are the Georgian Song " We go to 
bright Aragva," sung by Tamara's girl friends 
in the secondscene of Act I. ; the Eastern melody 
sung in Gudal's castle in Act II. ; the passing 
of the Caravan, and the Dance for women in 
the same act. The Demon's arias are quite 
cosmopolitan in character, and the opening chorus 
of Evil Spirits and forces of Nature, though 
effective, are not strikingly original. There is 
real passion in the great love duet in the last 
act, with its energetic accompaniment that seems 
to echo the sound of the wild turbulent river that 
rushes through the ravine below the convent walls. 
The Demon met with many objections from 
the Director of the Opera and the Censor. The 
former mistrusted novelties, especially those 
with the brand of nationality upon them, and 
was alarmed by the cost of the necessary 
fantastic setting. The latter would not sanction 
the lamps and ikons in Tamara's cell, and insisted 
on the Angel being billed as " a Good Genius." 
The singers proved rebellious, and finally it 
was decided to produce the work for the first 
time on January 13th, 1875 (O.S.), on Melnikov's 
benefit night, he himself singing the title role. 
The other artists, who made up a fine cast|l 
were : Tamara, Mme. Raab ; the Angel, Mme. 
Kroutikov ; Prince Sinodal, Komessarievich ; 
Prince Gudal, the veteran Petrov, and the 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 177 

Nurse, Mme. Shreder. The immediate success 
of The Demon did much to estabUsh Rubin- 
stein's reputation as a popular composer, and 
the opera is still regarded as his best dramatic 
work, although many critics give the palm to 
The Merchant Kalashnikov, which followed it 
about five years later. 

As I have already said, the fate of this work, 
based on a purely Russian subject, seems to 
have been strangely unjust. Twice received 
with considerable enthusiasm in St. Petersburg, 
it was quashed by the Censor on both occasions 
after the first night. The libretto, by Kou- 
likov, is founded on Lermontov's " Lay of the 
Tsax Ivan Vassilievich (The Terrible), of the 
young Oprichnik^ and the bold merchant 
Kalashnikov." The opera is in three acts. 
In the first scene, which takes place in the Tsar's 
apartments, the Oprichniki are about to celebrate 
their religious service. Maliouta enters with 
the Tsar's jester Nikitka, and tells them that 
the Zemstvo has sent a deputation to the Tsar 
complaining of their conduct, and that Nikitka 
has introduced the delegates at Court. The 
Oprichniki fall upon the jester and insist on his 

^ The Oprichniki, a band of hot-headed and dissolute 
young nobles who formed the bodyguard of Ivan the 
Terrible and were always prepared to carry out his orders. 
They carried a dog's head and a broom^at their saddle-bow, 
to show that they worried the enemies of the Tsar and swept 
them from the face of the earth. 

N 



178 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

buying their forgiveness by telling them a tale. 
Nikitka's recital is one of Rubinstein's best 
attempts to reproduce the national colour. 
Afterwards the Tsar appears, the Oprichniki 
don their black cloaks and there follows an 
effective number written in strict church style. 
The service ended, the Tsar receives the 
members of the Zemstvo. To this succeeds an 
animated scene in which Ivan feasts with his 
guards. Observing that one of them, Kiribeie- 
vich, is silent and gloomy, he asks the reason, 
and the young Oprichnik confesses that he is in 
love, and sings his song " When I go into the 
garden," a Russian melody treated by Rubin- 
stein in a purely cosmopolitan style. The 
finale of the first act consists of dances by the 
Skomorokhi and a chorus for the Oprichniki, 
the music being rather pretentious and theatrical 
in style. The opening scene of Act II. takes 
place in the streets of Moscow, and begins with 
a chorus of the people, who disperse on hearing 
that the Oprichniki are in the vicinity. Alena, 
the wife of the merchant Kalashnikov, now 
comes out of her house on her way to vespers, 
accompanied by a servant. She sings a quiet 
recitative in which she teUs the maid to go home 
and await the return of the master of the house, 
and reveals herself as a happy mother and 
devoted wife. She goes her way to the church 
alone, pausing however to sing a pretty, 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN 179 

common-place Italianised aria, " I seek the 
Holy Temple." Kiribeievich appears on the 
scene, makes passionate love to her and carries 
her off. An old gossip who has watched this 
incident now emerges from her hiding place 
and sings a song which introduces a touch of 
humour. Enter Kalashnikov, who learns from 
her of his wife's departure with the young 
Oprichnik ; but she gives a false impression of 
the incident. His recitative is expressive and 
touching. The scene ends with the return of 
the populace who sing a chorus. In the second 
scene Kalashnikov plays an important part and 
his doubts and fears after the return of Alena 
are depicted with power. This is generally 
admitted to be one of Rubinstein's few suc- 
cessful psychological moments, the realistic 
expression of emotion being one of his weak 
points. Kalashnikov's scene, in which he con- 
fers with his brothers, completes Act II. The 
curtain rises in Act III. upon a Square in 
Moscow where the people are assembling to 
meet the Tsar. Their chorus of welcome, 
" Praise to God in Heaven," is not to be 
compared for impressiveness with similar mas- 
sive choruses in the op>eras of Moussorgsky 
and Rimsky-Korsakov. There are some 
episodes of popular life, such as the scene 
between a Tatar and the jester Nikitka, that 
are not lacking in humour ; and the latter has 



i8o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

another tale about King David which is in the 
style of the so-called " spiritual songs " of the 
sixteenth century. The accusations brought 
by Kiribeievich are spirited. In a dramatic 
scene the Tsar listens to Alena's prayer for 
mercy, and pardons the bold Kalashnikov who 
has dared to defy his Pretorian guards, the 
Oprichniki. The opera winds up with a final 
chorus of the people who escort the Merchant 
from prison. 

The Merchant Kalashnikov, although some- 
what of a hybrid as regards style, with its 
Russian airs handled a la Tedesca^ and its 
occasional lapses into vulgarity, has at the same 
time more vitality and human interest than 
most of Rubinstein's operas, so that it is to be 
regretted that it has remained so long unknown 
alike to the public of Russia and of Western 
Europe. 

Rubinstein's Biblical operas have now practic- 
ally fallen into oblivion. Seeing their length, 
the cost involved in mounting them, and their 
lack of strong, clear-cut characterisation, this 
is not surprising. The Acts of Artaxerxes and 
the Chaste Joseph, presented to the Court of 
Alexis Mikhailovich, could hardly have been 
more wearisome than The Tower of Babel and 
The Shulamite. These stage oratorios are like 
a series of vast, pale, pseudo-classical frescoes, 
and scarcely more moving than the oificia 



ANTON RUBINSTEIN i8i 

odes and eclogues of eighteenth-century Russian 
literature. Each work, it is true, contains 
some saving moments, such as the Song of 
Victory, with chorus, " Beat the drums," sung 
by Leah, the heroic mother of the Maccabees, 
in the opera bearing that title, in which the 
Hebrew colouring is admirably carried out ; 
the chorus " Baal has worked wonders," from 
The Tower of Babel ; and a few pages from the 
closing scene of Paradise Lost ; but these rare 
flashes of inspiration do not suffice to atone for 
the long, flaccid Handelian recitatives, the 
tame Mendelssohnian orchestration, the fre- 
quent lapses into a pomposity which only the 
most naive can mistake for sublimity of utter- 
ance, and the fluent dulness of the operas as a 
whole. 

Far more agreeable, because less pretentious, 
is the early secular opera, a German adaptation 
of Thomas Moore's " Lalla Rookh," entitled 
Feramors. The ballets from this opera, the 
Dance of Bayaderes, with chorus, in Act I., 
and The Lamplight Dance of the Bride of 
Kashmere (Act II.) are still heard in the con- 
cert room ; and more rarely, Feramor's aria, 
" Das Mondlicht traumt auf Persiens See." 
From the dramatic side the subject is weak, 
but, as Hanslick observes in his " Contempor- 
ary Opera " — in which he draws the inevitable 
par^lel between Felicien David and the Russian 



i82 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

composer- it was the oriental element in the 
poem that proved the attraction to Rubinstein. 
Yet how different is the conventional treatment 
of Eastern melody in Feramors from Borodin's 
natural and characteristic use of it in Prince 
Igor ! But although it is impossible to ignore 
Rubinstein's operas written to foreign texts 
for a foreign public, they have no legitimate place 
in the evolution of Russian national opera. 
It is with a sense of relief that we turn from him 
with his' reactionary views and bigoted adherence 
to pre-Wagnerian conventions, to that group 
of enthusiastic and inspired workers who were 
less concerned with riveting the fetters of old 
traditions upon Russian music than with the 
glorious task of endowing their country with 
a series of national operas alive and throbbing 
with the very spirit of the people. We leave 
Rubinstein gazing westwards upon the setting 
sun of German classicism, and turn our eyes 
eastwards where the dawn is rising upon the 
patient expectations of a nation which has long 
been feeling its way towards a full and conscious 
self-realisation in music. 



CHAPTER VIII 

BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 

SOMETIMES in art, as in literature, there 
comes upon the scene an exceptional, 
initiative personality, whose influence 
seems out of all proportion to the success of his 
work. Such was Keats, who engendered a whole 
school of Enghsh romanticism ; and such, too, 
was Liszt, whose compositions, long neglected, 
afterwards came to be recognised as containing 
the germs of a new symphonic form. Such also 
was Mily Alexevich Balakirev, to whom Russian 
national music owes its second renaissance. 
Bom at Nijny-Novgorod, December 31st, 1836 
(O.S.), Balakirev was about eighteen when he 
came to St. Petersburg in 1855, with an intro- 
duction to GUnka in his pocket. He had pre- 
viously spent a short time at the University of 
Kazan, but had actually been brought up in the 
household of Oulibishev, author of the famous 
treatise on Mozart. It is remarkable, and testi- 
fies to his sturdy independence of character — 
that the young man had not been influenced by 
his benefactor's hmited and ultra-conservative 



i84 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

views. Oulibishev, as we know, thought there 
could be no advance upon the achievements of 
his adored Mozart. Balakirev as a youth studied 
and loved Beethoven's s3miphonies and quartets, 
Weber's " Der Freischiitz," Mendelssohn's Over- 
tures and Chopin's works as a whole. He was 
by no means the incapable amateur that his 
academic detractors afterwards strove to prove 
him. His musical culture was solid. He had 
profited by Ouhbishev's excellent library, and 
by the private orchestra which he maintained 
and permitted his young protege to conduct. 
Although partially self-taught, Balakirev had 
already mastered the general principles of musical 
form, composition and orchestration. He was 
not versed in counterpoint and fugue ; and cer- 
tainly his art was not rooted in Bach ; but that 
could hardly be made a matter of reproach, seeing 
that in Balakirev's youth the great poet-musician 
of Leipzig was neglected even in his own land, 
and it is doubtful whether the budding schools of 
Petersburg and Moscow, or even the long estab- 
lished conservatoires of Germany, would then 
have added much to his education in that respect. 
In his provincial home in the far east of Europe 
Balakirev stood aloof from the Wagnerian con- 
troversies. But his mind, sensitive as a seismo- 
graph, had already registered some vibrations of 
this distant movement which announced a 
musical revolution. From the beginning he was 



BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 185 

preoccupied with the question of transfusing 
fresh blood into the impoverished veins of 
old and decadent forms. Happily the idea 
of solving the problem by the aid of the Wag- 
nerian theories never occurred to him. He had 
already grasped the fact that for the Russians 
there existed an inexhaustible source of fresh 
inspiration in their abundant and varied folk- 
music. 

The great enthusiasm of liis youth had been 
Glinka's music, and while living at Nijny- 
Novgorod he had studied his operas to good 
purpose. Filled with zeal for the new cause, 
Balakirev appeared in the capital like a St. John 
the Baptist from the wilderness to preach the 
new gospel of nationahty in art to the adorers 
of Bellini and Meyerbeer. Glinka was on the 
point of leaving Russia for what proved to be 
his last earthly voyage. But during the weeks 
which preceded his departure he saw enough of 
Balakirev to be impressed by his enthusiasm 
and intelligence, and to point to him as the con- 
tinuator of his work. 

The environment of the capital proved bene- 
ficial to the young provincial. For the first time 
he was able to mix with other musicians and to 
hear much that was new to him^ both at the 
opera and in the concert room. But his con- 
victions remained unshaken amid all these novel 
experiences. From first to last he owed most to 



i86 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

himself, and if he soon became head and centre 
of a new musical school, it was because, as 
Stassov has pointed out, " he had every gift for 
such a position : astonishing initiative, love and 
knowledge of his art, and to crown all, untiring 
energy." 

Balakirev left no legacy of opera, but his in- 
fluence on Russian music as a whole was so 
predominant that it crops up in every direction, 
and henceforth his name must constantly appear 
in these pages. Indeed the history of Russian 
opera now- becomes for a time the history of a 
small brotherhood of enthusiasts, united by a 
common idea and fighting shoulder to shoulder 
for a cause which ought to have been popular, 
but which was long opposed by the press and the 
academic powers in the artistic world of Russia, 
and treated with contempt by the "genteel " ama- 
teur to whom a subscription to Italian opera stood 
as the external sign of social and intellectual sup- 
eriority. It was known as " Balakirev's set," or 
by the ironical sobriquet of " the mighty band." 

At the close of the 'fifties Cesar Cui and 
Modeste Moussorgsky had joined Balakirev's 
crusade on behalf of the national ideal. A year 
or two later Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov 
were admitted to the circle ; and subsequently a 
gifted young amateur, Nicholas Lodyjensky, 
attached himself for a time to the nationaUsts. 
To these names must be added that of the writer, 



BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 187 

Vladimir Stassov, whose active brain and pen 
were always at the service of the new school. 
Although Glinka had no further personal inter- 
course with Balakirev and his friends, Dargom- 
ijsky, as we have already seen, gladly opened 
his house as a meeting place for this group of 
young enthusiasts, who eagerly discussed ques- 
tions of art with the older and more experienced 
musician, and watched with keen interest the 
growth of his last opera, The Stone Guest. 

Rimsky-Korsakov, in his " Chronicle of my 
Musical Life," gives some interesting glimpses of 
the pleasant relations existing between the 
members of the nationalist circle during the 
early years of its existence. Rimsky-Korsakov, 
who was studpng at the Naval School, St. 
Petersburg, made the acquaintance of Balakirev 
in 1861. " My first meeting with Balakirev 
made an immense impression upon me," he 
writes. "He was an admirable pianist, pla5dng 
everything from memory. The audacity of 
his opinions and their novelty, above all, his 
gifts as a composer, stirred me to a kind of ven- 
eration. The first time I saw him I showed him 
my Scherzo in C minor, which he approved, after 
passing a few remarks upon it, and some 
materials for a symphony. He ordained that 
I should go on with the s37mphony.^ Of course 

* Rimsky-Korsakov was the first of the Russian com- 
posers to- write a symphony. 



i88 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

I was delighted. At his house I met Cui and 
Moussorgsky. Balakirev was then orchestrating 
the overture to Cui's early opera The Prisoner in 
the Caucasus. With what enthusiasm I took a 
a share in these actual discussions about in- 
strumentation, the distribution of parts, etc ! 
Through November and December I went toBala- 
kirev's every Saturday evening and frequently 
found Cui and Moussorgsky there. I also made 
the acquaintance of Stassov. I remember an 
evening on which Stassov read aloud extracts 
from " The Odyssey," more especially for my 
enhghtenment. On another occasion Moussorg- 
sky read " Prince Kholmsky," the painter 
Myassedov read Gogol's " Viya," and Balakirev 
and Moussorgsky played Schumann's sym- 
phonies arranged for four hands, and Beethoven's 
quartets," 

On these occasions the young brotherhood, 
all of whom were imder thirty, with the excep- 
tion of Stassov, aired their opinions and criticised 
the giants of the past with a frankness and 
freedom that was probably very naive, and cer- 
tainly scandalised their academic elders. They 
adored Glinka ; regarded Haydn and Mozart as 
old-fashioned ; admired Beethoven's latest 
quartets; thought Bach — of whom they could 
have known little beyond the Well-Tempered 
Clavier — a mathematician rather than a musi- 
cian ; they were enthusiastic over Berlioz, while, 



BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 189 

as yet, Liszt had not begun to influence them 
very greatly. " I drank in all these ideas," says 
Rimsky-Korsakov, " although I really had no 
grounds for accepting them, for I had only 
heard fragments of many of the foreign works 
under discussion, and afterwards I retailed them 
to my comrades (at the Naval School) who were 
interested in music, as being my own con- 
victions." From the standpoint of a highly 
educated musician, a Professor at the St. 
Petersburg Conservatoire, Rimsky-Korsakov 
adopts a frankly mocking tone in his retrospec- 
tive account of these youthful discussions ; but 
it must be admitted that it was far better for 
the future development of Russian music that 
these young composers should have thought 
their own thoughts about their art, instead 
of taking their opinions ready-made from 
German text-books and the aesthetic dogmas 
laid down in the class rooms of the conserva- 
toires. 

For Rimsky-Korsakov these happy days were 
short-Uved, for in 1862 he was gazetted to the 
cruiser " Almaz " and the next three years were 
spent on foreign service which took him as far 
afield as New York and Rio Janeiro. 

Balakirev was distressed at this interruption 
to Rimsky's musical career. If the disciple 
idealised the master in those days, the latter in 
his turn treated the young sailor with fraternal 



igo THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

affection, declaring that he had been providen- 
tially sent to take the place of a favourite pupil 
who had just gone abroad. A. Goussakovsky 
was a briUiant youth who had recently finished 
his course at the university and was specialising 
in chemistry. He appears to have been a strange, 
wild, morbid nature. His compositions for piano 
were full of promise, but he was unstable of 
purpose, flitted from one work to another and 
finished none. He did not trouble to write down 
his ideas, and many of his compositions existed 
only in Balakirev's memory. He flashes across 
this page of Russian musical history and is lost 
to view, like a small but bright falhng star. 
Rimsky-Korsakov was endowed with far greater 
tenacity of purpose, and in spite of all dif&culties 
he continued to work at his symphony on board 
ship and to post it piece by piece to Balakirev 
from the most out-of-the-way ports in order to 
have his advice and assistance. 

Rimsky-Korsakov came back to St. Petersburg 
in the autumn of 1865 to find that some im- 
portant changes had taken place in Balakirev's 
circle during his absence. In the first place, to 
the brotherhood was added a new member of 
whom great things were expected. This was 
Alexander Borodin, then assistant lecturer in 
chemistry at the Academy of Medicine. Secondly, 
Balakirev, in conjunction with Lomakin, one of 
Russia's most famous choir trainers, had founded 



BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 191 

the Free^ School of Music, a most interesting 
experiment. It has been said that this institu- 
tion was established in rivalry with the Con- 
servatoire. The concerts given in connection 
with it, and conducted by its two initiators, 
were certainly much less conservative than those 
of the official organisation of the I. R. M. S. At 
the same time it must be borne in mind that 
during the 'sixties there was a great movement 
" towards the people," and that an enthusi- 
astic temperament such as Balakirev's could 
hardly have escaped the passionate altruistic 
impulse which was stirring society. Individual 
effort, long restricted by official despotism, was 
becoming active in every direction. Between 
1860-1870 a number of philanthropic schools 
were established in Russia, and the Free School, 
with its avowed aim of defending indivi- 
dual tendencies and upholding the cause of 
national music, was reaUy only one manifestation 
of a widespread sentiment. 

Other important events which Rimsky- 
Korsakov missed during his three years' cruise 
were the first production of Serov's opera 
Judith, and Wagner's visit to the Russian capital 
when he conducted the orchestra of the Phil- 
harmonic Society. 

At this time, with the sole exception of 
Balakirev, every member of the nationalist circle 
Free in the sense of offering gratuitous instruction. 



192 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

was earning his living by other means than 
music. Cui was an officer of Engineers, and 
added to his modest income by coaching. 
Moussorgsky was a lieutenant in the Preobra- 
jensky Guards. Rimsky-Korsakov was in the 
Imperial navy, and Borodin was a professor of 
chemistry. 

Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin soon became 
intimate, notwithstanding the ten years dif- 
ference in their ages. The former gives an 
interesting picture of the composer of Prince 
Igor, whose life was divided between chemistry 
and music, to both of which he was sincerely 
attached. " I often found him at work in his 
laboratory," writes Rimsky-Korsakov, " which 
communicated directly with his dwelling. 
When he was seated before his retorts, which 
were filled with colourless gases of some kind, 
forcing them by means of tubes from one vessel 
to another, I used to tell him he was spending 
his time in pouring water into a sieve. As soon 
as he was free he would take me to his living- 
rooms and there we occupied ourselves with 
music and conversation, in the midst of which 
Borodin would rush off to the laboratory to 
make sure that nothing was burning or boiling 
over, making the corridor ring as he went with 
some extraordinary passage of ninths or seconds. 
Then back again for more music and talk," 
Borodin's life, between his scientific work, his 



BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 193 

constant attendance at all kinds of boards and 
committee meetings/ and his musical interests, 
was strenuous beyond description. Rimsky- 
Korsakov, who grudged his great gifts to any- 
thing but music, says : " My heart is torn when 
I look at his life, exhausted by his continual self- 
sacrifice." He was endowed with great physical 
endurance and was utterly careless of his health. 
Sometimes he would dine twice in one day, if 
he chanced to call, upon friends at mealtimes. 
On other occasions he would only remember at 
9 p.m. that he had forgotten to take any food 
at all during the day. The hospitable board of 
the Borodins was generally besieged and stormed 
by cats, who sat on the table and helped them- 
selves as they pleased, while their complacent 
owners related to their human guests the chief 
events in the biography of their feline convives. 
Borodin's wife was a woman of culture, and 
an accomplished pianist, who had profound 
faith in her husband's genius. Their married 
life was spoiled only by her failing health, 
for she suffered terribly from asthma and was 
obliged to spend most of the winter months in the 
drier air of Moscow, which meant long periods 
of involuntary separation from her husband. 
Another meeting place of Balakirev's circle 

* He was a warm advocate of the higher education of 
women, and one of the founders of the School of Medicine 
for Women at St. Petersburg. 

O 



194 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

was at the house of Lioudmilla IvanoVna 
Shestakov, Glinka's married sister. Here, be- 
sides the composers, came several excellent 
singers, mostly amateurs, including the sisters 
Karmalina and Mme. S. I. Zotov, for whom 
Rimsky-Korsakov wrote several of his early 
songs. Among those who sympathised with the 
aims of the nationalists were the Pourgold 
family, consisting of a rhother and three 
daughters, two of whom were highly accompHshed 
musicians. Alexandra Nicholaevna had a fine 
mezzo-soprano voice with high notes. She sang 
the songs of Cui, Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov 
with wonderful sympathy and insight, and 
"created" most of the female parts in the 
operas of " the mighty band " in the days when 
they had to be satisfied with drawing-room per- 
formances of their works. But her strong point 
was the interpretation of Moussorgsky's songs, 
which was a revelation of the composer's depth of 
feeling and close observation of real life and 
natural declamation. I had the privilege of 
visiting this gifted woman in later years when 
she was Mme. Molas,^ and I can never forget the 
impression made upon me by her rendering of 
Moussorgsky's songs, "The Orphan," " Mush- 

1 She married a naval officer, the Admiral Molas who 
went down in the flagship Petropavlovsk at the entrance of 
the harbour of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese war. 
With him perished the great war painter, Vassily Verest- 
chagin. 



BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 195 

rooming," " Yeremoushka's Cradle Song/' and 
more especially of the realistic pictures of 
child-life entitled "The Nursery." Her sister 
Nadejda Nicholaevna, who became Mme. 
Rimsky-Korsakov, was a pupil of Herke and 
Zaremba, Tchaikovsky's first master for theory. 
An excellent pianist and sight-reader, a musician 
to her finger-tips, she was always available as an 
accompanist when any new work by a member 
of the brotherhood needed a trial performance. 
She was also a skilful arranger of orchestral 
and operatic works for pianoforte.^ The Pour- 
golds were devoted friends of Dargomijsky, and 
during the autumn of 1868 the entire circle met 
almost daily at his house, to which he was more 
or less confined by his rapidly faiUng health. 

I have spoken of so many friends of " the 
mighty band " that it might be supposed that 
their movement was a popular one. This was 
not the case. With the exception of Stassov 
and Cui, who in their different styles did useful 
literary work for their circle, all the critics of 
the day, and the academical powers en bloc, 
were opposed to these musical Ishmaelites. 
Serov and Laroche carried weight, and were 
■opponents worth fighting. TheophU Tolstoy 

' Mme. Rimsky-Korsakov still takes an active interest in 
musical questions. Articles over her initials often appear 
in the Russian musical papers, and recently she has taken 
up her pen in defence of her husband's editorial work for 
Moussorgsky's operas. 



196 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

(" Rostislav ") and Professor Famitzin, although, 
they wrote for important papers, represented 
musical criticism in Russia at its lowest ebb, 
and would be wholly forgotten but for the 
spmrious immortality conferred upon them in 
Moussorgsky's musical satire " The Peepshow." 
Nor was Anton Rubinstein's attitude to the new 
school either just or generous. Tchaikovsky, 
who, during the first years of their struggle for 
existence, was occupying the position of professor 
of harmony at the Moscow Conservatoire, started 
with more friendly feelings towards the brother- 
hood. His s5ntnphonic poem " Romeo and 
Juliet " (1870) was written imder the influence 
of Balakirev, and his s5anphonic poem "The 
Tempest " (1873) was suggested by Vladimir 
Stassov. But as time went on, Tchaikovsky 
stood more and more aloof from the circle, and 
in his correspondence and criticisms he shows 
himself contemptuous and inimical to their 
ideals and achievements, especially to Mous- 
sorgsky, the force of whose innate genius he 
never imderstood. Throughout the 'sixties, the 
sohdarity between the members of Balakirev's 
set was so complete that they could afford to 
live and work happily although surrounded 
by a hostile atmosphere. Rimsky-Korsakov's 
" Chronicle " of these early days of tens reminds 
us of the history of our own pre-Raphaelite 
Brotherhood, and we are moved to admire the 



BALAKIREV AND HIS DISCIPLES 197 

devotion with which the members worked for 
one another and for the advancement of their 
common cause. A more ideal movement it would 
be diflScult to find in the whole history of art, 
and all the works produced at this time were 
the outcome of single-minded and clear con- 
victions, uninfluenced by the hope of pecuniary 
gain, and with little prospect of popular appre- 
ciation. 



CHAPTER IX 

GRADUAL DISSOLUTION OF THE CIRCLE OF 
FRIENDS 

IT is difficult to fix the exact moment at 
which the httle "rift within the lute" 
became audible in the harmony of Bala- 
kirev's circle. In 1872 Balakirev himself was 
in full opposition on many points with the 
policy of the I. R. M. S. and was maintaining 
his series of concerts in connection with the 
Free School in avowed rivalry with the senior 
institution. His programmes were highly in- 
teresting and their tendency progressive, but the 
public was indifferent, and his pecuniary losses 
heavy. In the autumn of that year he organ- 
ised a concert at Nijny-Novgorod in which he 
appeared as a pianist, hoping that for once a 
prophet might not only find honour but sub- 
stantial support in his own country. He was 
doomed to disappointment; the room was 
empty and Balakirev used to allude to this 
unfortunate event as " my Sedan," He re- 
turned to St. Petersburg in low spirits and began 
to hold aloof from his former friends and pupils. 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 199 

Eventually — so it is said — he took a clerkship 
in the railway service. At this period of his life 
he began to be preoccupied with those mystical 
ideas which absorbed him more or less until 
the end of his days. 

After a time he returned to the musical life, 
and in the letters of Borodin and in Rimsky- 
Korsakov's " Chronicle " we get glimpses of 
the old ardent propagandist " Mily Alexe'ich." 
From 1867 to 1869 he was Director of the 
Imperial Chapel. But a few years later he 
again separated from his circle and this time 
he shut himself off definitely from society, 
emerging only on rare occasions to play at some 
charity concert, or visit the house of one of the 
few friends with whom he was still in sympathy. 
It was during these years that I first met him at 
the Stassovs' house. So few strangers ever 
came in contact with Mily Balakirev that I 
may be excused for giving my own personal 
impressions of this remarkable man. 

From the moment when I first began to study 
Russian music, Balakirev's personality and 
genius exercised a great fascination for me. 
He was the spark from whence proceeded not 
only a musical conflagration but the warmth 
of my own poor enthusiasm. Naturally I was 
anxious to meet this attractive, yet self-isolated 
personality. It was an early summer's evening 
in St. Petersburg in 1901, and the excuses for the 



200 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

gathering were a birthday in the Stassov family, 
and the presence of an EngUsh enthusiast for 
Russian music. Balakirev was expected about 
9 p.m. Stassov left the grand piano open like 
a trap set for a shy bird. He seemed to think 
that it would ensnare Mily Alexe'ich as the 
limed twig ensnares the bullfinch. The ruse 
was successful. After greeting us all round, 
Balakirev gravitated almost immediately to the 
piano. " I'm going to play three sonatas," 
he announced without further ceremony, " Beet- 
hoven's Appassionata, Chopin's B minor, and 
Schumann No. 3, in G minor." Then he began 
to play. 

Balakirev was rather short. I do not know 
his pedigree, but he did not belong to the tall, 
fair type of Great Russia. There was to my 
mind a touch of the oriental about him : Tatar, 
perhaps, not Jewish. His figure was thickset, 
but his face was worn and thin, and his com- 
plexion brownish ; his air somewhat weary and 
nervous. He looked like a man who strained 
his mental energies almost to breaking point ; 
but his eyes — I do not remember their colour — 
were extraordinarily magnetic, full of fire and 
sjnnpathy, the eyes of the seer and the bard. 
As he sat at the piano he recalled for a moment 
my last remembrance of Hans von Biilow. Some- 
thing, too, in his style of playing confirmed|this 
impression. He was not a master of sensational 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 201 

technique like Paderewski or Rosenthal. His 
execution was irreproachable, but one did not 
think of his virtuosity in hearing him play for 
the first time ; nor did he, as I expected, carry 
me away on a whirlwind of fiery emotion. A 
nature so ardent could not be a cold executant, 
but he had neither the emotional force nor the 
poetry of expression which were the leading 
characteristics of Rubinstein's art . What struck 
me most in Balakirev, and reminded me of 
Biilow, was the intelligence, the sympathy, and 
the authority of his interpretations. He ob- 
served, analysed, and set the work in a lucid 
atmosphere. He might have adopted Stendhal's 
formula : " Voir clair dans ce qui est." It 
would be wrong, however, to think of Balakirev 
as a dry pedagogue. If he was a professor, he 
was an enlightened one — a sympathetic and 
inspired interpreter who knew how to recon- 
struct in imagination the period and personality 
of a composer instead of substituting his 
own. 

Having finished his rather arduous but self- 
imposed programme, we were all afraid that 
he might disappear as quietly as he came. An 
inspiration on my part to address him some re- 
marks, in extremely ungrammatical Russian, on 
the subject of his songs and their wonderful, inde- 
pendent accompaniments, sent him back to the 
piano, where he continued to converse with me, 



202 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

illustrating his words with examples of unusual 
rh5^hms employed in his songs, and gliding 
half unconsciously into some of his own and other 
people's compositions. He could not be per- 
suaded to play me " Islamey," the Oriental 
Fantasia beloved of Liszt, but I remember one 
delicate and graceful valse which he had 
recently written. By this time the samovar 
was bubbling on the table and the room was filled 
with the perfume of tea and lemon. Happily 
Balakirev showed no signs of departure. He 
took his place at the table and talked with all 
his old passion of music in general, but chiefly 
of the master who had dominated the renais- 
sance of Russian music — ^Michael Ivanovich 
Glinka. 

Russians love to prolong their hospitality until 
far into the night. But in May the nights in 
St. Petersburg are white and spectral. At mid- 
night the world is steeped in a strange light, 
neither twilight nor dawn, but something like 
the ghost of the departed day haunting the 
night that has slain it. Instead of dreams 
one's mind is fiUed with fantastic ideas. As I 
drove home through the streets, as light as in 
the daytime, I imagined that Balakirev was a 
wizard who had carried me back to the past— 
to the stirring period of the 'sixties so full of 
faith and generous hopes — ^so strong was the 
conviction that I had been actually taking part 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 203 

in the struggles and triumphs of the new Russian 

school.^ 

After this I never entirely lost sight of Bala- 

kirev. We corresponded from time to time and 

he was always anxious to hear the fate of his 

music in this country. Unfortunately I could 

seldom reassure him on this point, for his works 

have never roused much enthusiasm in the 

British public. He died on Sunday, May 29th, 

1910. I had not long arrived in Petersburg 

when I heard that he was suffering from a severe 

chill with serious complications. Every day 

I hoped to hear that he was on the road to 

recovery and able to see me. But on the i6th 

I received from him a few pencilled lines — 

probably the last he ever wrote— in which he 

spoke of his great weakness and said the doctor 

still forbade him to see his friends. From that 

time until his death, he saw no one but Dimitri 

Vassileivich, Stassov's surviving brother, and 

his devoted friend and pupU Liapounov. He 

died, as he had lived for many years, alone, 

except for his faithful old housekeeper. He 

departed a true and faithful son of the Orthodox 

Church. In spite of his having spent nearly 

twenty years of his life in pietistic retirement, 

the news of his death reawakened the interest 

1 These impressions are taken from an article of mine (in 
French) published in the Sammelbande der Intemationalen 
MusikGesellschaft(Jahrgang IV. Heft I.),October-Dezember 
1902. Leipzig, Breitkopf and Hartel. 



204 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

of his compatriots. From the time of his 
passing away until his funeral his modest 
bachelor apartments could hardly contain the 
stream of people of all ages and classes who 
wished to take part in the short services held 
twice a day in the death chamber of the master. 
He was buried in the Alexander Nevsky Ceme- 
tery, not far from the graves of Dargomijsky, 
Glinka and Stassov. 

The true reason for the loosening of the bonds 
between Balakirev and his former pupils cannot 
be ascribed to differences in their religious 
opinions. It was rather the inevitable result 
of the growth of artistic individuality. Bala- 
kirev could not realise this, and was disenchanted 
by the gradual neglect of his co-operative ideal. 
Borodin took a broad and sensible view of the 
matter in writing to one of the sisters Karma- 
lina in 1876 : — " It is clear that there are no 
rivalries or personal differences between us ; this 
would be impossible on account of the respect 
we have for each other. It is thus in every 
branch of human activity ; in proportion to 
its development, individuality triumphs over 
the schools, over the heritage that men have 
gathered from their masters. A hen's eggs 
are all alike ; the chickens differ somewhat, 
and in time cease to resemble each other at all. 
One hatches out a dark-plumed truculent cock, 
another a white and peaceful hen. It is the 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 205 

same with us. We have all derived from the 
circle in which we lived the common character- 
istics of genus and species ; but each of us, like 
an adult cock or hen, bears his own character 
and individuality. If, on this account, we are 
thought to have separated from Balakirev, 
fortunately it is not the case. We are as fond 
of him as ever, and spare no pains to keep up 
the same relations as before. As to us, we 
continue to interest ourselves in each other's 
musical works. If we are not always pleased 
it is quite natural, for tastes differ, and even 
in the same person vary with age. It could 
not be otherwise." 

The situation was no doubt rendered more 
difficult by Balakirev's unaccommodating atti- 
tude. " With his despotic character," says 
Rimsky-Korsakov, " he demanded that every 
work should be modelled precisely according 
to his instructions, with the result that a large 
part of a composition often belonged to him 
rather than to its author. We obeyed him 
without question, for his personality was irre- 
sistible." It was inevitable that, as time went 
on and the members of " the mighty band " 
found themselves less in need of guidance in 
their works than of practical assistance in 
bringing them before the public, Balakirev's 
circle should have beconie Belaiev's circle, 
and that the Maecenas publisher and concert- 



2o6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

giver should by degrees have acquired a pre- 
ponderating influence in the nationalist school. 
This change took place during the 'eighties. 

Mitrofane Petrovich Belaiev, born February 
loth, 1836, was a wealthy timber merchant, 
with a sincere love of music. He was an excep- 
tion to the type of the Russian commercial 
man of his day, having studied the violin and 
piano in his youth and found time amid the 
demands of a large business to occupy his 
leisure with chamber music. My recollections 
of Belaiev recall a brusque, energetic and some- 
what choleric personality of the " rough dia- 
mond" type; a passionate, but rather indis- 
criminate, enthusiast, and an autocrat. Wishing 
to give some practical support to the cause of 
national music, he founded a publishing house 
in Leipzig in 1885 where he brought out a great 
number of works by the members of the then 
new school, including a fine edition of Borodin's 
Prince Igor. He also founded the Russian 
Symphony Concerts, the programmes of which 
were drawn exclusively from the works of native 
composers. In 1889 he organised the Russian 
Concerts given with success at the Paris Exhibi- 
tion ; and started the " Quartet Evenings " in 
St. Petersburg in 1891. Borodin, Rimsky- 
Korsakov, Glazounov and Liadov wrote a 
string quartet in his honour, on the notes B-la-f. 
Belaiev died in 1904, but the Leipzig house still 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 207 

continues its work under its original manager, 
Herr Scheffer. 

Undoubtedly Belaiev exercised a powerful 
influence on the destinies of Russian music. 
Whether he was better fitted to be the central 
point of its activities at a certain stage of its 
development than Balakirev is a question which 
happily I am not called upon to decide. Money 
and business capacity are useful, perhaps indis- 
pensable, adjuncts to artistic progress in the 
present day, but they can never wholly take the 
place of enthusiasm and unstinted devotion. 
" Les choses de I'dme n'ont pas de prix," says 
Renan ; nevertheless there is a good deal of 
bidding done for them in this commercial age. 
It is easy to understand the bitterness of heart 
with which the other-worldly and unconformable 
Balakirev saw the members of his school passing 
one by one into " the circle of Belaiev." He had 
steered the ship of their fortunes through the 
storms and shoals that beset its early ventures ; 
but another was to guide it into the haven of 
prosperity and renown. Rimsky-Korsakov, in 
his " Chronicle of my Musical Life," makes his 
recantation of old ideals and enthusiasms in the 
following terms : " Balakirev's circle was revolu- 
tionary; Belaiev's progressive. Balakirev's dis- 
ciples numbered five ; Belaiev's circle was more 
numerous, and continued to grow in numbers. 
All the five musicians who constituted the older 



2o8 ' THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

school were eventually acknowledged as leading 
representatives of Russian music ; the later 
circle was made up of more varied elements ; 
some of its representatives were men of great 
creative gifts, others were less talented, and a 
few were not even composers, but conductors, 
like Diitsh, or executants like Lavrov. Bala- 
kirev's circle consisted of musicians who were 
weak — almost amateurish — on the technical side, 
who forced their way to the front by the sheer 
force of their creative gifts ; a force which 
sometimes replaced technical knowledge, and 
sometimes — as was frequently the case with 
Moussorgsky — did not suffice to cover their de- 
ficiences in this respect. Belaiev's circle, on the 
contrary, was made up of musicians who were 
well equipped and thoroughly educated. Bala- 
kirev's pupils did not interest themselves in any 
music prior to Beethoven's time ; Belaiev's 
followers not only honoured their musical 
fathers, but their remoter ancestors, reaching 
back to Palestrina. . . . The relations of the 
earlier circle to its chief were those of pupils to 
their teacher ; Belaiev was rather our centre 
than our head. ... He was a Maecenas, but 
not an aristocrat Maecenas, who throws away 
money on art to please his own caprices and 
in reality does nothing to serve its interests. 
In what he did he stood on firm and honour- 
able ground. He organised his concerts and 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 209 

publishing business without the smallest con- 
sideration for his personal profit. On the con- 
trary, he sacrificed large sums of money, while 
concealing himself as far as possible from the 
public eye. . . . We were drawn to Belaiev by 
his personality, his devotion to art, and his 
wealth ; not for its own sake but as the means 
to an end, applied to lofty and irreproachable 
aims, which made him the central attraction 
of a new musical circle which had only a few 
hereditary ties with the original ' invincible 
band.' " 

This is no doubt a sincere statement of the 
relations between Belaiev and the modern 
Russian school, and it is only fair to quote this 
tribute to his memory. At the same time, when 
the history of Russian music comes to be written 
later in the century, both sides of the question 
will have to be taken into consideration. My 
own views on some of the disadvantages of 
the patronage system I have already expressed 
in the " Edinburgh Review " for July 1912, 
and I venture to repeat them here : 

" He wha pays the piper will, directly or 
indirectly, call the tune. If he be a Maecenas 
of wide culture and liberal tastes he will perhaps 
call a variety of tunes ; if, on the other hand, he 
be a home-keeping millionaire with a narrowly 
patriotic outlook he will call only for tunes that 
awaken a familiar echo in his heart. So an 

p 



210 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

edict — maybe an unspoken one — goes forth that 
a composer who expects his patronage must 
always write in the ' native idiom ' ; which is 
equivalent to laying down the law that a painter's 
pictures will be disqualified for exhibition if 
he uses more colours on his palette than those 
which appear in his country's flag. Something 
of this kind occurred in the ultra-national 
school of music in Russia, and was realised by 
some of its most fervent supporters as time 
went on. It is not difficult to trace signs of 
fatigue and perfunctoriness in the later works 
of its representatives. At times the burden 
of nationality seems to hang heavy on their 
shoulders ; the perpetual burning of incense 
to one ideal dulled the alertness of their artistic 
sensibilities. Less grew out of that splendid 
outburst of patriotic feeling in the 'sixties than 
those who hailed its first manifestations had 
reason to anticipate. Its bases were probably 
too narrowly exclusive to support an edifice 
of truly imposing dimensions. Gradually the 
inevitable has happened. The younger men 
threw off the restrictions of the folk-song 
school, and sought new ideas from the French 
symbolists, or the reahsm of Richard Strauss. 
There is very little native idiom, although there 
are still distinctive features of the national 
style, in the work of such latter day composer^; 
as Scriabin, Tcherepnin and Medtner. The 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 211 

physiognomy of Russian music is changing 
day by day, and although it is full of interest, 
one would welcome a development on larger 
and more independent lines." 

In 1867 Nicholas Lodyjensky joined the 
circle. He was a young amateur gifted with 
a purdy Ijnrical tendency, who played the piano 
remarkably well and improvised fluently. He 
composed a number of detached pieces and 
put together some fragments of a symphony 
and an opera, on the subject of " The False 
pimitrius." Rimsky-Korsakov says his music 
showed a grace and beauty of expression which 
attracted the attention of the nationalist group, 
especially the music for the Wedding Scene of 
Dimitrius and Marina, and a setting for solo and 
chorus of Lermontov's " Roussalka" (The Water 
Sprite). But Lodyjensky, like Goussakovsky, 
was a typical dilettante ; almost inspired, but 
unable to concentrate on the completion of any 
important work. After a time he dropped out 
of the circle, probably because he had to earn 
his living in some other way, and the strain of 
a dual vocation discouraged all but the very 
strongest musical spirits.^ 

A musician of greater reputation who was 
partly attached to the nationalists was Anatol 
Liadov, whose work does not include any 
operatic composition. 

1 In 1908 he was Russian consul at New York. 



212 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Whatever the changes in the constitution 
of the nationalist party, Vladimir Stassov 
remained its faithful adherent through all 
vicissitudes. Some account of this interesting 
personality wUl not be out of place in a history 
of Russian opera. Vladimir Vassilievich Stas- 
sov, who may be called the godfather of Rus- 
sian music — ^he stood sponsor for so many com- 
positions of all kinds — ^was born in St. Peters- 
burg, January 14th, 1825. He originally intended 
to follow his father's profession and become 
an architect. But eventually he was educated 
at the School of Jurisprudence and afterwards 
went abroad for a time. He studied art in many 
centres, but chiefly in Italy, and wrote a few 
articles during his travels. He returned to 
St. Petersburg, having acquired a command 
of many languages and laid the foundation of 
his wide critical knowledge. For a time he 
frequented the Imperial Public Library, St. 
Petersburg, where his industry and enthusiasm 
attracted the notice of the Director, Barop 
Korf , who invited him to become his temporary 
assistant. Subsequently Stassov entered the 
service of the Library and became head of the 
department of Fine Arts. This, at least, was 
his title, although at the time when I knew him 
his jurisdiction seemed to have no defined 
limits. A man of wide ciilture, of strong con- 
victions and fearless utterance, he was a power 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 213 

in his day. Physically he had a fine appear- 
ance, being a typical Russian of the old school. 
The students at the Library used to call him the 
Bogatyr^ or with more irreverence the " Father," 
for he might have sat as an ideal model for the 
conventional representations of the First Person 
of the Trinity. Stassov's views on art were 
always on the large side ; but they were some- 
times extreme and paradoxical. In polemics 
his methods were fierce, but not ungenerous. 
He was a kind of Slavonic Dr. Samuel Johnson, 
and there were times when one might as well 
have tried to argue calmly with the Car of 
Juggernaut. Those who were timid, inarticu- 
late, or physically incapable of sustaining a long 
discussion, would creep away from his too- 
vigorous presence feeling bafiied and hurt, and 
nursing a secret resentment. This was unfortun- 
ate, for Stassov loved and respected a relentless 
opponent, and only those who held their own 
to the bitter end enjoyed the fine experience, of a 
reconciliation with him. And how helpful, 
considerate and generous he was in dispensing 
from his rich stores of knowledge, or his modest 
stores of worldly possessions, there must be 
many to testify ; for his private room at the 
PubUc Library was the highway of those in 
search of counsel or assistance of any kind. 

^ The Bogatyri were the heroes of ancient and legendary 
days. 



214 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

He had a remarkable faculty for imparting to 
others a passion for work, a most beneficial 
power in the days when dilettantism was one 
of the worst banes of Russian society. In his 
home, too, he clung to the old national ideal of 
hospitality for all who needed it, and no ques- 
tions asked. With all his rugged strength of 
character he had moments of childlike vanity 
when he loved to appear before his admiring 
guests attired in the embroidered scarlet shirt, 
wide velveteen knickers and high boots which 
make up the holiday costume of the Russian 
peasant ; or dressed like a boyard of old. With 
all this, he was absolutely free from the snobbish- 
ness which is sometimes an unpleasant feature 
of the Russian chinovnik, or official. Naturally 
many stories were related of Vladimir Stassov, 
but I have only space for two short anecdotes 
here. The first illustrates the Russian weakness 
for hot, and often futile, discussion ; the second, 
Stassov's enthusiasm for art and indifference 
to social conventions. 

Once he had been arguing with Tourgeniev, 
whose cosmopolitan and rather supercilious atti- 
tude towards the art of young Russia infuriated 
the champion of nationalism. At last Tour- 
geniev, wearied perhaps with what he called 
" this chewing of dried grass," and suffering 
acutely from rheumatic gout, showed signs of 
yielding to Stassov's onslaughts. " There," 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 215 

cried the latter triumphantly, " now I see you 
agree with me ! " This acted like the dart 
planted in the hide of the weary or reluctant 
bull. Tourgeniev sprang from his chair and 
shuffled on his bandaged feet to the window, 
exclaiming : " Agree with you indeed ! If I 
felt I was beginning to think like you, I should 
fiing open the window (here he suited the action 
to the word) and scream to the passers-by, ' Take 
me to a lunatic asylum ! I agree with 
Stassov ! ! '" 

On another occasion " Vladimir Vassilich " re- 
turned late one evening from his country cottage 
at Pargolovo, without troubling to change the 
national dress which he usually wore there. 
This costume was looked upon with disfavour 
in the capital, as savouring of a too-advanced 
Uberalism and sympathy with the people. On 
arriving home, his family reminded him that 
Rubinstein was playing that night at a concert 
of the I. R. M. S. and that by the time he had 
changed he would be almost too late to hear 
him. "I cannot miss Rubinstein," said Vladimir 
Vassilich, " I must go as I am." In vain his 
family expostulated, assuring him that " an 
exalted personage " and the whole Court would 
be there, and consequently he must put on more 
correct attire. " / will not miss Rubinstein," 
was all the answer they got for their pains. 
And Stassov duly appeared in the Salle de la 



2i6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Noblesse in a red shirt with an embroidery of 
cocks and hens down the front. He was for- 
given such breaches of etiquette for the sake of 
his true nobility and loyalty of heart. 

Such was the doughty champion of the 
nationalists through good and evil fortune. 
His writings on musical questions form only a 
small part of his literary output, the result of 
over sixty years of indefatigable industry; 
for he was an authority on painting, architec- 
ture and design. Like Nestor, the faithful 
chronicler of mediaeval Russia, he worked 
early and late. He did great service to native 
art by carefully collecting at the Imperial 
Pubhc Library all the original manuscript 
scores of the Russian composers, their cor- 
respondence, and every document that might 
afterwards serve historians of the move- 
ment. He was the first to write an important 
monograph on Glinka, and this, together with 
his book on Borodin, his exhaustive articles 
on Dargomijsky and Moussorgsky, and his 
general surveys of musical progress in Russia, 
are indispensable sources of first-hand informa- 
tion for those who would study the question 
of Russian music a fonds} As a critic, time has 
proved that, in spite of his ardent crusade on 

' Collected Works (Sobranye Sochinenie, 4 volumes)^ 
"Twenty-five years of Russian Art" (musical section), 
Vol. I. " In the Tracks of Russian Art " (musical section), 



MEMORIES OF BALAKIREV'S CIRCLE 217 

behalf of modernism and nationality, his judg- 
ments were usually sound ; as an historian he 
was painstaking and accurate ; as regards his 
appreciation of contemporary art, he showed a 
remarkable flair for latent talent, and sensed 
originaUty even when deeply overlaid by crudity 
of thought and imperfect workmanship. He 
was apparently the first to perceive the true 
genius and power concealed under the foppish- 
ness and dilettantism of Moussorgsky's early 
manhood. He considered that neither Bala- 
kirev, Cui, nor Rimsky-Korsakov appreciated 
the composer of Boris Godounov at his full 
value. He upheld him against aU contemptuous 
and adverse criticism, and the ultimate triumph 
of Moussorgsky's works was one of the articles 
in his artistic creed. 



Vol. I. " A. S. Dargomijsky." " A. N, Serov." " Gabriel 
Lomakin." " Perov and Moussorgsky " (Vol. II.), are among 
his chief contributions to musical literature. But there are 
a number of critical -articles on first performances, etc., 
which cannot be enumerated here. 



CHAPTER X 

MOUSSORGSKY 

WE have seen that Glinka and Dargomij- 
sky represented two distinct tend- 
encies in Russian operatic music. 
The one was lyrical and idealistic ; the other 
declamatory and realistic. It would seem that 
Glinka's qualities were those more commonly 
tj^ical of the Russian musical temperament, 
since, in the second generation of composers, his 
disciples outnumbered those of Dargomijsky, who 
had actually but one close adherent : Modeste 
Moussorgsky. Cui, Borodin and Rimsky-Kor- 
sakov were all — as we shall see when we come 
to a more detailed analysis of their works — 
attracted in varying degrees to melodic and 
lyric opera. Although in the first flush of 
enthusiasm for Dargomij sky's music-drama The 
Stone Guest — ^which Lenz once described, as " a 
recitative in three acts " — ^the younger nation- 
aUsts were disposed to adopt it as "the 
Gospel of the New School," Moussorgsky alone 
made a decisive attempt to bring into practice 
the theories embodied in this work. Taking 



MOUSSORGSKY 219 

Dargomij sky's now famous dictum : / want the 
note to be the direct representation of the word — I 
want truth and realism, as his starting-point, 
Moussorgsky proceeded to carry it to a logical 
conclusion. Rimsky-Korsakov speaks of his 
having passed through an early phase of idealism 
when he composed his Fantasia for piano "St. 
John's Eve " (afterwards remodelled for orches- 
tra and now known as " Night on the Bare 
Mountain"), " The Destruction of Sennacherib," 
and the song " Night," to a poem by Poushkin. 
But although at first he may not have been so 
consciously occupied in the creation of what 
Rimsky-Korsakov calls " grey music," it is 
evident that no sooner had he found his feet, 
technically speaking, than he gripped fast hold 
of one dominant idea — ^the closer relationship 
of music with actual life. Henceforward musical 
psychology became the absorbing problem of his 
art, to which he devoted himself with all the 
ardour of a self-confident and headstrong nature. 
In a letter to Vladimir Stassov, dated October 
1872, he reveals his artistic intentions in the 
following words : " Assiduously to seek the 
more delicate and subtle features of human 
nature — of the human crowd — ^to follow them 
into unknown regions, and make them our own : 
this seems to me the true vocation of the artist. 
Through the storm, past shoal and sunken 
rock, make for new shores without fear, against 



220 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

all hindrance ! ... In the mass of humanity, 
as in the individual, there are always some subtle 
impalpable features which have been passed by, 
unobserved, untouched by anyone. To mark 
these and study them, by reading, by actual 
observation, by intuition — ^in other words, to 
feed upon humanity as a healthy diet which 
has been neglected — ^there lies the whole problem 
of art." However greatly we may disagree with 
Moussorgsky's aesthetic point of view, we 
must confess that he Carried out his theories 
with logical sequence, and with the unflinching 
courage of a clear conviction. His operas 
and his songs are human documents which 
bear witness to the spirit of their time as clearly 
as any of the great works of fiction which were 
then agitating the public conscience. In this 
connection I may repeat what I have said else- 
where : that " had the realistic schools of 
painting and fiction never come into being 
through the efforts of Perov, Repin, Dostoiev- 
sky and Chernichevsky, we might still recon- 
struct from Moussorgsky's works the whole 
psychology of Russian life." ^ 

In order to understand his work and his 
attitude toVs^ards art, it is necessary to realise 
something of the period in which Moussorgsky 
lived. He was a true son of his time, that 

1 My article on Moussorgsky in Grove's " Dictionary of 
Music." 



MOUSSORGSKY 221 

stirring time of the 'sixties which followed the 
emancipation of the serfs, and saw all Russian 
society agitated by the new, powerful stimulants 
of individual freedom and fraternal sympathy. 
Of the little group of musicians then striving 
to give utterance to their freshly awakened 
patriotism, none was so passionately stirred by 
the literary and political movements of the time 
as this born folk-composer. Every man, save 
the hide-bound official, or the frivolous imitator 
of Byron and Lermontov, was asking himself 
in the title of the most popular novel of the 
day : " What shall we do ? " And the answer 
given to them was as follows : " Throw aside 
artistic and social conventions. Bring down 
Art from the Olympian heights and make her 
the handmaid of humanity. Seek not beauty 
but truth. Go to the people. Hold oat the 
hand of fellowship to the liberated masses and 
learn from them the true purpose of life." The 
ultra romanticism of Joukovsky and Karamzin, 
the affectation of Byronism, and the all too 
aristocratic demeanour of the admirers of 
Poushkin, invited this reaction. Men turned 
with disgust to sincere and simple things. The 
poets led the way : Koltsov and Nikitin with 
their songs of peasant life ; Nekrassov with his 
revolt against creeds and social conventions. 
The prose writers and painters followed, and 
the new spirit invaded music when it found 



222 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

a congenial soil in Moussorgsky's sincere and 
unsophisticated nature. Of the young nation- 
alist school, he was the one eminently fitted by 
temperament and early education to give expres- 
sion in music to this democratic and utilitarian 
tendency ; this contempt for the dand5dsm and 
dilettantism of the past generation ; and, above 
all, to this deep compassion for " the humili- 
ated and offended." 

Modeste Moussorgsky was born March 16/28, 
1839, at Karevo, in the government of Pskov. 
He was of good family, but comparatively poor. 
His chUdhood was spent amid rural surround- 
ings, and not only the music of the people, 
but their characteristics, good and bad, were 
impressed upon his mind from his earliest years. 
He was equally conversant with the folk 
literature, and often lay awake at night, his 
youthful imagination over-excited by his nurse's 
tales of witches, water-sprites and wood-demons. 
This was the seedtime of that wonderful harvest 
of national music which he gave to his race as 
soon as he had shaken off the superficial 
influences of the fashionable society into which 
he drifted for a time. His father, who died in 
1853, was not opposed to Modeste's musical 
education, which was carried on at first by his 
mother, an excellent pianist. The young man 
entered the Preobrajensky Guards, one of the 
smartest regiments in the service, before he was 



MOUSSORGSKY 223 

eighteen. Borodin met him for the first time 
at this period of his existence and described him 
in a letter to Stassov as a typical military 
dandy, playing selections from Verdi's operas 
to an audience of appreciative ladies. He met 
him again two or three years later, when all 
traces of foppishness had disappeared, and 
Moussorgsky astonished him by announcing 
his intention of devoting his whole life to music ; 
an announcement which Borodin did not take 
seriously at the time. During the interval 
Moussorgsky had been frequenting Dargomij- 
sky's musical evenings, where he met Balakirev, 
under whose inspiring influence he had under- 
gone something like a process of conversion, 
casting the slough of dandyism, and becoming 
the most assiduous of workers. 

While intercourse with Dargomijsky con- 
tributed to the forced maturing of Moussorg- 
sky's ideas about music, the circumstances of 
his life still hindered his technical development. 
But he was progressing. His early letters to 
Cui and Stassov show how deeply and indepen- 
dently he had already thought out certain 
problems of his art. Meanwhile Balakirev 
carried on his musical education in a far more 
effective fashion than has ever been admitted 
by those who claim that Moussorgsky was 
whoUy self-taught, or, in other words, completely 
ignorant of his craft. The " Symphonic Inter- 



224 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

mezzo," composed in 1861, shows how insisten 
and thorough was Balakirev's determinatioi 
that his pupils should grasp the principles 
tradition before setting up as innovators. Hen 
we have a sound piece of workmanship, showing 
clear traces of Bach's influence ; the middl( 
movement, founded on a national air, beinj 
very original in its development, but kep1 
strictly within classical form. His earliest oper- 
atic attempt, dating from his schooldays, anc 
based upon Victor Hugo's " Han d'lslandl' 
was quite abortive as regards the music. Oi 
the incidental music to " CEdipus," suggested 
by Balakirev, we have Stassov's testimony thai 
a few numbers were actually written down, and 
performed at some of the friendly gatherings oi 
the nationalist circle ; only one, however, has 
been preserved, a chorus sung by the people 
outside the Temple of the Eumenides, which does 
not in any way presage Moussorgsky's future 
style. 

Faced with the prospect of service in a 
provincial garrison, Moussorgsky resolved to 
leave the army in 1859. His friends, and more 
particularly Stassov, begged him to reconsider 
his determination ; but in vain. He had now 
reached that phase of his development when 
he was impatient of any duties which inter- 
fered with his artistic progress. Unfortunately 
poverty compelled him to accept a small post 



MOUSSORGSKY 225 

under the government which soon proved as 
irksome as regimental life. In 1856 he fell ill, 
and rusticated for a couple of years on an out- 
of-the-way country property belonging to his 
brother. During this period of rest he seems 
to have found himself as a creative artist. 
After working for a time upon an opera founded 
upon Flaubert's novel " Salammbo," he turned 
his attention to song, and during these years 
produced a number of his wonderful vocal 
pictures of Russian life, in its pathetic and 
humorous aspects. The music which he com- 
posed for Salammbo was far in advance of the 
(Edipus. Already in this work we find Mous- 
sorgsky treating the people, " the human 
crowd," as one of the most important elements 
of opera. " In conformity with the libretto," 
says Stassov, " certain scenes were full of 
dramatic movement in the style of Meyerbeer, 
evoking great masses of the populace at moments 
of intense pathos or exaltation." Much of 
the music of this opera was utilised in later 
works. Stassov informs us that Salammbo's 
invocation to Tanit is now the recitative of the 
djdng Boris ; the opening of the scene in the 
Temple of Moloch has become the Arioso in the 
third act of Boris Godounov ; while the Triumphal 
Hymn to Moloch is utilised as the people's 
chorus of acclamation to the False Demetrius 
in the same opera. 

Q 



226 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Moussorgsky's next operatic essay took the 
form which he described as " opera dialogue." 
The subject — Gogors prose comedy " The Match- 
Maker " — was admirably suited to him, and he 
started upon the work full of enthusiasm for the 
task. His methods are shown in a letter written 
to Cesar Cui in the summer of 1868, in which he 
says : "I am endeavouring as far as possible 
to observe very clearly the changes of intona- 
tion made by the different characters in the 
course of conversation ; and made, so it ap- 
pears, for trifling reasons, and on the most 
insignificant words. Here, in my opinion, lies 
the secret of Gogol's powerful humour. . . . 
How true is the saying : ' the farther we pene- 
trate into the forest the more trees we find ! ' 
How subtle Gogol is ! He has observed old 
women and peasants and discovered the 
most fascinating types. . . . All this is very 
useful to me ; the types of old women are 
really precious." Moussorgsky abandoned The 
Match-Maker after completing the first act. 
This was published by Bessel, in 1911, under 
the editorship of Rimsky-Korsakov, and con- 
tains the following note : "I leave the rights 
in this work of my pupilage unconditionally 
and eternally to my dear Vladimir VassiUe- 
vich Stassov on this his birthday, January 
2nd, 1873. (Signed) Modeste Moussoryanin, alias 
Moussorgsky. Written with a quill pen in 



MOUSSORGSKY 227 

Stassov's flat, Mokhovaya, House Melnikov, 
amid a considerable concourse of people." 

" The said Moussorgsky." 
Moussorgsky originally designated this work 
as " an attempt at dramatic music set to prose." 
The fragment, with its sincere and forcible 
declamation, is interesting as showing a phase 
in the evolution of his genius immediately 
preceding the composition of Boris Godounov. 
The four scenes which it comprises consist 
of conversations on the subject of marriage 
carried on between four sharply defined and 
contrasted characters : Podkolessin, a court 
councillor and petty official in the Civil Service ; 
Kocharev, his friend ; Tekla Ivanovna, a pro- 
fessional match-maker, and Stepan, Podkoles- 
sin's servant. Rimsky-Korsakov, who often 
heard the music sung and played by its author, 
says in his preface to the work that it shojild 
be executed a piacere ; that is to say, that for 
each individual a particular and characteristic 
tempo must be observed : for Podkolessin — a 
good-natured, vain and vacillating creature — a 
slow and lazy time throughout ; a more rapid 
movement for his energetic friend Kocharev, 
who literally pushes him into matrimony ; for 
the Match-maker a moderate tempo, somewhat 
restrained, but alert ; and for Stepan rather a 
slow time. Stassov thought highly of this 
work, and believed that as traditional prejudices 



228 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

vanished, and opera became a more natural 
form of art, this prose comedy, the music of 
which fits closely as a glove to every passing 
feeling and gesture suggested by the text, would 
come to be highly appreciated. 

One more unfinished opera engages our 
attention before we pass on to consider Mous- 
sorgsky's two masterpieces. Fragments, con- 
sisting of an introduction and several " Comic 
Scenes," based upon Gogol's " The Fair at 
Sorochinsi," have been recently published by 
Bessel, with Russian text only. The subject 
is peculiarly racy and the humour not very 
comprehensible to those ignorant of Malo- 
Russian life ; but the music, though primitive, 
is highly characteristic, and may be commended 
to the notice of all who wish to study Mous- 
sorgsky in as full a light as possible. 

The idea of basing a music-drama on Poush- 
kin's tragedy " Boris Godounov " was sug- 
gested by Prof. Nikolsky. From September 
1868, to June 1870, Moussorgsky was engaged 
upon this work. Each act as it was finished 
was tried in a small circle of musical friends, 
the composer singing all the male roles in turn, 
while Alexandra Pourgold (afterwards Mme. 
Molas) created the women's parts. Dargomij- 
sky, who heard a portion of it before his death 
in 1869, declared that Moussorgsky had entirely 
surpassed him in his own sphere. 



MOUSSORGSKY 229 

Boris Godounov was rejected by the Direction 
of the Imperial Opera on the ground that it gave 
too little opportunity to the soloists. The 
unusual form of the opera, the bold treatment 
of a dramatic, but unpopular, episode in national 
history, and the democratic sentiment displayed 
in making the People the protagonist in several 
scenes of the work, were probably still stronger 
reasons for the attitude of disapproval always 
shown by the " powers that be " towards Boris 
Godounov. Very unwillingly, jdelding only to the 
entreaties of his friends, the composer consented 
to make some important changes in his work. 
The original plan of the opera consisted of the 
following scenes : The crowd awaiting the election 
of Boris, and his Coronation ; Pimen in his cell ; 
the scene in the Inn, on the Lithuanian frontier ; 
Boris and his children, and the interview with 
Shouisky ; the scene in the Duma, and the 
death of Boris ; the peasant revolt, and the 
entry of the Pretender. It will be seen that the 
feminine element was curiously neglected. The 
additional scenes, composed on the advice 
of Stassov and the distinguished Russian archi- 
tect V. Hartmann, were partially designed to 
rectify this omission. They include the scenes 
in the house of the Polish grandee Mnishek ; the 
song of the Hostess of the Inn ; portions of the 
first scene of Act I. ; the episodes of the Chiming 
Clock and the Parrakeet ; also some fine passages 



230 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

in the scene between Pimen and Gregory (Scene 
I, Act II.). Portions of Boris were given at 
Kondratiev's benefit, at the Maryinski Theatre, 
in February, 1873, but the production of the 
opera in its entirety was delayed until January 
24th, 1874. How often has Stassov described 
to me the excitement of the days that followed ! 
The old-fashioned subscribers to the Opera 
sulked at this interruption to its routine ; the 
pedants of the Conservatoire raged ; the critics 
— ^Moussorgsky had already satirised them in 
" The Peepshow " — ^baffled, and consequently 
infuriated, " foamed at the mouth." So stupid 
were the intrigues organised against Boris that 
some wreaths offered by groups of young people 
and bearing messages of enthusiastic homage 
to the composer, were intercepted at the doors 
of the opera house and sent to Moussorgsky's 
private residence, in order to suppress a public 
recognition of his obnoxious genius. For it 
was the young generation that took Boris 
straight to their hearts, and in spite of all 
organised opposition, the work had twenty per- 
formances, the house being always crowded; 
while students sang the choruses from the opera 
as tliey went home through the streets at mid- 
night. 

While this controversy was raging, Mous- 
sorgsky was already occupied with a new music- 
drama upon an historical subject, suggested to 




SHALIAPIN AS IIOKIS G( JDriU NOV 



MOUSSORGSKY 231 

him by Stassov, dealing with the tragic story 
of the Princes Khovansky and the rising of the 
old Archers-of-the-Guard — ^the Streltsy. He 
was full of confidence in his project, and just 
before the first performance of Boris in 1873, 
wrote to Stassov in the following characteristic 
strain : " Now for judgment ! It is jolly to 
feel that we are actually thinking of and living 
for Khovansfchina while we are being tried for 
Boris. Joyfully and daringly we look to the 
distant musical horizon that lures us onward, 
and are not afraid of the verdict. They will 
say : ' You are violating all laws, human and 
divine ' ; and we shall reply, ' Yes ' ; thinking 
to ourselves, ' so we shall again,' They will 
warn us, ' You will soon be forgotten for ever 
and a day ' ; and we shall answer, ' Non, non, 
et non, madame.'" This triumphant moment 
in Moussorgsky's life was fleeting. Boris 
Godounov was not suffered to become a 
repertory opera, but was thrust aside for long 
periods. Its subsequent revivals were usually 
due to some star artist who liked the title-role 
and insisted on performing the work on his 
benefit night ; and also to private enterprise. 
In 1871 Moussorgsky shared rooms with 
Rimsky-Korsakov until the marriage of the 
latter in 1873. Then he took up his abode with 
the gifted poet Count Gplenishtiev-Koutouzov, 
whose idealistic and mystical tendencies were 



232 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

not without influence on the champion of realism, 
as may be seen from the two song-cycles, 
" Without sunshine " and " Songs and dances 
of death," composed to his verses. " The 
Nursery," a series of children's songs, the " Pic- 
tures from an exhibition," inspired by Hart- 
mann's drawings, and the orchestral piece, 
" Night on the Bare Mountain," date from this 
period. Meanwhile the stress of poverty and 
the growing distaste for his means of livelihood 
— a singularly unsuitable ofhcial appointment — 
were telhng on his health. Feeling, perhaps, 
that his time on earth was short, he worked with 
feverish energy. Finally, some friction with 
the authorities ended in his resigning his post 
in 1879, and undertaking a tour in South Russia 
with the singer, Madame Leonova. The appre- 
ciation shown to him during this journey afforded 
him some moments of happiness ; but his con- 
stitution was hopelessly shattered, and in 1880 
he was obliged to rest completely. A series of 
terrible nervous attacks compelled him at last 
to take refuge in the Nicholas Military Hospital, 
where he died on his forty-second birthday, 
March 16/28, of paralysis of the heart and the 
spinal marrow. 

The historical drama " Boris Godounov " was 
one of the fruits of the poet Poushkin's exile at 
Mikhailovsky in 1824. Virtually imprisoned 
on his father's estate to repent at leisure some 



MOUSSORGSKY 233 

youthful delinquencies, moral and political, 
Poushkin occupied his time with the study of 
Karamzin's History of Russia and Shakespeare's 
plays. " Boris Godounov " marks a transition 
from the extreme influence of Byron to that of 
the creator of " Macbeth." Ambition coupled 
with remorse is the moving passion of the 
tragedy. The insane cruelty of Ivan the Ter- 
rible deprived Russia of almost every strong and 
independent spirit with the exception of the 
sagacious and cautious Boyard, Boris Godou- 
nov, the descendant of a Tatar family. Brother- 
in-law and Regent of Ivan's weak-witted heir, 
Feodor, Boris was already, to all intents and 
purposes, ruler of Russia before ambition whis- 
pered that he might actually wear the crown. 
Only the Tsarevich Dmitri, a child of six, stood 
between him and the fulfilment of his secret 
desire. In 1581 Dmitri was murdered, and 
suspicion fell upon Boris, who cleverly excul- 
pated himself, and in due course was chosen to 
succeed Feodor. He reigned wisely and with 
authority ; but his Nemesis finally appeared 
in the person of the monk Gregory, the False 
Demetrius, whose pretentions were eagerly sup- 
ported by the Poles. Boris, unhinged by the 
secret workings of conscience, was brought to 
the verge of madness just at the moment when 
the people — ^who had never quite resigned them- 
selves to a ruler of Tatar origin — wavered in 



234 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

their allegiance. Urged by Rome, the Poles 
took advantage of the situation to advance upon 
Moscow. At this critical juncture Boris was 
seized with a fatal illness. The Tsars, as we 
know, may appoint their own successors ; 
Boris with his last breath nominated his son 
(also a Feodor), and died in his fifty-sixth year, 
in April 1605. 

The intellectual power and fine workmanship 
which Poushkin displayed in " Boris Godounov " 
entitle this drama to rank as a classic in Russian 
literature. It contains moments of forcible 
eloquence, and those portions of the play which 
deal with the populace are undoubtedly the 
strongest. Here Poushkin disencumbers him- 
self of all theatrical conventions, and shows not 
only accurate knowledge of the national tem- 
perament, but profound observation of human 
nature as a whole. Such a subject accorded 
well with Moussorgsky's genius, which, as we 
have seen, was eminently democratic. 

Moussorgsky arranged his own text for Boris 
Godounov, retaining Poushkin's words intact 
wherever that was practicable, and simplifying, 
remodelling, or adding to the original material 
when necessary. The result is a series of living- 
pictures from Russian history, somewhat dis- 
connected if taken apart from the music, which 
is the coagulating element of the work. The 
welding of these widely contrasting scenes is 



MOUSSORGSKY 235 

effected partially by the use of recurrent leading 
motives, but chiefly by a remarkable homo- 
geneity of musical style. Moussorgsky, as may 
be proved from his correspondence, was con- 
sciously concerned to find appropriate musical 
phrases with which to accompany certain ideas 
in the course of opera ; but he does not use 
leading motives with the persistency of Wagner, 
No person or thing is labelled in Boris Godounov, 
and we need no thematic guide to thread our 
way through the psychological maze of the work. 
There is one motive that plays several parts 
in the music-drama. Where it occurs on page 
49 of the pianoforte score of 1908 (just after 
Pimen's words to Gregory : "He would now 
be your age, and should be Tsar to-day "), 
it evokes the memory of the murdered Tsare- 
vich Dmitri ; but it also enters very subtly 
into the soul-states of the impostor who imper- 
sonates him, and those of the remorseful Boris. 
There are other characteristic phrases for Boris, 
suggesting his tenderness for his children and 
his ruthless ambition. 

The opera opens with a prologue in which the 
people are gathered in the courtyard of the 
many-towered monastery of Novo-Dievichy at 
Moscow, whither Boris had withdrawn after 
the assassination of the Tsarevich, The crowd 
moves to and fro in a listless fashion ; it hardly 
knows why it is there, but hopes vaguely that 



236 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the election of a new ruler may bring some 
amelioration of its sad lot. Meanwhile the 
astute Boris shows no unseemly haste to snatch 
at the fruit of his crime. The simplicity and 
economy of means with which Moussorgsky 
produces precisely the right musical atmosphere 
is very striking. The constable enters, and 
with threats and blows galvanises the weary 
and indifferent throng into supplications ad- 
dressed to Boris. The secretary of the Duma 
appears, and announces that Boris refuses the 
crown ; the crowd renews its entreaties. When 
the pilgrims enter, the people wake to real 
life, pressing around them, and showing that 
their enthusiasm is for spiritual rather than for 
temporal things. In the second scene, which 
shows the coronation procession across the Red 
Square in the Kremlin, the Song of Praise 
{Slavsia) is sung with infinitely greater hearti- 
ness ; for now the Tsar comes into personal 
contact with his people. The scenes of the 
Prologue and the Coronation move steadily 
on, just as they would do in real life ; there is 
scarcely a superfluous bar of musical accompani- 
ment, and the ordinary operatic conventions 
being practically non-existent, we are completely 
convinced by the realism of the spectacle and 
the strangely new, undisciplined character of 
the music. The truth is forcibly brought home 
to us of M. Camille Bellaigue's assertion that 



MOUSSORGSKY 237 

every collective thought, or passion, needs not 
only words, but music, if we are to become com- 
pletely sensible to it. 

The text of the opening scene of Act I. is 
taken almost intact from Poushkin's drama. 
Played as it now usually is between the strenu- 
ous animation of the Prologue and the brilliant 
Coronation Scene, its pervading atmosphere 
of dignity and monastic calm affords a welcome 
interlude of repose. Moussorgsky handles his 
ecclesiastical themes with sure knowledge. In 
early days Stassov tells us that he learnt from 
the chaplain of the Military Academy " the very 
essence of the old Church music, Greek and 
Catholic." The scene in the Inn, where Gregory 
and the vagabond monks, Varlaam and Missail, 
halt on their flight into Lithuania, is often cut 
out of the acting version. It contains, however, 
two characteristic and popular solos : a lively 
folk-song for the Hostess, and a rollicking drink- 
ing-song for Varlaam (bass) ; besides frequent 
touches of the rough-hewn, sardonic humour 
which is a distinguishing quality of Mous- 
sorgsky 's genius. The unabashed " naturalism " 
of this scene displeased a fashionable Russian 
audience ; although it was found possible to 
present it to a London audience which must 
have travelled much farther from the homely 
ribaldry of Elizabethan days than had the 
simple-minded " big pubhc " of Russia to 



238 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

whom Moussorgsky's work was designed to 
appeal a generation ago. 

With the opening of Act II. we feel at once 
that Moussorgsky is treading on aUen ground. 
This portion of the opera — for which he was his 
own librettist — was added in order that some 
conventional love interest might be given to 
the work. The glamour of romance is a bor- 
rowed quality in Moussorgsky's art ; and, in 
spite of the charm of the scenic surroundings, 
and some moments of sincere passion, the weak- 
ness of the music proclaims the fact. He, who 
penetrates so deeply into the psychology of his 
own people, finds no better characterisation of 
the Polish temperament than the use of the 
polacca or mazurka rhythms. True, he may 
intend by these dance measures to emphasise 
the boastful vanity of the Polish nobles and 
the light, cold nature of Marina Mnishek ; but 
the method becomes monotonous. Marina's 
solo takes this form, and again in the duet by 
the fountain we are pursued by the eternal 
mazurka rhythm. 

The second scene of Act II. is packed full 
of varied interest, and in every episode Mous- 
sorgsky is himself again. The lively dancing- 
songs for the young Tsarevich and the Nurse 
are interrupted by the sudden entry of Boris. 
In the scene which foUows, where the Tsar for- 
gets for a moment the cares of State and the 



MOUSSORGSKY 239 

sting of conscience, and gives himself whole- 
heartedly to his children, there is some exqui- 
sitely tender music, and we begin for the first 
time to feel profound pity for the usurper. The 
Tsarevich's recital of the incident of the para- 
keet, reproducing with the utmost accuracy 
and transparent simplicity the varied inflec- 
tions of the child's voice, as he relates his tale 
without a trace of self-consciousness, is equal 
to anything of the kind which Moussorgsky 
has achieved in " The Nursery " song cycle. 
This delightful interlude of comedy gives place 
on the entrance of Shouisky to the first shadows 
of approaching tragedy. Darker and darker 
grows the mind of the Tsar, until the scene ends 
in an almost intolerable crisis of madness and 
despair. From the moment of Boris's terrible 
monologue the whole atmosphere of the work 
becomes vibrant with terror and pity. But 
realistic as the treatment may be, it is a realism 
— ^like that of Shakespeare or Webster — that 
is exalted and vivified by a fervent and forceful 
imagination. 

In the opening scene of Act III., enacted 
amid a winter landscape in the desolate forest 
of Kromy, Moussorgsky has concentrated all 
his powers for the creation of a host of national 
types who move before our eyes in a dazzling 
kaleidoscopic display. They are not attractive 
these revolted and revolting peasants, revenging 



240 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

themselves upon the wretched aristocrat who 
has fallen into their hands ; for Moussorgsky, 
though he raises the Folk to the dignity of a 
protagonist, never idealises it, or sets it on a 
pedestal. But our pulses beat with the emotions 
of this crowd, and its profound groan of anguish 
finds an echo in our hearts. It is a living and 
terrible force, and beside it all other stage 
crowds seem mechanical puppets. In the fore- 
ground of this shifting mass is seen the village 
idiot, ' God's fool,' teased by the thoughtless 
children, half-reverenced, half-pitied, by the 
men and women. After the False Demetrius 
has passed through the forest, drawing the 
crowd in his wake, the idiot is left sitting alone 
in the falling snow. He sings his heart-breaking 
ditty : " Night and darkness are at hand. 
Woe to Russia ! " and the curtain falls to the 
sound of his bitter, paroxysmal weeping. 

The last scene is pregnant with the " horror 
that awaits on princes." The climax is built 
up step by step. After the lurking insanity 
of Boris, barely curbed by the presence of the 
Council ; after his interview with Pimen, who 
destroys his last furtive hope that the young 
Tsarevich may not have been murdered after 
all ; after his access of mental and physical 
agony, and his parting with his beloved son — 
it is with a feeling of relief that we see death 
put an end to his unbearable sufferings. 



MOUSSORGSKY 241 

Although Khovanstchina may in some ways 
approach more nearly to the conventional ideal 
of opera, yet foreigners, I think, will find it 
more difficult to understand than Boris Godounov, 
To begin with it lacks the tragic dominant 
figure, swayed by such universal passions as 
ambition, remorse, and paternal tenderness, 
which gives a psychological unity to the earlier 
work. Here the dramatic interest is more 
widely dispersed ; it is as though Moussorgsky 
sought to crowd into this series of historical 
pictures as many different types of seventeenth- 
century Russia as possible ; and these types 
are pecuUarly national. Except that it breaks 
through the rigid traditions of Byzantine art, 
the figures being full of vitality, Khovanst- 
china reminds us of those early ikons belonging 
to the period when the transport of pictures 
through the forests, bogs, and wildernesses of 
Russia so. restricted their distribution, that the 
religious painter resorted to the expedient of 
representing on one canvas as many saints as 
could be packed into it. 

Stassov originated the idea of utilising the 
dramatic conflict between old and new Russia 
at the close of the seventeenth century as the 
subject of a music-drama. It was his inten- 
tion to bring into relief a group of representa- 
tive figures of the period : Dositheus, head^of 
the sect known as the Rasskolniki, or Old 

R 



242 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Believers,^ a man of lofty character and prophetic 
insight; Ivan Khovansky, typical of fanatical, 
half-oriental and conservative Russia ; Galitsin, 
the westernised aristocrat, who dreams of a, 
new Russia, reformed on European Unes ; two 
contrasting types of womanhood, both belonging 
to the Old Believers — the passionate, mystical 
Martha, falling and redeeming herself through 
the power of love, and Susan, in whom fanaticism 
has dried up the well-springs of tenderness and 
sympathy ; the dissolute young Andrew Khov- 
ansky, ardently attracted by the pure, sweet 
young German girl, Emma ; the egotistical 
Scrivener, who has his humorous side ; the 
fierce Streltsy, and the oppressed and suffering 
populace — " all these elements," says Stassov, 
" seemed to suggest characters and situations 
which promised to be intensely stirring." It 
was also part of his original design to bring upon 
the scene the young Tsar, Peter the Great, and 
the Regent, the Tsarevna Sophia. But much 
of Stassov's original scenarium had perforce 
to be dropped ; partly because it would have 
resulted in the building up of a work on an 
unpractically colossal scale, but also because 

1 In the reign of Alexis the revision of the Bible carried 
out by the Patriarch Nicon (1655) resulted in a great 
schism in the Orthodox Church, a number of people 
clinging to the old version of the Scriptures in spite of the 
errors it contained. Thus was formed the sect of the Old 
Believers which still exists in Russia. 



MOUSSORGSKY 243 

Moussorgsky's failing health spurred him on 
to complete the drama at all costs. Had he 
lived a few years longer, he would probably 
have made of Khovanstchina a far better bal- 
anced and a more polished work. 

From the musical point of view there is un- 
doubtedly more symmetry and restraint in 
Khovanstchina than in Boris. We are often 
impressed by the almost classic simplicity of the 
music. A great deal of the thematic material 
is drawn from ecclesiastical sources. 

Khovanstchina opens with an orchestral Pre- 
lude, descriptive of daybreak over Moscow, 
than which nothing in Russian music is more 
intensely or touchingly national in feeling. 
The curtain rises upon the Red Square in the 
Kremlin, just as the rising sun catches the 
domes of the churches, and the bells ring for 
early matins. A group of Streltsy relate the 
havoc they have worked during the preceding 
night. The Scrivener, a quaint t5^e of the 
period, appears on the scene and is roughly 
chaffed. When the Streltsy depart, the Boyard 
Shaklovity enters and bribes the Scrivener 
to write down his denunciation of the Khov- 
anskys. No sooner is this done, than the elder 
Khovansky and his suite arrive, attended by 
the Streltsy and the populace. In virtue of 
his ofi&ce as Captain of the Old Guard, the 
arrogant nobleman assumes the airs of a 



244 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

sovereign, and issues autocratic commands, while 
the people, impressed by his grandeur, sing him 
a song of flattery. When the crowd has departed 
the Lutheran girl, Emma, runs in, hotly pur- 
sued by the younger Khovansky. She tries 
in vain to rid herself of his hateful attentions. 
At the climax of this scene, Martha, the young 
Rasskolnik whom Prince Andrew has already 
loved and betrayed, comes silently upon the 
stage and saves Emma from his embraces. 
Martha approaches Andrew, who tries to stab 
her ; but she parries the blow, and in one of her 
ecstatic moods prophesies his ultimate fate. 
The elder Khovansky and his followers now 
return, and the Prince inquires into the cause 
of the disturbance. Prince Ivan admires Emma 
and orders the Streltsy to arrest her ; but 
Andrew, mad with jealousy, declares she shall 
not be taken aUve. At this juncture Dositheus 
enters, rebukes the young man's violence, and 
restores peace. 

Act II. shows us Prince Galitsin reading a 
letter from the Tsarevna Sophia, with whom 
he has formerly had a love-intrigue. In spite 
of his western education Galitsin is superstitious. 
The scene which follows, in which Martha,, 
gazing into a bowl of water, as into a crystal, 
foretells his downfall and banishment, is one 
of the most impressive moments in the work. 
Galitsin, infuriated by her predictions, orders 



MOUSSORGSKY 245 

his servants to drown Martha on her homeward 
way. A long scene, devoted to a dispute between 
Galitsin and Khovansky, is rather dry. Dosi- 
theus again acts as peacemaker. 

Act III. takes place in the quarter of Moscow 
inhabited by the Streltsy. Martha, seated 
near the house of Andrew Khovansky, recalls 
her passion for him in a plaintive folk-song. 
The song closes with one of her prophetic 
allusions to the burning of the Old Believers. 
Susan, the old fanatic, overhears Martha and 
reproves her for singing " shameless songs of 
love. ' ' She threatens to have her brought before 
the Brethren and tried as a witch ; but Dosi- 
theus intervenes and sends Susan away, terrified 
at the idea that she is the prey of evil spirits. 
Night falls, and the stage is empty. Enter 
Shaklovity, who sings of the sorrows of his 
country in an aria that is one of the most 
beautiful things in the music-drama. The next 
scene is concerned with the Streltsy, who 
march in to a drinking song. They encounter 
their womenfolk, who, unlike the terrified popu- 
lace of Moscow, have no hesitation in falling 
upon them and giving them a piece of their 
mind. Undoubtedly the Streltsy were not 
ideal in their domestic relations. While they 
are quarreUing, the Scrivener comes in breathless, 
and announces the arrival of foreign troopers and 
Peter the Great's bodyguard, " the Petrovtsy." 



246 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

The cause of Old Russia is lost. Sobered and fear- 
ful, the Streltsy put up a prayer to Heaveni| 
for the religious instinct lurks in every type of 
the Russian people, and even these savage 
creatures turn devout at a moment's notice. 

In Act IV. the curtain rises upon a hall in 
Prince Ivan Khovansky's country house, where 
he is taking his ease, diverted by the songs of 
his serving-maids and the dances of his Persian 
slaves. Shaklovity appears, and summons him 
to attend the Tsarevna's Council. As Khov- 
ansky in his robes of ceremony is crossing the 
threshold, he is stabbed, and falls with a great 
cry. The servants disperse in terror, but 
Shaklovity lingers a moment to mock the corpse 
of his enemy. The scene now changes to the 
open space in front of the fantastic church of 
Vassily Blajeny, and Galitsin is seen on his way 
to exile, escorted by a troop of cavalry. When ' 
he has gone by, Dositheus soliloquises on the 
state of Russia. Martha comes in and tells 
him that the foreign mercenaries have orders 
to surround the Old Believers in their place 
of assemblage and put them all to death. 
Dositheus declares that they will sooner perish 
in self-ignited flames, willing martyrs for their 
faith. He enjoins Martha to bring Prince 
Andrew among them. During the meeting 
between Martha and Andrew, the young Prince 
implores her to bring back Emma, and learning 




SHALIAI'lN AS DOSITHEUS IN " KHOVANSTCH I ,\ A 



MOUSSORGSKY 247 

that the girl is safely married to her lover, he 
curses Martha for a witch, and summons his 
Streltsy to put her to death. In vain the Prince 
blows his horn, his only reply is the hollow 
knelling of the bell called " Ivan Veliky." Pres- 
ently the Streltsy enter, carr5dng axes and blocks 
for their own execution. At the last moment 
a herald proclaims that Peter has pardoned 
them, and they may return to their homes. 

In the fifth and last Act the Old Believers 
are assembled by moonlight at their hermitage 
in the woods near Moscow. Dositheus encour- 
ages his followers to remain true to their vows. 
Martha prays that she may save Andrew's 
soul by the power of her love for him. Pres- 
ently she hears him singing an old love song 
which echoes strangely amid all this spiritual 
tension. By sheer force of devotion she induces 
him to mount the pyre which the Brethren, 
clothed in their white festal robes, have built 
up close at hand. The trumpets of the troopers 
are heard drawing nearer, and Martha sets 
a light to the pyre. The Old Believers sing a 
solemn chant until they are overpowered by 
the flames. When the soldiers appear upon the 
scene, they fall back in horror before this 
spectacle of self-immolation ; while the trumpets 
ring out arrogantly, as though proclaiming 
the passing of the old faith and ideals and the 
dawning of a new day for Russia. 



248 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

" My first introduction to the works of Mous- 
sorgsky came through Vladimir Stassov. To- 
gether we went through the earher edition of 
Boris Godounov (1875), and Khovanstchinai 
already issued with Rimsky-Korsakov's revi- 
sions. ' There is more vitality in Moussorgsky 
than in any of our contemporary composers,' 
Stassov would declare to me in my first moments 
of doubtful enthusiasm. ' These operas will 
go further afield than the rest, and you will see 
their day, when I shall no longer be here to 
follow their fortunes in Western Europe.' How 
surely his predictions regarding this, and other 
questions, were destined to be fulfilled is a fact 
borne in upon me every year that I live and work 
in the world of music. Later on he gave me 
the new edition of Boris (1896), edited by the 
composer's life-long friend, who was in some de- 
gree his teacher — Rimsky-Korsakov. Theoreti- 
cally, Stassov was fully opposed to these 
editorial proceedings ; for, while admitting 
Moussorgsky's technical limitations, and his 
tendency to be slovenly in workmanship, he 
thought it might be better for the world to see 
this original and inspired composer with aU his 
faults ruthlessly exposed to view, than clothed 
and in his right mind with the assistance of 
Rimsky-Korsakov. Stassov's attitude to Mous- 
sor^gsky reminds me of the Russian vagabond 
who said to Mr. Stephen Graham : ' Love 



MOUSSORGSKY 249 

us while we are dirty, for when we are clean all 
the world will love us.' We who loved Mous- 
sorgsky's music in spite of all its apparent 
dishevelment may not unnaturally resent Rim- 
sky-Korsakov's conscientious grooming of it. 
But when it actually came to the question of 
producing the operas, even Stassov, I am sure, 
realised the need for practical revisions, without 
which Moussorgsky's original scores, with all 
their potential greatness, ran considerable risk 
of becoming mere archaeological curiosities. 
In 1908 Bessel published a later edition of 
Boris, restoring the scenes cut out of the version 
of 1896, This is the edition now generally 
used ; the first one, on which I was educated, 
having become somewhat of a rarity." ^ 

At the present moment it is impossible to 
write of Moussorgsky's operas without touching 
on this vexed question of Rimsky-Korsakov's 
right to improve upon the original drafts of his 
friend's works, since it is daily agitating the 
musical press of Russia and Paris. 

Throughout his whole life, it was Rimsky- 
Korsakov's lot to occupy at frequent intervals 
the most delicate, difficult and thankless posi- 
tion which can well be thrust upon a man, when, 
time after time, he was asked to complete works 
left unfinished in consequence of the illness, 

1 Quoted from an article by me, " Moussorgsky's 
Operas," in the "Musical Times," July ist, 1913. 



250 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

untimely death, or incompetence of their authors. 
That he attacked this altruistic work in a self- 
sacrificing and perfectly honest spirit cannot 
for a moment be doubted by anyone who knew 
him personally. But his temperament was not 
pliable, and as time went on and his aesthetic 
theories became more set, it grew increasingly 
difficult for him to see a work in any light but 
that of his own clearly illumined orderly vision. 
The following conversation between himself 
and V. Yastrebtsiev — ^if it contains no note of 
exaggeration — shows the uncompromising view 
which he took of his editorial duties. In 1895 
he had expressed his intention of writing a 
purely critical article on " the merits and 
demerits of Boris Godounov." But a year 
later he changed his mind, because he said: 
" a new revised pianoforte score and a new 
orchestral score will be a more eloquent testi- 
mony to future generations of my views on tbis 
work, not only as a whole, but as regards the 
details of every bar ; the more so, because in 
this transcription of the opera for orchestra, 
personality is not concerned, and I am only 
doing that which Moussorgsky himself ought 
to have done, but which he did not understand 
how to carry out, simply because of his lack of 
technique as a composer. I maintain that in 
my intention to reharmonise and re-orchestrate 
this great opera of Moussorgsky there is certainly 



MOUSSORGSKY 251 

nothing for which I can be blamed ; in any case 
I impute no sin to myself. And now," he con- 
cluded, " when I have finished my revisions 
of Boris and Sadko it will be necessary to go 
through the entire score of Dargomij sky's The 
Stone Guest (which was orchestrated by me), 
and should I find anything in the instrumenta- 
tion which seems to me not good (and I think 
I shall find much) I will correct it, in order that 
in the future none will be able to reproach me 
with carelessness as regards the works of others. 
Only when I have revised the whole of Mous- 
sorgsky's works shall I begin to be at peace and 
feel that my conscience is clear ; for then I shall 
have done all that can and ought to be done for 
his compositions and his memory." ^ 

Rimsky-Korsakov was a noble and devoted 
friend, but he was before all things a craftsman 
of the highest excellence. When it came to a 
question of what he believed to be an offence 
against art, he saved his friend's musical soul 
at the expense of his individuality. We have 
therefore to weigh his close personal know- 
ledge of Moussorgsky's aims and technical in- 
capacity against the uncompromising musical 
rectitude which guided his editorial pen. When 
the question arises whether we are to hear 
Moussorgsky according to Rimsky-Korsakov, 

1 Published by V. Yastrebtsiev in the Moscow weekly, 
" Musika." No. 133, June 22 (O.S.), 1913. 



252 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

or according to Diaghilev-Ravel-Stravinsky, 
for my own part, having grown accustomed 
to the versions of Rimsky-Korsakov — ^which 
still leave in the operas so much of Mous- 
sorgsky's essential genius that they have not 
hitherto failed in their profound psychological 
impression — ^I feel considerable doubt as to the 
wisdom of flying from them to evils that we 
know not of. For, after all, Rimsky-Korsakov 
was no purblind pedant, but a gifted musician 
with an immense experience of what was feasible 
on the operatic stage and of all that could 
militate against the success of a work. 



CHAPTER XI 

BORODIN AND GUI 

WITH Borodin we return to a position 
midway between the original tjrpe 
of national lyric opera which Glinka 
inaugurated in A Life for the Tsar and the 
dramatic realism of Moussorgsky. 

Alexander Porphyrievich Borodin, bom at 
St. Petersburg in 1834, was the illegitimate son 
of a Prince of Imeretia, one of the fairest of the 
Georgian provinces which the Russian General 
Todleben rescued from Turkish occupation in 
1770. The reigning princes of Imeretia boasted 
that they were direct descendants of King David 
the Psalmist, and quartered the harp and sling 
in their arms. Borodin's education was chiefly 
confided to his mother. As a boy, his capacities 
were evenly balanced between music and science, 
but, having to make his living, he decided in 
favour of the latter and became a distinguished 
professor of chemistry at the College of Medicine 
in St. Petersburg. As regards music, he re- 
mained until his twenty-eighth year merely 
an intelligent amateur. He played the piano, 



254 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the violoncello and the flute, all with some 
faciUty ; he wrote a few songs and enjoyed 
taking part in Mendelssohn's chamber music. 
It is clear that until he met Balakirev in 1862 
there was never any serious conflict between 
duty and inclination. Borodin was a man of 
sane and optimistic temperament which dis- 
posed him to be satisfied with the career he had 
chosen, in which he seemed destined for unusual 
success. Unlike Tchaikovsky, who felt hiansdf 
an alien among the bureaucrats and minor 
of&cials with whom he was associated in the 
Ministry of Justice, Borodin was genuinely 
interested in his work. But no one with a spark 
of artistic enthusiasm could pass under Bala- 
kirev's influence and be the same man as before; 
Within a short time of their first meeting, the 
story of Cui and Moussorgsky was repeated in 
Borodin. All his leisure was henceforth con- 
secra,ted to the serious study of music. Har- 
mony and musical analysis he worked up und©»' 
Balakirev ; and all his contemporaries agree' 
in asserting that counterpoint came to him by 
intuition. His early marriage to a woman of 
considerable talent as a musician was an im- 
portant factor in his artistic development, 4 
Borodin's 5routh had been spent chiefly in 
cities ; consequently he did not start life witll 
that intimate knowledge of the folk-music whicl' 
Balakirev and Moussorgsky had acquired. But' 



BORODIN AND CUI 255 

his perception was so quick and subtle, that 
no sooner had his attention been called to 
the national element in music than he b^an 
to use it with mastery. This is already notice- 
able in his first Sjmiphony, in E flat major. 
This work is not free from the faults of inexperi- 
ence, but it displays all the potential qualities 
of Borodin's talent — poetical imptdse, a fine 
taste, an originality which is not forced, and a 
degree of technical facility that is astonishing, 
when we realise that music was merely the 
occupation of his rare leisure hours. 

Stassov saw in Borodin the making of a true 
national poet, and encouraged his secret ambi- 
tion to compose an epic opera. He first took up 
Ithe subject of Mey's drama " The Tsar's Bride ; " 
but his progress was so frequently interrupted 
(that his interest flagged. It needed a subject 
of unusual attraction to keep him faithful amid 
ima,ny professional preoccupations to such a 
(long and difficult task. But in 1869 Stassov 
Jbelieved he had found an ideal source from which 
^o draw the libretto of a great national opera, 
^md sketched out a rough plot which he per- 
suaded Borodin to consider. It is not easy 
[^■.o convey to those who have not studied the 
jjjarly Slavonic literature any just and clear 
[(dea of the national significance of " The Epic 
(^f the Army of Igor." The original manuscript 
|)f this Rhapsody or Saga was bought from a 



256 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

monk by Count Moussin-Poushkin as late as 
1795, and published by him in 1800. Unfor- 
tunately the original document was among 
the many treasures which perished in the burn- 
ing of Moscow in 1812. Its authenticity has 
since been the cause of innumerable disputes. 
Many scholars, including the late Professor of 
Slavonic languages at Oxford, Mr. W. R. 
Morfill, have been disposed to regard it as 
one of those many ingenious frauds — ^like the 
Poems of Ossian — which were almost a feature 
of literary history in the eighteenth century. 
Others affirm that all the Russian poets of the 
eighteenth century put together had not sufl&- 
cient imagination to have produced a single line 
of " The Epic of Igor," In any case, it so far 
surpasses in interest most of the mediaeval 
Slavonic chronicles that it has taken a strong hold 
on the popular imagination, and the majority 
prefer to believe in its genuine origin in spite 
of differences of opinion among the learned. 
In order to give some idea of its significance 
and interest, perhaps I may compare it — ^in 
certain respects — with the Arthurian Legends. 
The period is of course much later — ^the close of 
the twelfth century. 

The book of Prince Igor, planned by Stassov 
and written by Borodin, runs as follows : 

The Prologue takes place in the market-place 
of Poultivle, the residence of Igor, Prince of 



BORODIN AND CUI 257 

Seversk. The Prince and his army are about 
to start in pursuit of the Polovtsy, an Oriental 
tribe of Tatar origin. Igor wishes to meet his 
enemies in the plains of the Don, whither they 
have been driven by a rival Russian prince, 
Sviatoslav of Kiev. An eclipse of the sun 
darkens the heavens, and at this fatal passage 
the people implore Igor to postpone his expedi- 
tion. But the Prince is resolute. He departs 
with his youthful son Vladimir Igorievich, 
commending his wife Yaroslavna to the care 
of his brother-in-law, Prince Galitsky, who 
remains to govern Poultivle, in the absence of 
its lord. The first scene depicts the treachery 
and misrule of this dissolute nobleman, who tries 
to win over the populace with the assistance of 
two deserters from Igor's army. Eroshka and 
Skoula are players on the goudok, or rebeck, 
types of the gleemen, or minnesingers, of that 
period. They are the comic villains of the 
opera. In the second scene of Act I. some 
young girls complain to the Princess Yaro- 
slavna of the abduction of one of their com- 
panions, and implore her protection from Prince 
Galitsky. Yaroslavna discovers the perfidy 
of her brother, and after a violent scene drives 
him from her presence, at the very moment 
when a messenger arrives with the news that 
Igor's army has been defeated on the banks of 
the Kayala. " At the third dawn," says the 

s 



258 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

rhapsody, " the Russian standards fell before 
the foe, for no blood was left to shed." Igor 
and Vladimir are taken prisoners and the 
Polovsty are marching on Poultivle. The news 
of this heroic disaster causes a reaction of loyal 
sentiment, and, as the curtain falls, the Boyards 
draw their swords and swear to defend Yaro- 
slavna to the death. 

The second and third acts take place, in the 
enemy's camp, and are full of Oriental colour. 
Khan Konchak, as depicted in the opera, is a 
noble type of Eastern warrior. He has one 
beautiful daughter, Konchakovna, with whom 
the young Prince Vladimir falls passionately 
in love. The serenade which he sings before her 
tent is perhaps the most fascinating number in 
the whole work. There is also a fine bass solo for 
Prince Igor, in which he gives vent to the grief 
and shame he suffers in captivity. Ovlour, one 
of the Polovetz soldiers, who is a Christian con- 
vert, offers to facilitate Igor's escape. But the 
Prince feels bound by the chivalrous conduct of 
Khan Konchak to refuse his offer. In the second 
act the Khan gives a banquet in honour of his 
noble captive, which serves as a pretext for the 
introduction of Oriental dances, choruses, and 
gorgeous scenic effects. 

In the third act the conquering army of the 
Polovsty return to camp, bringing the prisonersk; 
and spoils taken from Poultivle. At this sight, 



BORODIN AND CUI 259 

Igor, filled with pity for the sorrows of his wife 
and people, consents to flee. While the soldiers 
are dividing the spoil from Poultivle, Ovlour 
plies them liberally with koumiss and, after a 
wild orgy, the whole camp falls into a drunken 
sleep. Borodin has been severely censured by 
certain critics for the robust realism with which 
he has treated this scene. When the Khan's 
daughter discovers their secret preparations for 
flight, she entreats Vladimir not to forsake her. 
He is on the point of jdelding, when his father 
sternly recalls him to a sense of duty. But 
Konchakovna's glowing Oriental passion is not 
to be baulked. At the last moment, when Ov- 
lour gives the signal for escape, she flings her- 
self upon her lover, and holds him back until 
Igor has mounted and galloped out of the camp, 
imconscious ihat his son is left behind. De- 
tained against his will, Vladimir finds no great 
difficulty in accommodating himself to circum- 
stances. The soldiers would like to kill him in 
revenge for his father's escape. But the Khan 
philosophically remarks : " Since the old falcon 
has taken flight, we must chain the young falcon 
by giving him a mate. He must be my daughter's 
husband." In the fourth Act Yaroslavna sings 
her touching lament, as she stands on the terrace 
of her ruined palace and gazes over the fertile 
plains, now ravaged by the hostile army. 
Even while she bemoans the cruelty of fate. 



26o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

two horsemen come in sight. They prove to 
be Igor and the faithful Ovlour, returned in 
safety from their perilous ride. The joy of 
reunion between husband and wife may be 
perhaps a trifle over-emphasised. It is the man 
who speaks here, rather than the artist ; for 
Borodin, who lived in perfect domestic happiness 
with his wife, knew, however, many long and 
enforced separations from her. The picture 
of conjugal felicity which he gives us in Igor 
is undoubtedly reflected from his own life. 

The opera closes with a touch of humour. 
Igor and Yaroslavna enter the Kremlin at 
Poultivle at the same moment as the two 
deserters Eroshka and Skoula. The precious 
pair are shaking in their shoes, for if Igor catches 
sight of them they are lost. To get out of 
their difficulty they set the bells a-ringing and 
pretend to be the first bearers of the glad tidings 
of Igor's escape. Probably because they are 
merry ruffians and skilful with their goudoks, 
no one reveals their treachery and they get off 
scot-free. 

When we consider that Prince Igor was written 
piecemeal, in intervals snatched between medical 
commissions, boards of examination, lectures, 
and laboratory work, we marvel to find it so 
astonishingly cohesive, so delightfully fresh. 
Borodin describes the difficulties he had to 
contend with in a letter to an intimate friend. 



BORODIN AND CUI 261 

" In winter," he says, "I can only compose 
when I am too unwell to give my lectures. So 
my friends, reversing the usual custom, never 
say to me, ' I hope you are well ' but ' I do hope 
you are ill.' At Christmas I had influenza, 
so I stayed at home and wrote the Thanksgiving 
Chorus in the last act of Igor." 

Borodin took his work very seriously, as we 
might expect from a scientist. He had access 
to every document bearing on the period of his 
opera, and he received from Hunfalvi, the 
celebrated traveller, a number of melodies 
collected among the tribes of Central Asia 
which he employed in the music allotted to the 
Polovtsy. But there is nothing of meticulous 
pedantry apparent in Borodin's work. He has 
drawn a vivid picture of the past, a worthy 
pendant to the historical paintings of his con- 
temporary Vasnietsov, who has reconstructed 
mediaeval Russia with such astonishing force 
and realism. Borodin modelled his opera upon 
Glinka's Russian and Liudmilla rather than 
on Dargomij sky's The Stone Guest. He had his 
own personal creed as regards opera:tic form. 
" Recitative does not conform to my tempera- 
ment," he says, " although according to some 
critics I do not handle it badly. I am far more 
attracted to melody and cantilena, I am more 
and more drawn to definite and concrete forms. 
In opera, as in decorative art, minutiae are 



262 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

out of place. Bold outlines only are necessary. 
All should be clear and fit for practical perform- 
ance from the vocal and instrumental stand- 
points. The voices should take the first place ; 
the orchestra the second." 

Prince Igor, in its finished iorm, is a com- 
promise between the new and the old methods ; 
for the declamation, although not of such 
primary importance as with Dargomijsky, is 
more developed than with Glinka. Borodin 
keeps to the accepted divisions of Italian opera, 
and gives to Igor a long aria quite in the 
traditional style. The music of Prince Igor has 
some features in common with Glinka's Russian, 
in which the Oriental element is also made to 
contrast with the national Russian colouring. 
But the Eastern music in Borodin's opera is 
more daring and characteristic. Comparing 
the two operas, Cheshikin says : " The epic 
beauty of Prince Igor reminds us of the serene 
poetry of Goncharov, of the so-called ' poetry 
of daily life ' ; whUe Glinka may be more 
suitably compared to Poushkin. Borodin's 
calm, cheerful, objective attitude towards the 
national life is manifested in the general style 
of the opera ; in the wonderfully serene 
character of its melody ; in the orchestral 
colour, in the transparency of the harmony, 
and the lightness and agility of the counter- 
point. In spite of his reputation as an innovator, 



BORODIN AND CUI 263 

Borodin has introduced nothing startUngly new 
into this opera ; his orchestral style is still that 
of Glinka. . . . The poetry of common things 
exercised such a fascination for Borodin that he 
completely forgot the heroic tendencies of 
Glinka. His folk, as represented by him amid 
an epidemic of alcohohsm, and the hard- 
worked, ubiquitous goudok players, Eroshka and 
Skoula, throw into the shade the leading char- 
acters whose musical outlines are somewhat 
sketchy and impermanent. Borodin's Igor recalls 
Glinka's Russian ; Yaroslavna is not a very 
distinguished personality ; Galitsky is not far 
removed from Eroshka and Skoula ; and Kon- 
chakovna and Vladimir are ordinary operatic 
lovers. The chief beauty of GUnka's Russian 
Ues in the solo parts and in a few concerted 
numbers. On the other hand, the principal 
hero of Borodin's opera is ' the folk ' ; while 
its chief beauty is to be found in the choruses 
based on Russian and Tatar folk-song themes. 
What affects us chiefly in the music may be 
traced to that normal optimism %vith which 
the whole work is impregnated." Borodin, it 
should be added, had far more humour than 
Glinka, who could never have created two such 
broadly and robustly comic types as Skoula and 
Eroshka. There is a distinctly Shakespearian 
flavour in the quality of Borodin's humour. In 
this respect he approaches Moussorgsky. 



264 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

In the atmosphere of healthy, popular, op- 
timism which pervades it throughout ; in the 
prevalence of major over minor keys ; in the 
straightforwardness of its emotional appeal — 
Prince Igor stands almost alone among Russian 
operas. The spirit of pessimism which darkens 
Russian literature inevitably crept into the 
national opera ; because music and literature 
are more closely associated in Russia than in 
any other country. Glinka's A Life for the 
Tsar is a tragedy of loyal self-sacrifice ; Tchai- 
kovsky took his brooding melancholy into his 
operatic works, which are nearly all built on 
some sad or tragic libretto ; Cui deals in 
romantic melodrama ; Moussorgsky depicts the 
darkest phases in Russian history. Prince Igor 
comes as a serene and restful interlude after 
the stress and horror which characterise many 
Russian national operas. Nor is it actually 
less national because of its optimistic character. 
There are two sides to the Russian tempera- 
ment ; the one overshadowed by melancholy 
and mysticism ; prone to merciless analysis ; 
seeing only the contradictions and vanities of 
life, the mortality and emptiness of all that is. 
I doubt if this is the true Russian temperament ; 
if it is not rather a morbid condition, the result 
of sudden and copious doses of culture, admin- 
istered too hastily to a people just emerging 
from a semi-barbaric state — the kind of result 




ALEXIS LlOKCiDIN 



BORODIN AND CUl 265 

that follows alcohol taken on an empty stomach ; 
a quick elation, an equally speedy reaction to 
extreme depression. The other side of the 
Russian character is really more normal. It 
shows itself ua the popular literature. The 
folk-songs and bylini are not all given up to 
resentful bitterness and despair. We find this 
healthier spirit in the masses, where it takes the 
form of a desire for practical knowledge, a 
shrewdness in making a bargain and a co- 
operative spirit that properly guided would 
accomplish wonders. It shows itself, too, in a 
great capacity for work which belongs to the 
vigorous youth of the nation and in a cheerful 
resignation to inevitable hardships. Borodin 
was attracted by temperament to this saner 
aspect of national character. 

The most distinctive feature of Russian art 
and literature is the power to reflect clearly, as 
in a glass, various phases of popular life. This 
has also been the aim of the Russian composers, 
with few exceptions. They cheerfully accepted 
the limitations imposed by the national vision, 
and have won appreciation abroad by the 
sheer force of genius manifested in their works. 
They resolutely sought the kingdom of the 
Ideal, and would have been greatly surprised to 
find such things as universal fame added to 
them. Borodin, for example, cherished no 
illusions as to winning the approval of Berlin 



266 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

or Paris for his work. Prince Igor, he said, 
with admirable philosophy, " is essentially an 
opera for the Russians. It would never bear 
transplantation." For many years, however, 
it could not even be said to be " a work for the 
Russians " in the fullest sense, because it was 
not offered to the right public. Works like 
Prince Igor and Boris Godounov, which should 
have been mounted at a People's Palace in 
St. Petersburg, for the enjoyment of a large 
and really popular audience, were laid aside for 
many years awaiting the patriotic enterprise of 
rich men like Mamantov, who occasionally 
gave a series of Russian operas at their own 
expense, or the generous impulse of artists such 
as Melnikov and Shaliapin, who were willing to 
risk the production of a national masterpiece 
on their benefit nights. 

Cesar Cui offers in most respects a complete 
contrast to the composer of Prince Igor. It is 
true that he shares with Borodin the lyrical, 
rather than the declamatory, tendency in 
operatic music, but whereas the latter is a 
follower of Glinka in his close adherence to the 
national style, we find in the music of Cesar 
Cui a strong blend of foreign influences. As in 
Tchaikovsky's dramatic works we discern from 
first to last some traces of his earliest love in 
music — ^the Italian opera — so in Cui's com- 
positions we never entirely lose sight of his 



BORODIN AND CUI 267 

French descent. Cui's position as a composer 
must strike us as paradoxical. The first disciple 
to join Balakirev, and always a staunch sup- 
porter of the new Russian school, we might 
naturally expect to find some strong, pro- 
gressive, and national tendency in his music. 
We might suppose that he would assume the 
virtue of nationality even if he had it not. But 
this is not the case. The French element, 
combined, curiously enough, with Schumann's 
influence, is everywhere predominant. Never- 
theless, Cui has been a distinct force in the 
evolution of modern Russian music, for to him 
is generally attributed the origin of that " second 
generation " of composers with whom inspiration 
ranks after the cult of form, and " the idea " 
becomes subordinate to elaborate treatment. 
This tendency is also represented by Glazounov 
in his early work, and still more strongly by 
Liadov and one or two composers for the 
pianoforte. 

Cui was born at Vilna, in Poland, in 1835. 
His father had served in Napoleon's army, and 
was left behind during the retreat from Moscow 
in 1812. He afterwards married a Lithuanian 
lady and settled down as teacher of French in 
the Vilna High School. Here Cui received his 
early education. He showed a precocious musi- 
cal talent and, besides learning the pianoforte, 
picked up some theoretical knowledge from 



268 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Moniuszko ; but he never — as is sometimes 
stated — received regular instruction from the 
PoHsh composer. Except for what he owed in 
later hfe to Balakirev's guidance, Cui is actually 
that rata avis, a self-taught composer. 

From the time he entered the School of 
Military Engineering in 1850, until he passed 
out with honours in 1857, Cui had no time to 
devote to his favourite pursuit. On obtaining 
officer's rank he was appointed sub-Professor 
of Fortification, and lecturer on the same sub- 
ject at the Staff College and School of ArtUlery. 
Among his pupils he reckoned the present Em- 
peror, Nicholas II. Cui has now risen to be a 
Lieut. -General of Engineers and President of the 
I. R. M. S. At first his military appointments 
barely sufficed to keep him, and when he married 
— early in life — ^he and his wife were obliged to 
add to their income by keeping a preparatory 
school for boys intended eventually for the 
School of Engineering. Here Cui taught all 
day, when not lecturing in the military schools ; 
while his nights were largely devoted to the 
study of harmony, and afterwards to composi- 
tion and musical criticism. Very few of the 
Russian composers, with their dual occupations 
to fulfil, have known the luxury of an eight 
hours' day. 

Cui first met Balakirev in 1856, and was 
introduced by him to Dargomijsky. His earliest 



BORODIN AND CUI 269 

operatic attempt, a work in one act entitled 
The Mandarin's Son, was a very slight composi- 
tion in the style of Auber. An opera composed 
about the same time (1858-1859) on Poushkin's 
dramatic poem The Captive in the Caucasus was 
a much more ambitious effort. Many years 
later — in 1881 — Cui considered this work worth 
remodelling, and he also interpolated a second 
act. The patch is rather obvious, but The Cap- 
tive in the Caucasus is an interesting work to 
study, because it reveals very clearly the differ- 
ence between Cui's earlier and later styles. 
Cui's reputation as an operatic composer 
actually began, however, with the performance 
of William Ratcliff, produced at the Marjdnsky 
Theatre, St. Petersburg, in February 1869, under 
the direction of Napravnik, on the occasion of 
Mme. Leonova's benefit. A composer who is 
also a critic is certainly at a disadvantage in 
many respects. Cui, who contributed during 
the 'sixties a whole series of brilliant — and 
often mercilessly satirical — articles to the 
Russian press, ^ gave his adversaries an ex- 
cellent opportunity to attack him for incon- 
sistency when Ratcliff made its appearance. 
Cui's literary precepts do undoubtedly move 
somewhat in advance of his practice as a 
composer, and Ratcliff conforms in very few 

^ He was appointed musical critic of the St. Petersburg 
" Viedomosty " in 1864. 



270 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

respects to the creed of the new Russian 
school as formulated by him in his well-known 
articles "La Musique en Russie." That is 
to say, instead of following the example 
of Dargoraijsky in The Stone Guest, Cui to a 
great extent replaces free-recitative by arioso ; 
while at the same time the absence of such 
broad and flowing melody as we find in the 
operas of Glinka, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky 
places William Ratcliff in a position midway 
between declamatory and lyric opera. Some 
of the hostile criticisms showered upon this 
work are not altogether unjust. The subject 
of Heine's early tragedy, the outcome of his 
" Sturm und Drang " period, is undoubtedly 
crude and sensational ; even in Plestcheiev's 
fine translation it was hardly likely to be accept- 
able to a nation who was beginning to base its 
dramatic traditions on the realistic plays of 
Gogol and Ostrovsky, rather than upon the 
romanticism of Schiller's " Robbers," and kin- 
dred dramas. The music is lacking in realistic 
power and certainly makes no pretensions to 
fulfil Dargomijsky's dictum that " the note 
must represent the word." Although the action 
of William Ratcliff takes place across the border, 
neither the sentiment nor the colour of the 
music would satisfy a Scottish composer. But 
Cui's critics show a lack of perception when they 
neglect to praise the grace and tenderness which 



BORODIN AND CUI 271 

characterise his heroine Mary, and the sincerity 
and warmth of emotion which occasionally 
kindles and glows into passion as in the love- 
duet between William and Mary in the last act. 

The public verdict which began by echoing 
that of the critics, with the inimical Serov at 
their head, afterwards became more favourable, 
and William Ratcliff, when produced in 1900 by 
the Private Opera Company in Moscow, was 
received with considerable enthusiasm. 

Tchaikovsky, writing of this opera in 1879, 
says : "It contains charming things, but un- 
fortunately it suffers from a certain insipidity, 
and from over-elaboration in the development 
of the parts. It is obvious that the composer 
has spent a long time over each individual bar, 
and lovingly completed it in every detail, with 
the result that his musical outline has lost its 
freedom and every touch is too deliberate. By 
nature Cui is more drawn towards light and 
piquantly rhythmic French music ; but the 
demands of ' the invincible band,' which he has 
joined, compel him to do violence to his natural 
gifts and to follow those paths of would-be 
original harmony which do not suit him. Cui 
is now forty-four years of age and has only com- 
posed two operas and two or three dozen songs. 
He was engaged for ten years upon his opera 
Ratcliff. It is evident that the work was com- 
posed piecemeal, hence the lack of any unity 



272 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

of style." This criticism contains a germ of 
carefully observed truth. The score of William 
Ratcliff, which looks deceptively simple and 
seems to be packed with dance rhjrthms in the 
style of Auber (Leslie's song in Act II. for 
instance might be a chansonette from "Fra 
Diavolo "), shows on closer examination rather a 
tiresome succession of harmonic surprise tricks, 
intended perhaps to draw attention from themes 
which have not in themselves an impressive 
dramatic quality. At the same time, only 
prejudice couldignore the true poetry and passion 
expressed in the love scenes between William 
and Mary. 

William Ratcliff was followed by a series of 
admirable songs which indicated that Cui's 
talent as a vocal composer was rapidly maturing. 
A new opera,, in four acts, entitled Angela,^ 
was completed and performed in St. Petersburg 
in February 1876, under the direction of Na- 
pravnik, the occasion being the benefit of the 
great baritone Melnikov. The book oi Angela 
is based upon a play of Victor Hugo — a tale of 
passionate love ; of rivalry between two beauti- 
ful and contrasting types of womanhood ; of 
plotted revenge, and final atonement, when 

iPonchielli has used the same subject for his opera 
" Gioconda " ; while Mascagni, influenced possibly by the 
Russian realists, made a literal setting of Heine's poem 
"William Ratcliff" in the style of The Stone Guest 
("Guglielmo Ratchff," Milan 1893.) 



BORODIN AND CUI 273 

Tisbe saves the life of her rival at the expense 
of her own. The scene is laid in Padua during 
the middle of the sixteenth century. This 
work is generally regarded as the fruit of Cui's 
maturity. The subject is more suited to his 
temperament than Heine's " Ratcliff," and lends 
itself to the frequent employment of a chorus. 
Here Cui has been very successful, especially 
in the lighter choruses written in Italian dance 
rhythms, such as the tarantella " The moon 
rides in the clear bright sky," in the third act, 
and the graceful valse-like chorus " Far o'er 
the sea." The love duet between Catarina 
and Rodolfo is preferred by many to the great 
love duet in Ratcliff. Cui, whose heroines are 
more convincing than his male types, has 
found congenial material in Cataiina and 
Tisbe, who have been described as " Woman in 
Society and Woman outside it " ; thus com- 
bining in two typical personalities " all women 
and all womanhood." There is power, too, in 
the purely dramatic moments, as when Ascanio 
addresses the populace. The opera concludes 
with a fine elegiac chorus, in which the char- 
acter of the period and locality — mediaeval 
Italy, tragic and intense — ^is not unsuccessfully 
reflected. 

In Angela Cui made a supreme effort to achieve 
breadth of style and to break through the limita- 
tions he had imposed upon himself by adopting 

T 



274 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the methods and pectiliarities of such composers 
as Schumann and Chopin. But this effort 
seems to have been followed by a speedy re- 
action. After the appearance of Angela his 
manner becomes more distinctly finical and 
artificial. His military duties and his literary 
work made increasing demands on his time, and 
the flow of inspiration dropped below its highest 
level. Songs and miniatures for pianoforte 
were now his chief preoccupation, and, greater 
undertakings being perhaps out of the question, 
he became absorbed in the cvilt of small and 
finished forms, and fell increasingly under the 
influence of Schumann. It was at this time that 
he wrote the additional act for The Captive 
in the Caucasus, to which reference has already 
been made. Here the contrast between the 
simphcity and sincerity of his first style, and 
the formal polish and " preciousness " of his 
middle period, is very pronounced. The use of 
local colour in The Captive in the Caucasus is 
not very convincing. Cui is no adept in the 
employment of Oriental themes, and the Caucasus 
has never been to him the source of romantic 
inspiration it has proved to so many other 
Russian poets and composers. 

Another four-act opera The Saracen, the sub- 
ject taken from a play by the elder Dumas 
entitled "Charles VII. chezses grands Vasseaux," 
was first performed at the Maryinsky Theatre 



BORODIN AND CUI 275 

in St. Petersburg in 1899, and revived by the 
Private Opera Company at Moscow in 1902. 
The subject is gloomy and highly dramatic, 
with sensational elements almost as lurid as 
anything in William Ratcliff. The interest of 
the opera fluctuates between the love of the 
King for Agnes Sorel — ^two figures which stand 
out in relief from the dark historical back- 
ground of that period, when Jeanne d'Arc was 
fighting the battles of her weak and indolent 
sovereign — and the domestic affairs of the 
saturnine Count Saverny and his wife Beran- 
gere ; complicated by the inner drama which is 
carried on in the soul of the Saracen slave Jakoub, 
who is in love with the Countess, and finally 
murders her husband at her instigation. As 
usual, Cui is most successful in the purely 
lyrical numbers — ^the love scenes between the 
King and Agnes Sorel. Here the music, almost 
effeminately tender, has that touching and 
sensuous quality which caused a celebrated 
French critic to write of Cui as " the Bellini 
of the North." The " berceuse," sung, strangely 
enough, by the harsh Count de Saverny as he 
keeps watch over the King's son on the threshold 
of his bed-chamber, is a strikingly original 
number which should be better known in the 
concert-room. 

Le Flibustier, composed between 1 888-1889, 
was dedicated to that distinguished amateur 



276 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the Countess Mercy-Argenteau, whose influence 
counted for so much in Cui's later musical 
development. This work, written to a French 
libretto from a play by Jean Richepin, was 
originally produced at the Opera Comique, 
Paris, in 1894. It is described as a " Comedie 
lyrique en trois actes." It is frankly French 
in style and contains some graceful and effective 
music, but lacks the natural emotion and ardour 
which in Ratcliff and Angela atone for some 
limitations of expression and for the lack of 
unity of style. 

An opera in one act, Mam'selle Fifi, based 
upon Guy de Maupassant's well-known tale 
of the Franco-Prussian war, was produced by 
the Private Opera Company at the Hermitage 
Theatre in the autumn of 1903. The work was 
well received by the public. The scene is laid in 
a chateau near Rouen which is occupied by a 
detachment of Prussians and their commanding 
officers. Bored by their life of inaction, the 
officers induce some young women from Rouen 
to come and amuse them. They entertain them 
at dinner, and sub-lieutenant von Eirich (nick- 
named Mam'selle Fifi) pays attention to the 
patriotic Rachel ; but while at table he irritates 
her to such a degree by his insulting remarks 
and vulgar jokes that she seizes a knife and stabs 
him mortally in the throat. Afterwards she 
makes her escape. Kashkin says : " The music 



BORODIN AND CUI 277 

of this opera flows on smoothly in concise de- 
clamatory scenes, only interrupted from time 
to time by the chorus of ofiicers, and the light- 
hearted songs of Amanda. Rachel's aria intro- 
duces a more tragic note. The music is so 
closely welded to the libretto that it appears 
to be an essential part of it, clothing with 
vitality and realism scenes which would other- 
wise be merely the dry bones of opera." 

While I was in Russia in the spring of 1901, 
Cui played to me a " dramatic scene," or one- 
act opera, entitled A Feast in Time of Plague. 
It proved to be a setting of a curious poem by 
Poushkin which he pretended to have translated 
from Wilson's " City of the Plague." Walsing- 
ham, a young English nobleman, dares to indulge 
in " impious orgies " during the visitation of 
the Great Plague. The songs of the revellers 
are interrupted at intervals by a funeral march, 
as the dead-cart goes its round to collect its 
victims. Cui has set Poushkin's poem word for 
word, consequently this little work is more 
closely modelled upon Dargomij sky's The Stone 
Guest than any other of his operas. When I 
heard the work, I was under the impression that 
it was intended only as a dramatic cantata, 
but it was afterwards produced as an opera 
at the New Theatre, Moscow, in the autumn of 
1901, The song sung by Walsingham's mis- 
tress, Mary (" Time was "), which is Scotch in 



278 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

character, has considerable pathetic charm, and 
struck me as the most spontaneous number in 
the work, which, on the whole, seems an effort 
to fit music not essentially tragic in character to 
a subject of the gloomiest nature. 

In summing up Cui's position as a composer, 
I must return to my assertion that it is para- 
doxical. First, we may conclude from the pre- 
ponderance of operatic music and songs that 
Cui is more gifted as a vocal than as an instru- 
mental composer ; that, in fact, he needs a 
text to bring out his powers of psychological 
analysis. But when we come to examine his 
music, the methods — and even the mannerisms — 
of such instrumental composers as Chopin and 
Schumann are reflected in all directions. A 
style obviously founded on Schumann will 
necessarily lack the qualities which we are 
accustomed to regard as essential to a great 
operatic style. Cui has not the luminous breadth 
and powerful flow of simple and effective melody 
which we find in the older type of opera ; nor 
the pre-eminent skill in declamation which is 
indispensable to the newer forms of music- 
drama. His continuous use of arioso becomes 
monotonous and ineffective, because, with him, 
the clear edges of melody and recitative seem 
perpetually blurred. This arises partly from 
the fact that Ctii's melody, though deUcate and 
refined, is not strongly individual. He is not 



BORODIN AND GUI 279 

a plagiarist in the worst sense of the word, but 
the influences which a stronger composer would 
have cast off at maturity seem to obtain a 
stronger hold on him as time goes on. His 
talent reminds me of those complex recipes for 
pot-pourri which we find in the day-books of our 
great-grandmothers. It is compounded of many 
more or less delightful ingredients : French 
predilections, Schumannesque mannerisms, some 
essence distilled from the grace and passion of 
Chopin, a dash of Russian sincerity — a number of 
fragrant and insidious aromas, in which the 
original element of individuality is smothered 
in the rose leaves and lavender winnowed from 
other people's gardens. Then there is a second 
perplexing consideration which follows the study 
of Cui's music. Possessed of this fragrant, but 
not robust, talent, Cui elects to apply it to themes 
of the ultra-romantic type with all their grisly 
accompaniments of moonlit heaths, blood-stained 
daggers, vows of vengeance, poison-cups, and 
the rest. It is as though a Herrick were posing 
as a John Webster. Surely in these curious 
discrepancies between the artist's temperament 
and his choice of subject and methods of treat- 
ment we find the reason why of all Cui's operas 
not one has taken a permanent hold on the public 
taste in Russia or abroad. And this in spite of 
their lyrical charm and graceful workmanship. 
Cui is now the ?ole remaining member of 



28o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

" the invincible band " who originally gathered 
round Balakirev for the purpose of founding a 
national school of music. He is now in his 
eightieth year, but still composes and keeps up 
his interest in the Russian musical world. 
Within the last three years he has published 
a four-act opera on the subject of Poushkin's 
tale, " The Captain's Daughter."^ 



^ The opera was produced in St. Petersburg in February, 
1911, the Emperor and Empress being present. It will be 
given shortly by the Zimin Opera Company, in Moscow. 
Published by Jurgenson, Moscow. 



CHAPTER XII 

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 

A contemporary critic has pointed to 
Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky as 
having, between them, built up Russian 
music to its present proud condition, " con- 
structing their majestic edifice upon the ever- 
lasting foundation laid by Glinka." Making 
some allowance for grandiloquence of language, 
this observation is particularly true as applied 
to Rimsky-Korsakov, for not only was he 
consistently true to the national ideal in all his 
works, but during his long activity as a teacher 
he trained a whole group of distinguished 
musicians — Liadov, Arensky, Ippolitov-Ivanov 
Grechyaninov, Tcherepnin, Stravinsky — who 
have all added their stones to the building up of 
this temple of Russian art. At the same time, 
we must regard Rimsky-Korsakov as the last of 
those national composers who chose to build 
with exclusively local materials and in purely 
Russian style. The younger generation are 
shaping their materials under more varied in- 
fluences. Rimsky-Korsakov, therefore, stands 



282 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

out in the history of Russian opera as one 
of the most distinguished and distinctively 
racial composers of that circle to whom we owe 
the inauguration of the national school of music 
in Russia. 

The subject of this chapter was born in the 
little village of Tikvin, in the government of 
Novgorod, on March 6th, 1844, and, until he 
was twelve years old, he continued to live on 
his father's estate, among the lakes and forests 
of northern Russia, where music was interwoven 
with every action of rustic life. His gifts were 
precocious ; between six and seven he began to 
play the pianoforte, and made some attempts at 
composition before he was nine. It was almost 
a matter of tradition that the men of the 
Korsakov family should enter the navy ; con- 
sequently in 1856, Nicholas Andreivich was sent 
to the Naval College at St. Petersburg, where 
he remained for six years. Not without diffi- 
culty he managed to continue his pianoforte 
lessons on Sundays and holidays with the 
excellent teacher Kanill6. The actual starting 
point of his musical career, however, was his 
introduction to Balakirev and his circle. From 
this congenial companionship Rimsky-Korsakov 
was abruptly severed in 1863, when he was 
ordered to sea in the cruiser " Almaz." The 
ship was absent on foreign service for three 
years, during which she practically made the 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 283 

round of the world. While on this voyage 
Rimsky-Korsakov wrote and revised a Sym- 
phony, Op. I in E Minor, and surely never was 
an orchestral work composed under stranger 
or less propitious conditions. Balakirev per- 
formed this work at one of the concerts of the 
Free School of Music in the winter of 1866. It 
was the first symphony ever composed by a 
Russian, and the music, though not strong, is 
agreeable ; but like many other early opus 
numbers it bears evidence of strong external 
influences. 

In the chapters dealing with Balakirev and 
his circle I have given a picture of the social and 
artistic conditions in St. Petersburg to which 
the young sailor returned in the autumn of 
1865. In common with other members of this 
school, Rimsky-Korsakov's musical develop- 
ment at this time was carried on as it were d, 
rebours, Schumann, Berlioz, Liszt and Glinka 
being his early ideals and models. During the 
years of his pupilage with Balakirev, he com- 
posed, besides his first symphony, the Sym- 
phonic Picture " Sadko," a Fantasia on Servian 
Themes, the Symphony with an Oriental pro- 
gramme entitled " Antar," and the opera The 
Maid of Pskov, now usually given abroad under 
the title of Ivan the Terrible. In his " Chronicle 
of my Musical Life " Rimsky-Korsakov shows 
clearly that after passing through a phase of 



284 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

blind idolatry for Balakirev and his methods, he 
began, largely by reason of his orderly, in- 
dustrious, and scrupulously conscientious 
nature, to feel the need of a more academic 
course of training. He realised the defects in 
his theoretical education most keenly when, 
in 1871, Asanchievsky, who had just suc- 
ceeded Zaremba as Director of the St. Peters- 
burg Conservatoire, offered him a post as 
professor of practical composition and also 
the direction of the orchestral class. Urged 
by his friends, and prompted by a certain 
self-assurance which he asserts was born of 
his ignorance, Rimsky-Korsakov accepted the 
post, being permitted at the same time to 
remain in the naval service. Although he 
had composed " Sadko," " Antar," and other 
attractive and weU-sounding compositions, he 
had worked, so far, more or less intuitively 
and had not been grounded in the particular 
subjects which form the curriculum of a musical 
academy. Probably it mattered much less 
than his scrupulous rectitude prompted him 
to suppose, that he felt unfit to lecture upon 
rondo-iorm, and had his work as a conductor 
yet to learn. The main thing was that he 
brought a fresh, breezy, and wholly Russian 
current of thought into the stuffy atmo- 
sphere of pedantic classicism which must have 
been engendered under Zaremba's direc- 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 285 

torate. ^ Indeed, according to his own modest 
account, things seem to have gone well with the 
orchestral and instrumentation classes. From 
this time, however, began that strong reaction 
in favour of classicism and " the schools," upon 
which his progressive friends looked with dis- 
may ; to them his studies appeared merely the 
cult of musical archaeology — a retrogressive step 
to be deeply deplored. On the other hand 
Tchaikovsky hailed it as a sign of grace and 
repentance. " Rimsky-Korsakov," writes the 
composer of the " Pathetic " symphony to N. 
von Meek, in 1877, " is the one exception (in 
the matter of conceit and stiff-necked pride) to 
the rest of the new Russian school. He was 
overcome by despair when he realised how many 
profitable years he had lost and that he was 
following a road which led nowhere. He began 
to study with such zeal that during one summer 
he achieved innumerable exercises in counter- 
point and sixty-four fugues, ten of which he sent 
me for inspection." Rimsky-Korsakov may 
have felt himself braced and strengthened by 

^ It will be remembered that Zaremba was satirized in 
Moussorgsky's humorous Scena "The Musician's Peep 
show " as that " denizen of cloudland " who used to 
deliver to his bewildered classes inspired dictums some 
thing in this style : 

" Mark my words : the minor key 
Is the source of man's first downfall ; 
But the major still can give 
Salvation to your erring souls." 



286 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

this severe course of musical theory ; it may 
have been a relief to his extremely sensitive 
artistic conscience to feel that henceforward he 
he could rely as much on experience as on 
intuition ; but his remorse for the past- 
supposing him ever to have felt the sting of such 
keen regret — never translated itself into the 
apostasy of his earlier principles. After the 
sixty-four fugues and the exhaustive study of 
Bach's works, he continued to walk with 
Berlioz and Liszt in what Zaremba would have 
regarded as the way of sinners, because in his 
opinion it coincided with the highway of 
musical progress, as well as with his natural 
inclinations. He knew the forms demanded by 
his peculiar temperament. Genius, and even 
superior talent, almost invariably possess this 
intuition. No one should have known better 
than Tchaikovsky that in spite of well-inten- 
tioned efforts to push a composer a little to 
the right or the left, the question of form re- 
mains — and will always remain — self-selective. 
Rimsky-Korsakov, after, as before, his initiation 
into classicism, chose the one path open to the 
honest artist — ^musician, painter, or poet — the 
way of individuality. 

In 1873 Rimsky-Korsakov, at the suggestion 
of the Grand Duke Constantine, was appointed 
Inspector of Naval Bands, in which capac- 
ity he had great opportunities for practical 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 287 

experiments in instrumentation. At this time, 
he tells us, he went deeply into the study of 
acoustics and the construction and special 
qualities of the instruments of the orchestra. 
This appointment practically ended his career 
as an officer on the active list, at which he must 
have felt considerable relief, for with all his 
" ideal conscientiousness " it is doubtful whether 
he would ever have made a great seaman. The 
following letter, written to Cui during his first 
cruise on the " Almaz," reveals nothing of the 
cheery optimism of a true " sea-dog " ; but it 
does reveal the germ of " Sadko " and of much 
finely descriptive work in his later music. 
" What a thing to be thankful for is the naval 
profession," he writes ; " how glorious, how 
agreeable, how elevating ! Picture yourself sail- 
ing across the North Sea. The sky is grey, 
murky, and colourless ; the wind screeches 
through the rigging ; the ship pitches so that 
you can hardly keep your legs ; you are 
constantly besprinkled with spray, and some- 
times washed from head to foot by a wave ; you 
feel chilly, and rather sick. Oh, a sailor's 
life is really jolly ! " 

But if his profession did not benefit greatly 
by his services, his art certainly gained some- 
thing from his profession. It is this actual 
contact with nature, choral in moments of stress 
and violence, as well as in her mUder rhythmic 



288 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

moods, that we hear in " Sadko " the orchestral 
fantasia, and in Sadko the opera. We feel the 
weight of the wind against our bodies and the 
sting of the brine on our faces. We are left 
buffeted and breathless by the elemental fury 
of the storm when the Sea King dances with 
almost savage vigour to the sound of Sadko's 
gusslee, or by the vehement realism of the 
shipwreck in " Scheherezade." 

Of his early orchestral works, " Sadko " 
displays the national Russian element, while 
the second symphony, " Antar," shows his 
leaning towards Oriental colour. These com- 
positions prove the teridency of his musical 
temperament, but they do not show the more 
delicate phases of his work. They are large and 
effective canvases and display extraordinary 
vigour and much poetical sentiment. But the 
colour, although laid on with science, is certainly 
applied with a palette knife. We must go to his 
operas and songs to discover what this artist 
can do in the way of discriminating and exquisite 
brush-work. In speaking of Korsakov's work, 
it seems natural to drop into the language of the 
studio, for, to me, he always appears as a descrip- 
tive poet, or still more as a landscape painter 
who has elected music for his medium. Gifted 
with a briUiant imagination, yet seeing with a 
realist's vision, he is far more attracted to what 
is capable of definite expression than towards 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 289 

abstract thought. Lyrical he is ; but more in 
the sense of Wordsworth than of Shelley. With 
a nature to which the objective world makes so 
strong an appeal, impassioned self-revelation is 
not a primary and urgent necessity. In this 
respect he is the antithesis of Tchaikovsky. The 
characteristic vein of realism which we have 
found in all our Russian composers, and most 
strongly marked in Moussorgsky, exists also in 
Korsakov ; but in his case it is controlled by an 
almost fastidious taste, and a love of beautiful 
details which sometimes stifle the fundamental 
idea of his work. From these preliminary re- 
marks you will have formed for yourselves some 
idea as to the spirit in which this composer 
would approach the sphere of dramatic music. 
He came to it first by way of Russian history. 
The Maid of Pskov {" Pskovityanka " ^) was 
completed in 1872, and performed in St. Peters- 
burg in January, 1873. The caste was a 
remarkably good one : Ivan the Terrible — 
Petrov ; Michael Toucha — Orlov ; Prince Tok- 
makov — Melnikov ; Olga — Platonova ; Vlas- 
sievna — ^Leonova. Napravnik was the con- 
ductor. Opinions as to its success vary greatly, 
but the early fate of the work does not seem to 
have been happy, partly because, as Stassov 

^ This opera is now given abroad under the title of Ivan 
the Terrible, which brings home to foreigners some realisa- 
tion of its period and of its gloomy central figure. 

U 



290 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

says, the public, accustomed only to Italian 
opera, were incapable of appreciating this 
attempt at serious historical music-drama, and 
partly because the opera suffered severely at 
the hands of the critics and the Censor. 

In The Maid of Pskov {" Ivan the Terrible ") 
Rimsky-Korsakov started under the influence of 
Dargomij sky's The Stone Guest, to the theory of 
which all the new Russian school at first 
subscribed. Afterwards Rimsky-Korsakov, like 
Tchaikovsky, alternated between lyrical and 
declamatory opera and occasionally effected 
a union of the two styles. In The Maid of 
Pskov the solo parts consisted at first chiefly 
of mezzo-recitative of a somewhat dry quality, 
relieved by great variety of orchestral colour in 
the accompaniments. The choruses, on the 
other hand, were very national in style and full 
of melody and movement. The work under- 
went many revisions before it appeared in its 
present form. In 1877 the composer added the 
Overture to the Prologue and the Entr'actes. 
At this time he was assisting to edit the " monu- 
mental " edition of Glinka's operas which the 
master's sister Liudmilla Shestakov was bringing 
out at her own expense. " This occupation," says 
Rimsky-Korsakov, " proved to be an unex- 
pected schoohng, and enabled me to penetrate 
into every detail of Glinka's structural style." 
The first revision of The Maid of Pskov and the 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 291 

editing of A Life for the Tsar and Russian were 
carried on simultaneously. Therefore it is not 
surprising that Rimsky-Korsakov set himself to 
polish and tone down many youthful crudi- 
ties which appeared in the original score of his 
own opera. Cui, Moussorgsky and Stassov, al- 
though at first they approved his resolution to 
revise the work, showed some disappointment at 
the results ; while the composer's wife deeply 
regretted its first form. It was evident to all 
that what the work had gained in structure and 
technical treatment it had lost in freshness and 
lightness of touch. In 1878 the composer 
offered it once more, in this revised edition, to 
Baron Kistner, Director of the Imperial Opera, 
but without success. The work was laid aside 
until 1894, when it was again re-modelled and 
revived by the initiative of an amateur society 
at the Panaevsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, in 
April 1895. In this version it was mounted 
at the Imperial Opera House, Moscow, when 
Shaliapin appeared in the part of Ivan the 
Terrible. On this occasion the opera was 
preceded by the Prologue Sqyanwya: Vera Sheloga, 
composed in 1899. Its reception was extremely 
enthusiastic, and in the autumn of 1903 — thirty 
years after its iirst performance — ^it was restored 
to the repertory of the St. Petersburg Opera. 

The subject of The Maid of Pskov is taken from 
one of Mey's dramas, dealing with an episode 



292 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

from the history of the sixteenth century when 
Ivan the Terrible, jealous of the enterprise and 
independence of the twin cities of Pskov and 
Novgorod, resolved to humble their pride and 
curtail their power. Novgorod fell ; but the 
awful doom of Pskov was mitigated by the 
Tsar's discovery that Olga, who passes for the 
daughter of Prince Tokmakov, the chief magis- 
trate of the city, was in reaUty his own natural 
child, the daughter of Vera Sheloga whom he 
had loved in youth, and for whose memory the 
tjnrant could still feel some spark of affection and 
some pangs of remorse. One of the finest 
moments in the opera is the summoning of the 
Vtche, or popular assembly, in the second act. 
The great city of mediaeval Russia, with all it 
contained of characteristic energy, of almost 
Elizabethan vigour and enterprise, is set before 
us in this musical picture. The stress and anger 
of the populace ; the fine declamatory mono- 
logue for Prince Tokmakov ; the song sung by 
Michael Toucha, Olga's lover, who leads the 
rebellious spirits of Pskov ; the impressive 
knell of the tocsin calHng the citizens to attend 
the Vtche — all unite to form a dramatic scene 
worthy to compare with the finale of Glinka's 
Russian and Liudmilla, or with the Slavsia 
(the chorus of acclamation) which makes the 
Kremlin ring in A Life for the Tsar. Russians, 
as everyone knows who has lived in their 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 293 

country, have a passion for bells, and often 
reproduce their effects in their music : wit- 
ness the orchestral prelude " Dawn Breaking 
over Moscow " in Moussorgsky's Khovanstchina 
and the familiar Overture " 1812 " by Tchaikov- 
sky. The bell effects in The Maid of Pskov are 
extraordinarily moving. Recalling, as it does, 
traditions of political liberty and free speech, 
this bell — so I have been told — appeared in the 
eyes of the Censor the most objectionable and 
revolutionary character in the whole opera. 
The scenes in which the old nurse Vlassievna 
takes part — a Nianka is so much a part of 
domestic life in Russia that no play or opera 
seems complete without one — are full of quiet 
humour and tenderness. The love-music for 
Michael and Olga is graceful rather than 
passionate, more warmth and tenderness being 
shown in the relations between the young girl 
and the Tsar, for whom she has an instinctive 
filial feeling. Psychologically the later scenes 
in the opera, in which we see the relentless and 
superstitious heart of Ivan gradually softening 
under the influence of paternal love, interest and 
touch us most deeply. In 1899 Rimsky-Kor- 
sakov added, at Shaliapin's request, the aria now 
sung by the Tsar in his tent, in the last act. 
This number reveals much of Ivan's strange and 
complex nature ; in it he is alternately the 
despot, the remorseful lover, and the weary old 



294 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

man aching for a daughter's tenderness. Cheshi- 
kin points out the remarkable effect which the 
composer produces at the end of this solo, where 
the key fluctuates between B flat major and G 
minor, with the final cadence in D major, giving 
a sense of weakness and irresolution appropriate 
to Ivan's weariness of body and soul. The final 
scene in the opera, in which the death of Olga 
snatches from the wretched Tsar his last hope of 
redemption through human love, has but one 
fault : that of almost unendurable poignancy. 
With the accession of Alexander III. in 1881 
began a more encouraging period for Russian 
composers. The Emperor showed a distinct 
predilection for native opera, and particularly 
for the works of Tchaikovsky. A series of 
musical events, such as the raising of the 
Glinka monument at Smolensk by national 
subscription (1885), Rubinstein's jubilee (1889), 
the publication of Serov's critical works, and the 
public funeral accorded to Tchaikovsky (1893), 
all had his approval and support, and in some 
instances were carried out entirely at his own 
expense. Henceforth the repertory of Russian 
music-dramas was not permitted to languish, 
and after the death of Tchaikovsky, the Direc- 
torate of the Opera Houses seems to have turned 
to Rimsky-Korsakov in the expectation of at 
least one novelty in each season. Consequently 
his achievement in this sphere of music far 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 295 

exceeds that of his immediate predecessors and 
contemporaries, amounting in all to thirteen 
operatic works. Of this number, none can be 
said to have been really a failure, and only one 
has dropped completely out of the repertory of 
the two capitals and the provinces, although 
some are undoubtedly more popular than 
others. To speak in detail of all these works 
would require a volume devoted to the subject. 
1 propose, therefore, to give a brief account of 
the greater number, devoting a Httle more space 
to those which seem most likely ever to be given 
in this country. 

The two operas which follow in 1879 ^-^^ 
1880, while possessing many features in common 
with each other, differ wholly in character from 
The Maid of Pskov. In A Night in May and 
The Snow Maiden {" Sniegourochka ") the 
dramatic realism of historical opera gives place 
to lyrical inspiration and the free flight of 
fancy. A Night in May is taken from one of 
Gogol's Malo-Russian tales. The Snow Maiden : 
a Legend of Springtide is founded upon a 
national epic by the dramatist Ostrovsky. 
Both operas offer that combination of legendary, 
picturesque and humorous elements which 
always exercised an attraction for Rimsky- 
Korsakov's musical temperament. In both 
works he shows that he has attained to a 
supreme mastery of orchestration, and the 



296 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

accompaniments in every instance go far to 
atone for his chief weakness — a certain dryness 
of melodic invention, except where the style 
of the melody coincides with that of the folk 
tune. A Night in May reveals the composer 
as a humorist of delicate and fantastic quality. 
Rimsky-Korsakov's humour is entirely native 
and individual, having nothing akin to the 
broad, saturnine, biting wit of Moussorgsky, 
nor to the vigorous humour of Borodin's comic 
villains Eroshka and Skoula, in Prince Igor. 
Rimsky-Korsakov can be sprightly, fanciful, 
and arch ; his humour is more often expressed 
by witty orchestral comments upon the text 
than by the melodies themselves. 

The first performance of A Night in May 
took place at the Marjrinsky Theatre, St. 
Petersburg, in January 1880, but it was soon 
withdrawn from the repertory and only revived 
in 1894, at the Imperial Mikhailovsky Theatre. 
In 1896 it was given at the Folk Theatre, in 
Prague ; and produced for the first time in 
Moscow in 1898. Besides being more lyrical 
and melodious in character than The Maid of 
Pskov, this opera shows evidences of Rimsky- 
Korsakov's intervening studies in the contra- 
puntal treatment of the choruses and concerted 
numbers. The scene of A Night in May, 
as in several of Gogol's tales, is laid near 
the village of Dikanka in Little Russia. Levko 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 297 

(tenor), the son of the Golova or Headman of 
the hamlet, is in love with Hanna (mezzo- 
soprano), but his father will not give consent to 
the marriage, because he admires the girl 
himself. In the first act Levko is discovered 
serenading Hanna in the twilight. Presently 
she emerges from her cottage and they sing a 
love duet. Then Hanna asks Levko to tell her 
the legend of the old deserted manor house 
that stands beside the mere. He appears 
reluctant, but finally relates how once a Pan (a 
Polish gentleman) dwelt there with the Pan- 
nochka, his fair daughter. He was a widower, 
and married again, but his second wife proved 
to be a witch who caused him to turn his 
daughter out of the house. The girl in despair 
drowned herself in the mere and became a 
Roussalka. She haunted the lake at night, and 
at last, catching her stepmother perilously near 
the edge of the water, she lured her down into 
its depths, Levko tells his sweetheart that the 
present owner wants to erect a distillery on the 
site of the mansion and has already sent a 
distiller there. The lovers then say good-bye 
and Hanna re-enters her cottage. Next follows 
an episode in which the village drunkard 
Kalenik (baritone) tries to dance the Gopak 
while the village girls sing a chorus of mockery. 
When the stage is empty the Headman (bass) 
appears and sings a song to Hanna in which. 



298 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

while he implores her to Usten to his love, he 
tells her that she ought to be very proud to have 
him for a suitor. Hanna, however, will have 
nothing to say to him. Levko, who has over- 
heard this scene and wishes to teach his father 
the lesson " of leaving other people's sweet- 
hearts alone," points him out to some wood- 
cutters on their way home from work and 
encourages them to seize him and hold him up 
to ridicule. The Headman, however, pushes 
them aside and makes his escape. The act 
ends with a song for Levko and the chorus of 
woodcutters. 

In the second act the curtain rises on the 
interior of the Headman's hut, where, with his 
sister-in-law and the Distiller, he is discussing 
the fate of the old manor house. Levko and 
the woodcutters are heard singing their im- 
pertinent song outside the house. The Head- 
man, beside himself with rage, rushes out and 
catches one of the singers, who is dressed in a 
sheepskin coat turned inside out. Now follows 
a farcical scene of tumult ; the singer escapes, 
and the Headman, by mistake, shuts up his 
sister-in-law in a closet. There is a general hue 
and cry after the culprit and the wrong people 
are continually being arrested, including the 
village drunkard Kalenik. In the last act 
Levko is discovered singing a serenade to the 
accompaniment of the Little-Russian bandoura 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 299 

before the haunted manor house by the mere. 
Apparently the wraith of the Pannochka appears 
at one of the windows. Then the Roussalki 
are seen on the edge of the lake, where they sit 
weaving chaplets of water-plants. At the 
request of the Pannochka-Roussalka, Levko 
leads the choral dances with his bandoura. 
Afterwards the Pannochka rewards him by 
giving him a letter in which she orders the 
Headman not to oppose Levko's marriage with 
Hanna. When the dawn breaks, the Headman, 
accompanied by the Scrivener, the Desyatsky 
(a kind of village superintendent) and others, 
arrive upon the scene, still in search of the 
culprit, who proves to be his own son, Levko 
gives the letter to his father, who feels obliged 
to consent to the young people's marriage. 
Hanna with her girl friends now come upon 
the scene and the opera ends with a chorus of 
congratulations to the bride and bridegroom. 

Perhaps the most graceful of all Rimsky- 
Korsakov's early operas is The Snow Maiden, 
in the music of which he has reflected the 
indelible impressions of a childhood spent amid 
sylvan surroundings. There is something of 
the same vernal impulsion in pages of The Snow 
Maiden of which we are conscious in Wagner's 
Forest Murmurs. What a profound loss to the 
poetry of a nation is the disappearance of its 
forests ! It is not only the rivers which grow 



300 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

drier and poorer for the ruthless wielding of the 
axe. None of Korsakov's operas show a greater 
profusion of little lyrical gems than this one, 
which embodies the Slavonic legend of the 
spring. The Snow Maiden is the daughter of 
jolly King Frost and the Fairy Spring. She is 
brought up by her parents in the solitary 
wintry woods, because envious Summer has 
foretold her death when the first ray of sunhght 
and love shall touch her icy beauty. But the 
child is attracted by the songs of the shepherd 
Lei, whom she has seen sporting with the 
vUlage girls in the meadows. She longs to lead 
a mortal's life, and her parents unwillingly 
consent, and confide her to a worthy peasant 
couple who promise to treat her as a daughter. 
The Fairy Spring bids her child to seek her should 
she be in trouble — " you wUl find me by the lake- 
side in the valley and I will grant your request 
whatever it may be " are the parting words of 
her mother. Then the Snow Maiden begins 
her sad mortal existence. She admires the gay 
shepherd, who does not respond to her fancy. 
Mizgjnr, a young Tatar merchant, falls madly 
in love with her, and for her sake deserts his 
promised bride Kupava. The passionate Ku- 
pava appears at the Court of the king of Be- 
rendei and demands justice. The fickle lover 
makes but one defence : " O, Tsar," he says, 
" if you could but see the Snow Maiden." At 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 301 

this juncture she appears, and the King, behold- 
ing her beauty, cannot believe that she is 
heartless. He promises her hand and rich 
rewards to any one of his young courtiers who 
can woo and win her before the next sunrise. 
In a wonderful forest scene we are shown the 
arcadian revels of the people of Berendei. Lei 
makes love to the deserted Kupava ; while 
Mizgyr pursues the Snow Maiden with his 
passionate addresses. The wood-spirits inter- 
fere on her behalf and Mizgyr gets lost in the 
forest. The Snow Maiden sees Lei and Ku- 
pava wandering together under the trees and 
endeavours to separate them, but in vain. In 
her trouble she remembers her mother and seeks 
her by the lake-side. The Fairy Spring appears, 
and moved by her daughter's entreaties, she 
accords her the power to love like a mortal. 
When the Snow Maiden sees Mizgyr again she 
loses her heart to him, and speaks of the new, 
sweet power of love which she feels stirring 
within her. But even as she speaks, a ray of 
sunlight pierces the clouds, and, falling on the 
young girl, melts her body and soul into the 
rising spring waters. Mizgyr, in despair, kills 
himself, and the opera closes with a song of 
thanksgiving to the Midsummer Sun. 

The poetical death-scene of the Snow Maiden ; 
Kupava's passionate love song and her incanta- 
tion to the bees; the pastoral songs of the 



302 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

shepherd Lei ; the folk-song choruses ; some- 
times with accompaniments for the gusslee ; the 
fairy scene in the forest and the return of the 
birds with the flight of winter— these things 
cannot fail to charm those who have not 
altogether outgrown the glamour of the world's 
youth with its beUef in the personification of 
natural forces. This opera is truly national, 
although it deals with legendary rather than 
historical events. This, however, as M. Camille 
Bellaigue points out, does not mean that its 
nationality is superficial or limited. Speaking of 
the wonderful scene in the palace of the King of 
Berendei, where he is seen sitting on his throne 
surrounded by a company of blind bards singing 
solemn airs to the accompaniment of their 
primitive harps, the French critic says : " Such 
a chorus as this has nothing in common with 
the official chorus of the courtiers in old- 
fashioned opera. In the amplitude and ori- 
ginaUty of the melody, in the vigour of the 
arpeggio accompaniment, in the exotic savour 
of the cadence and the tonality, we divine 
something which belongs not merely to the 
unknown but to infinitude. . . . But there is 
something which the music of Rimsky-Korsakov 
expresses with still greater force and charm, 
with an originality which is at once both 
stronger and sweeter, and that is the natural 
landscape, the forms and colours, the very face 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 303 

of Russia itself. In this respect the music is 
something more than national, it is to a certain 
extent native, like the soil and sky of the 
country."^ 

In 1889 Rimsky-Korsakov began a fourth 
opera, the history of which is connected with 
the co-operative tendency that distinguished 
the national school of musicians. The com- 
position of collective works was, I believe, one 
of Balakirev's early ideals ; the Paraphrases, a 
set of clever variations on a childish theme, 
dedicated to Liszt by Borodin, Cui, Liadov and 
Rimsky-Korsakov, and the Quartet in honour 
of Balaiev are examples of this spirit of com- 
bination. In 1872 Gedeonov, then Director of 
the Opera, proposed that Borodin, Moussorgsky, 
Cui and Rimsky-Korsakov should each under- 
take one act of a ballet-opera for a plot of his 
own providing, entitled Mlada. The music was 
written, but lack of funds prevented the enter- 
prise from being carried out, and each composer 
utilised the material left on his hands in his own 
way. Rimsky-Korsakov incorporated his share 
with the fantastic scenes of A Night in May. 
In 1889, however, he took up the subject once 
more and Mlada was completed by the autumn 
of the same year. Produced at the Mar5dnsky 
Theatre in October 1892, it failed to win the 

^ Impressions Musicales ei LitUraires, par Camille 
Bellaigue. 



304 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

success it undoubtedly deserved. In the opera 
the part of Prince Mstivoy was taken by 
Stravinsky, and that of the Czech minstrel, 
Liumir, by Dolina. In the ballet, the Shade 
of Mlada was represented by the famous 
ballerina Petipa, and the Shade of Cleopatra 
by Skorsiouka. The subject is taken from the 
history of the Baltic Slavs in the ninth century ; 
but although in this work he returns to an 
historical episode, the composer does not go back 
to the declamatory style of The Maid of Pskov. 
Cheshikin considers that Mlada is highly effec- 
tive from the theatrical point of view. More- 
over, the old Slavonic character of the music 
is cleverly maintained throughout, the ordinary 
minor scale being replaced by the " natural 
minor " (the iEolian Mode). The scenes repre- 
senting the ancient Pagan customs of the Slavs 
are highly picturesque and, except on the 
grounds of its expensive setting, it is difficult 
to understand why this work should have 
passed out of the repertory of the Russian opera. 
The most distinctly humorous of all Rimsky- 
Korsakov's operas is the Christmas Eve Revds, 
a subject also treated by Tchaikovsky under 
the title of Cherevichek and re-published as Le 
Caprice d'Oxane). The composer, as we have 
seen, rarely went outside his own land for 
Uterary material. But even within this circle 
of national subjects there exist many shades 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 305 

of thought and sentiment. Gogol's characters 
differ widely from those portrayed in such a 
legend as " Sadko." The Malo-Russian and 
Cossack population are more vivacious, and also 
more dreamy and sentimental, than the Great 
Russians. In fact the difference between the 
inhabitants of the Ukraine and those of the 
government of Novgorod is as great as that 
between a southern Irishman and a Yorkshire- 
man, and lies much in the same directions. 

The Christmas Eve Revels opens with an 
orchestral introduction, " The Holy Night," 
descriptive of the serene beauty of the night 
upon which the Christ Child came into the 
world to put all the powers of darkness under 
his feet. It is based upon two calm and solemn 
themes, the first rather mystical in character, 
the second of child-like transparency. But 
with the rising of the curtain comes an entire 
change of sentiment, and we are immediately 
brought into an atmosphere of peculiarly national 
humour. This sudden change from the mystical 
to the grotesque recalls the Russian miracle plays 
of the Middle Ages. The moon and stars are 
shining on a Little-Russian village ; the hut of 
Choub the Cossack occupies the central position. 
Out of the chimney of one of the huts emerges 
the witch-woman Solokha, riding upon a broom- 
stick. She sings a very old " Kolyadka," or 
Christmas song. Now the Devil appears upon 

X 



3o6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the scene to enjoy the beauty of the night. 
These shady characters confide their grievances 
to each other. Solokha has a weakness for 
the Cossack Choub, but her son Vakoula the 
Smith is making love to Choub's beautiful 
daughter Oxana, and this is a great hindrance 
to her own plans, so she wishes to put an end 
to the courtship if possible. To-night Choub 
is going to supper with the Sacristan and 
Vakoula is sure to take that opportunity of 
visiting his sweetheart, who is, however, deaf to 
all his entreaties. The Devil has his own 
grudge against Vakoula, because he has dravra 
a caricature of his satanic majesty upon the 
wall of the village church. The Devil and the 
Witch decide to help each other. They steal 
the moon and stars and fly off, leaving the 
village plunged in darkness. Ridiculous com- 
plications occur. Choub and the Sacristan i go 
out, but wander round in a circle, and after a 
time find themselves back at the Cossack's hut, 
where Vakoula is making love to Oxana. In 
the darkness Vakoula mistakes Choub for a 
rival lover and drives him out of his own 
courtyard. Matters are set right by the return 
of the moon and stars, who have managed to 
escape from the Devil and his companion. 

In the end Oxana declares she will only 
accept Vakoula on condition that he presents 
her with a pair of the Empress's shoes. The> 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 307 

Smith departs upon this unpromising errand. 
Thanks to his Cossack friends he finds his way 
into the palace. During the festivities of the 
evening, the Cossacks are called upon to 
perform their national dances in order to amuse 
the Court. The Empress, in high good humour, 
is informed of Vakoula's quest, and good- 
naturedly gives him her shoes. He returns in 
triumph to his native village and marries his 
capricious beauty. 

Although Rimsky-Korsakov had apparently 
abandoned the original operatic theories of the 
new school, Dargomij sky's methods must still 
have exercised some attraction for him, for in 
1897 he set Poushkin's dramatic duologue 
Mozart and Salieri without making the least 
change in the text, and dedicated it to the 
memory of the composer of The Stone Guest. 
Its production by the Private Opera Company 
at Moscow, in 1898, was memorable for a 
wonderful interpretation by Shaliapin of the 
part of Salieri. Mozart (tenor) was sung by 
Shkafer, the conductor being Esposito. The 
same artists sang in the work when it was given 
in St. Petersburg in the following year. In 
Mozart and Salieri, which is not called an opera 
but merely a dramatic scene, we have melodic 
recitative without any relapse into cantilena. 
The declamation of the two musical heroes is 
relieved and embellished by apt comments 



3o8 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

heard in the accompaniments. For instance, 
when Salieri speaks of a " simple scale," a 
scale is heard in the orchestra ; when he 
mentions an organ, a pedal point is intro- 
duced into the accompaniment. This sounds 
extremely naive, but in reality this miniature 
music-drama is remarkably clever as regards 
craftsmanship and musical repartee. The style 
of the work is completely in keeping with the 
period — ^the eighteenth century — and excellent 
imitations of Mozart's style occur when the 
master sits down to the piano and plays 
two tiny movements, allegretto semplice and 
grave. 

Rimsky-Korsakov wrote one more work in a 
similar style to Mozart and Salieri, the Dramatic 
Prologue in one act Boyarinya Vera Sheloga, 
which was really intended to precede The Maid 
of Pskov and elucidate the history of Olga, the 
heroine of that opera. The little work was first 
performed in this way by the Private Opera 
Company at Moscow in 1898. It tells in fuller 
detail the story of the two sisters Vera and 
Nadejda Nassonov, to which Prince Tokmakov 
refers in his conversation with Matouta in the 
first act of The Maid of Pskov, and introduces 
the Boyard Ivan Sheloga and Vlassievna, the 
faithful nurse of the orphaned Olga. The work 
contains a charming lullaby sung by Vera to 
her little daughter. This number is published 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 309 

apart from the Prologue and has become 
extremely popular with amateur singers. 

Sadko, A Legendary Opera (Opera-bylina), in 
seven tableaux, composed between 1895-1896, 
is a compromise between lyrical and declama- 
tory opera so skilfully effected that this work 
has come to be regarded as the perfect fruit of 
Rimsky-Korsakov's maturity, and the most 
complete exposition of his artistic creed. The 
work was produced by the Private Opera 
Company at Moscow in December, 1897, and 
introduced to St. Petersburg by the same 
company in the following year. 

Sekar-Rojansky, a young tenor possessed 
of a beautiful fresh voice, created the title r61e. 
The work was received with extraordinary 
enthusiasm, and shortly afterwards the Director- 
ate of the Imperial Operas, who had at first 
refused to consider it, took up the opera and 
staged it with great magnificence. A. M. 
Vaznietsov, brother of the artist who painted 
the frescoes of the cathedral of Kiev, was sent 
to Old Novgorod and other parts of northern 
Russia to make sketches for the scenery. The 
archaeological details and the landscapes on the 
margin of Lake Ilmen were faithfully repro- 
duced. The first performance took place at the 
Maryinsky Theatre in January, 1901, under 
Napravnik's direction ; on this occasion Davidov 
impersonated the hero. 



310 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

At the outset of his career, Rimsky-Korsakov 
was attracted by this legend of the eleventh 
century belonging to the Cycle of Novgorod. 
Sadko is a poor but adventurous minstrel, often 
referred to in the folk-songs as " the nightingale 
of Novgorod." He does not win his renown by 
chivalrous actions and prowess in the field, 
like Ilya Mouramets and the heroes of the Cycle 
of Kiev. The Novgorodians were an energetic 
but commercial race. Sadko, driven to des- 
peration by poverty, lays a wager against the 
rich merchants of Novgorod that he will catch 
gold-fish in Lake Ilmen. The merchants stake 
their goods, the minstrel all he has — a far more 
valuable asset — " his dare-devil head," as the 
legends say. How Sadko charms the Sea King 
by his singing and playing upon the gusslee, 
how he secures the gold-fish and, with them, all 
the wealth of Novgorod, is told in the ballad of 
Nejata, the young minstrel. After a while 
Sadko grows restless in spite of his good fortune. 
He sets sail with his fleet of merchant vessels in 
search of fresh " adventures. The ships are 
overtaken by a tempest, and it becomes 
necessary to propitiate the wrath of the Sea 
King. Lots are cast, and the unlucky one 
invariably falls to Sadko. It is characteristic 
of the astute merchant-hero that he cheats in 
every possible way in order to avert his doom I 
Finally, he is cast overboard and drifts away 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 311 

upon a plank, clinging to his cherished gusslee : 
a pagan Jonah ; a Slavonic Arion. His adven- 
tures at the bottom of the seas ; the Sea King's 
welcome to his virtuoso-guest ; his efforts to 
marry Sadko to one of his daughters ; the 
procession of these beautiful sea-maidens — 
some three hundred in number — demanding of 
Sadko a judgment far more difficult and delicate 
than anything Paris was called upon to pro- 
nounce ; the cleverness with which Sadko 
extricates himself from the difficult situation, 
by selecting the only plain lady of the party, so 
that there is no risk of permanently falling in 
love with her and forgetting his wife in Nov- 
gorod ; the wild glee of the Sea King at the 
plajdng of the famous minstrel, and his dance, 
which imperils the earth and can only be stopped 
by the shattering of the precious gusslee; 
Sadko's return to his faithful and anxious wife 
— all these incidents are set forth in the opera 
with a Wagnerian luxury of stage accessories 
and scenic effects. 

As regards structure, Sadko combines — as I 
have said — ^the lyrical and declamatory ele- 
ments. It is pre-eminently a national opera 
in which the composer has conveyed a truthful 
picture of the customs and sentiments of an 
archaic period. In Sadko we find many melodies 
completely modal in character. The Sea Queen's 
slumber song in the seventh scene is Dorian, 



312 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Sadko's aria in the fifth scene is Phrygian, and 
so on. The song of Nejata has an accompani- 
ment for harps and pianino which gives the effect 
of the gusslee. 

Besides the national element, Rimsky-Kor- 
sakov introduces characteristic songs of other 
countries. In the scene in which Sadko gener- 
ously restores to the merchants the goods won 
from them in his wager, keeping only a fleet 
of merchant vessels for himself, he requests 
some of the foreign traders to sing the songs of 
their distant lands. The Varangian guest sings 
a song in a brisk, energetic rhythm, quite 
Scandinavian in character ; the Venetian com- 
phes with a graceful barcarolle, while the 
Indian merchant charms the audience with an 
Oriental melody of rare beauty. The musical 
interest of Sadko is in fact very great. 

If there is any truth in the suggestion 
that Rimsky-Korsakov composed Mozart and 
Salieri and dedicated it to Dargomijsky as a 
kind of recantation of certain Wagnerian 
methods, such as a limited use of leitmotifs to 
which he had had recourse in Sadko, then his 
return to the purely lyrical style in his ninth 
opera. The Tsar's Bride {Tsarsky Nievesta), may 
equally have been a kind of apology to the 
memory of Ghnka. But it seems far more 
probable that he worked independently of all 
such ideas and suited the musical style to the 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 313 

subject of the opera. The Tsar's Bride, in 
three acts, was produced by the Private Opera 
Company at Moscow in 1899, Ippolitov-Ivanov 
being the conductor. From Moscow it travelled 
first to the provinces, and reached St. 
Petersburg in the spring of 1900. As it is 
perhaps the most popular of all Rimsky- 
Korsakov's operas, and one that is likely to 
find its way abroad, it is advisable to give some 
account of the plot. It is based on one of 
Mey's dramas, the subject of which had tem- 
porarily attracted Borodin some twenty years 
earher. The Oprichnik Gryaznoy falls madly 
in love with Martha, the beautiful daughter of a 
merchant of Novgorod named Sobakin ; but 
she is betrothed to the Boyard Lykov. Gryaz- 
noy vows she shall never marry another, and 
procures from Bomely, court-physician to Ivan 
the Terrible, a magic potion which is to help 
his cause. His former mistress Lioubasha over- 
hears the conversation between the Oprichnik 
and Bomely. She makes a desperate effort to 
win Gryaznoy back to her, but in vain. In the 
second act the people are coming away from 
vespers and talking about the Tsar's choice of a 
bride. Martha, with two companions, comes 
out of the church. While she is standing alone, 
two men emerge from the shadow of the houses, 
one of whom is Ivan the Terrible in disguise. 
He gazes intently at Martha and then goes his 



314 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

way, leaving her vaguely terrified. Meanwhile 
Lioubasha has been watching Martha from a 
window. Then she in her turn goes to Bomely 
and asks him for some potion that will injure 
her rival. He replies that he will give her 
what she requires, but the price of it will be a kiss 
from her lips. Reluctantly she consents. In 
the third act, Lykov and Gryaznoy are seated 
at table with the merchant Sobakin, who has 
just informed them that the wedding of Lykov 
and Martha must be postponed. Lykov asks 
Gryaznoy what he would do in his place if by 
any chance the Tsar's choice should fall upon 
Martha. The Oprichnik gives an evasive 
answer. Meanwhile, in one of the cups of mead 
poured out by the host, he drops his magic 
potion, and when Martha joins them at table 
he offers it to her to drink. Suddenly the 
maidservant rushes in with the news that a 
deputation of boyards has arrived, and a moment 
later Mahouta enters to announce that the 
Tsar has chosen Martha to be his bride. In the 
final scene, which takes place in an apartment in 
the Tsar's palace, Sobakin is seen bewailing his 
daughter's illness. Gryaznoy enters with an 
order from Ivan to inquire after her health. 
The Oprichnik believes that her illness is caused 
by the potion he administered. Presently 
MaUouta with the rest of the Oprichniki come 
upon the scene. Gryaznoy informs Martha 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 315 

that her former suitor Lykov, having confessed 
to the fiendish design of poisoning her, has been 
executed by order of the Tsar. Martha gives a 
cry and becomes unconscious. When she 
comes to herself her mind is affected, and she 
mistakes Gryaznoy for her lover Lykov, calling 
him " Ivan " and speaking caressingly to him. 
Gryaznoy now sees that his plot for getting rid 
of Lykov has been a failure. Touched by 
Martha's madness he is prepared to give himself 
up to Maliouta for judgment ; but the latter 
gives him an opportunity of inquiring into the 
deception played upon by him Bomely. Liou- 
basha now comes forward and confesses that 
she changed the potion. Gryaznoy stabs her 
and then imploring Martha's forgiveness, 
quits the scene, while the poor mad girl, still 
mistaking him for her lost lover, cries after him 
" Come back to-morrow, my Ivan." 

The music of The Tsar's Bride is melodious ; 
and the orchestration, though simpler than is 
generally the case with Rimsky-Korsakov, is 
not lacking in variety and colour. Though by 
no means the strongest of his operas, it seems to 
exercise a great attraction for the public ; 
possibly because its nationalism is less strenu- 
ously demonstrated than in some of its pre- 
decessors. 

The Legend of Tsar Saltan, of his Son the 
famous and doughty Warrior, Prince Gvidon 



3i6 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Saltanovich, and of the beautiful Tsarevna Liebed 
(the Swan-queen), an opera in four acts with a 
Prologue, the libretto drawn from Poushkin's 
poem of the same title, was produced by the 
Private Opera Company in Moscow in December 
1906. Previously to the first performance of 
the work, an orchestral suite consisting of three 
of the entr'actes was played in St. Peters- 
burg at one of the concerts of the I. R. M. S. 
The work follows the model of Sadko rather 
than that of purely lyrical operas. Here Rim- 
sky-Korsakov makes a more extended and 
systematic use of the leitmotif. The leading 
characters, Saltan, Militrissa, Tsarevna Liebed 
and the Sea Rovers, have their characteristic 
themes, but a number of minor motives are 
used in connection with particular sentiments 
and even to represent various natural objects. 
The story, which is too long to give in all its 
details, deals with the adventures of Tsar 
Saltan and the Three Sisters ; the two elders — 
recalling the story of Cinderella — are jealous of 
the youngest Militrissa who marries the Tsar's 
son, and during Saltan's absence from home 
they revenge themselves upon her by sending 
a false message announcing that she has borne 
her husband a daughter instead of a son. The 
tale offers a strange mixture of the fantastic 
and the realistic. The opera is remarkable for 
its fine orchestral numbers and the novelty and 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 317 

brilliancy of its instramentation, and for the 
free use of folk melodies. ^ 

In his eleventh opera, Servilia, Rimsky- 
Korsakov makes one of his rare excursions in 
search of a subject outside Russian folk-lore or 
history. The libretto is based upon a drama 
by his favourite author Mey, but the scene of 
the plot is laid in Rome. In Servilia Rimsky- 
Korsakov returns once more to the declamatory 
style, as exemplified in Mozart and Salieri, 
without, however, entirely abandoning the use 
of the leitmotif. The first performance of the 
work took place at the Maryinsky Theatre in 
the autumn of 1902. Servilia's passionate love 
for the Tribune Valerius Rusticus, from which 
she suddenly turns on her conversion to 
Christianity in the last act of the opera, offers 
considerable opportunities for psychological 
delineation. But " the inward strife between 
her pagan passion and ascetic instincts," says 
Cheshikin, " is not enacted on the stage ; it 
takes place chiefly behind the scenes and the 

1 There are no less than ten true folk-themes contained 
in the opera of Tsar Saltan. The theme of the Elder 
Sisters, in the Introduction, may be found in Rimsky-Kor- 
sakov's collection of National Songs, No. 24, communicated 
by Balakirev. The theme of the Tale of the Old Grand- 
father is a street cry ("Any fruit or greens"); a theme 
used by the Prince Gvidon is taken from a child's song, No. 
66, in Korsakov's collection ; others may be found in the 
same volume ; also in the collections of Stakhovich and 
Prach. 



3i8 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

spectator is shown only the result." It is not 
surprising that the success of the opera does 
not he in the delineation of the heroine but in 
certain interesting details, and especially in the 
skilful use of local colour. The Hymn to 
Athena in the first act ; the Anacreontic song 
for Montanus in the second act (in the Mixo- 
lydian), with its characteristic figures of accom- 
paniment for flute ; the Dance of the Msenads ; 
and a graceful Spinning-song for female voices 
in the third act, are the most successful numbers 
in the work. On the whole, Servilia is regarded 
by Russian critics as a retrograde step after 
Sadko and Tsar Saltan. 

Kastchei the Immortal is described as "a 
legend of the autumn" in one act and three scenes, 
with uninterrupted muSic throughout. The 
sketch of the libretto was given to the composer 
by E. M. Petrovsky and is a free adaptation of 
a very old fairy tale. The opera was produced 
by the Private Opera Company in Moscow in 
1902, and aroused a good deal of comment in 
consequence of several new procedures on the 
part of the composer, revealing a more decisive 
tendency to follow in the steps of Wagner. The 
charge of imitation is based upon the use of 
leitmotifs and also upon the content of the 
libretto, in which, as in many of Wagner's 
operas, the idea of redemption plays a prominent 
part. Kastcheievna, the daughter of the wicked 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 319 

wizard Kastchei, is redeemed by intense suffer- 
ing from her own jealous fury, when she lets 
fall a tear, in the crystal sphere of which Kastchei 
has enclosed his own fate. But Rimsky-Kor- 
sakov does not give us merely an internal drama 
in the Wagnerian sense, for we see enacted upon 
the stage the wholly external drama of the 
rescue of the unhappy Tsarevna, spell-bound 
by the evil Kastchei, at the hands of Ivan 
Korolevich. The opera ends with the downfall 
of the barriers which shut out the gloomy, 
autumnal, sin-oppressed kingdom of Kastchei 
from the happier world outside. " This sym- 
bolism," says Cheshikin, " may be taken in its 
widest acceptation ; but in anything which is 
freed from a despotic power, our public is 
prepared to see a social tendency which is to their 
taste and they applaud it with satisfaction," 
Kastchei chanced to be the opera which was 
represented in St. Petersburg (in March, 1905) 
at the moment when Rimsky-Korsakov was 
expelled from his professorship at the Con- 
servatoire in consequence of his frank criticisms 
of the existing bureaucracy, and each repre- 
sentation was made the occasion of an ovation 
in his honour. The opera contains many fine 
moments, such as the fierce chorus — a kind of 
trepak — sung by the snow-spirits at the close 
of the first act ; the two contrasting love- 
duets, one which Ivan Korolevich sings with 



320 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Kastcheievna, and a later one in which the 
Tsarevna takes part, in the third act ; and the 
sinister slumber-song which the unhappy 
Tsarevna is forced to sing for Kastchei, while 
wishing that his sleep was the sleep of death, is 
distinguished for its marked originality. As 
regards harmony, Rimsky-Korsakov in Kastchei 
indulges in a good deal that is piquant and 
unusual ; there is much chromaticism in the 
fantastic scenes and a general tendency to what 
one critic describes as " studied cacophony," 
which is unusual in the work of this composer. 
Kastchei stands out as one of the most Wag- 
nerian among Russian operas. 

Pan Voyevode was completed in 1903, and 
produced by the Private Opera Company in St. 
Petersburg in October, 1904. The scene of the 
libretto is laid in Poland about the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, and the story 
concerns the love affairs of Chaplinsky, a young 
nobleman, and Maria, a poor orphan girl of good 
family. While out hunting. Pan Voyevode — 
governor of the district — sees Maria and loses 
his heart to her. At his command the lovers 
are separated by force, and the Voyevode 
declares his intention of marrying Maria. Yad- 
viga, a rich widow, who has claims upon the 
Voyevode, determines to prevent the marriage 
at any cost. She takes counsel with a sorcerer, 
from whom she procures poison. The prepara- 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 321 

tions for the wedding are all made, and the 
Voyevode is entertaining his friends at a 
banquet, when Yadviga appears, an uninvited 
guest, to warn him that ChapHnsky and his 
friends are coming to effect the rescue of Maria. 
At the banquet Maria sings the " Song of the 
Swan," but its yearning sadness oppresses the 
Voyevode and his guests. Suddenly the injured 
lover bursts into the hall with his followers and 
a wild scufHe ensues. In the last act, Chaplinsky 
having been taken prisoner and condemned to 
death, the interrupted festival recommences. 
In the meantime Yadviga has poured poison 
into Maria's goblet. Needless to say that in 
the end the cups get changed and it is the 
Voyevode who drinks the fatal potion. Maria, 
after a prayer by his dead body, orders the 
release of Chaplinsky and all ends happily. 

Pan Voyevode gives occasion for a whole series 
of Polish dances, a Krakoviak, a Kazachok, 
or Cossack dance, a Polonaise, and a Mazurka. 
The incantation scene, when Yadviga seeks the 
sorcerer, and the Song of the Swan are favourite 
numbers in the work. Pan Voyevode was 
produced in Moscow in 1905 under the conductor- 
ship of Rachmaninov. 

The idea of the Legendary Opera, The Tale of 
the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden 
Fevronia, was in Rimsky-Korsakov's mind for 
nearly ten years before he actually composed 



322 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

the work between 1903-1905. The first per- 
formance in St. Petersburg took place at the 
Maryinsky Theatre early in the spring of 1907, 
and Moscow heard the opera in the following 
season. The opera starts with an orchestral 
introduction based upon a folk-melody. There 
is great charm in the opening scene laid in the 
forests surrounding Little Kitezh, where Fev- 
ronia is discovered sitting among the tall 
grasses and singing a song in praise of all living 
creatures. There she is joined by a bear, and 
a crane, and other birds, all of which she wel- 
comes as friends ; and there the young Prince 
Vsievolod sees her and loses his heart to the 
beautiful child of nature. Their love scene is 
interrupted by the sound of horns, introducing 
a company of archers in search of the Prince. 
Fevronia then finds out her lover's identity. 
The next act shows the market-place in Little 
Kitezh crowded with all manner of archaic 
Russian types : a showman leading a bear, a 
minstrel singing and playing the gusslee, old 
men and women, young men and girls — one 
of those animated canvases which recall cer- 
tain pages in Moussorgsky's operas and are 
the precursors of similar scenes in Stravin- 
sky's Petroushka. Some " Superior People " are 
grumbling at the marriage of the Prince to the 
unknown and homeless girl Fevronia, Soon 
the bride appears accompanied by the wedding 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 323 

procession. She receives the congratulations 
of the populace, but the " Superior People " 
show some disdain. Suddenly a fresh group of 
people rush on in terror, followed by the Tatars 
who break up the crowd and seize Fevronia. 
Under threats of torture they compel the crazy 
drunkard Kouterma to guide them to Kitezh the 
Great. Fevronia puts up a prayer for the city 
as the Tatars carry her off on one of their rough 
carts. 

The scene changes to Kitezh the Great, 
where the old Prince and his son, the bride- 
groom, are listening to the account given by the 
fugitives of the destruction of Little Kitezh by 
the Tatars. All are horrified to hear that 
Fevronia has fallen into their ruthless hands. 
The Prince assembles his soldiers and goes out 
to meet the enemy. While the women are 
singing a chorus of lamentation, the church bell 
begins to ring of its own accord. The old 
Prince declares it is a miraculous sign that the 
town will be saved. The curtain rises next on 
the Tatar encampment on the shores of the 
Shining Lake. Fevronia in despair is still 
sitting in the Tatars' cart. The half -crazy 
Kouterma has been bound hand and foot 
because the Tatars suspected him. Their two 
leaders have fought ; one is left dead on the 
ground ; all the others have fallen asleep. Fev- 
ronia takes a knife from the dead Tatar chief 



324 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

and cuts Kouterma's bonds. He is about to 
escape when the sound of a bell arrests him. He 
rushes madly to the lake with the intention of 
drowning himself, but at that moment a ray of 
sunlight falls on the water in which he sees 
reflected the city of Kitezh the Invisible. Now 
he really makes his escape, taking Fevronia with 
him. The Tatars are awakened, and running 
to the edge of the lake, they, too, see the 
miraculous reflection and exclaim in termor : 
" Awful in truth is the God of the Russians." 
Fevronia passes some terrible hours alone in 
the gloom of the enchanted forest with Kou- 
terma ; but she prays, and presently he leaves 
her. Then little lamps appear in the trees, and 
gold and silver flowers spring up in the grass, 
while the Paradise Birds, Aklonost and Sirin, 
sing to comfort her. Aklonost tells her he is 
the messenger of death. She replies that she 
has no fear of death, and weaves herself a 
garland of immortal flowers. Presently the 
the spirit of the young Prince appears to her. 
He tells her that he has been killed, " but now," 
he says, " thank God, I am alive." He gives 
Fevronia some bread, bidding her eat before she 
starts on her long journey ; " who tastes our 
bread knows eternal happiness," he says. 
Fevronia eats and throws some of the crumbs 
to the birds ; then with a prayer, " Christ receive 
me into the habitations of the just," she 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 325 

disappears with the spirit of the Prince. After 
an orchestral interlude, the curtain rises upon 
the apotheosis of the City of Kitezh, and the 
Paradise Birds are heard proclaiming : " The 
Celestial gates are open to us ; time has ceased ; 
Eternity has begun." The people come out to 
welcome Fevronia and the Prince, and sing their 
epithalamium. Fevronia now learns that Kitezh 
did not fall, but only disappeared; that the 
northern Ughts bore the prayers of the just to 
heaven; and also the cause of the blessed 
and miraculous sound heard by Kouterma. Then 
the Prince leads his bride into the cathedral 
while the people sing : " Here shall there be 
no more tears or sorrow, but everlasting joy 
and peace." 

Rimsky-Korsakov died of angina pectoris on 
June 8th, igo8 at Lioubensk, near St. Peters- 
burg, where he was spending the summer with 
his family. In the previous year he had 
finished his last opera The Golden Cock, the 
production of which was not sanctioned by the 
Censor during the composer's lifetime. It is 
said that this vexation, following upon his 
dijB&culties with the authorities of the Con- 
servatoire, helped to hasten his end. 

The Golden Cock is composed to a libretto by 
V. Bielsky, based upon Poushkin's well-known 
poem. The author of the book says in his 
preface to the opera : " the purely human 



326 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

nature of Poushkin's Golden Cock — that instruc- 
tive tragi-comedy of the unhappy consequences 
following upon mortal passions and weaknesses — 
permits us to place the plot in any region and in 
any period." In spite of the Eastern origin of 
the tale, and the Italian names, Duodo and 
Guidone, all which constitutes the historical char- 
acter of the story and recalls the simple customs 
and the daily life of the Russian people, with its 
crude, strong colouring, its exuberance and 
liberty, so dear to the artist. The work opens 
with a Prologue, in which the Astrologer tells 
us that although the opera is 

"A fairy-tale, not solid truth, 
It holds a moral good for youth." 

In the first scene we are introduced to a hall in 
the Palace of King Dodon, where he is holding 
a council with his Boyards. He tells them that 
he is weary of kingly responsibilities and 
especially of the perpetual warfare with his 
hostile neighbours, and that he longs to rest for a 
while. First he asks the advice of his heir, 
Prince Gvidon, who says that instead of fighting 
on the frontier he should withdraw his troops 
and let them surround the capital, which should 
first be well provisioned. Then, while the 
enemy was destroying the rest of the country, 
the King might repose and think of some new 
way of circumventing him. But the old 
Voyevode Polkan does not approve of the 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 327 

project, for he thinks it will be worse to have the 
hostile army surrounding the city, and perhaps 
attacking the King himself. Nor does he agree 
with the equally foolish advice of the King's 
younger son Aphron. Very soon the whole 
assembly is quarrelling as to the best way out 
of the difficulty, when the Astrologer arrives 
upon the scene. He offers King Dodon a 
present of a Golden Cock which would always 
give warning in case of danger. At first the 
King does not believe him, but the cock is 
brought in and cries at once : " Kikeriki, 
kikerikou ! Be on your guard, mind what 
you do ! " The King is enchanted and feels 
that he can now take his ease. He offers to 
give the Astrologer whatever reward he asks. 
The latter replies that he does not want 
treasures or honours, but a diploma drawn 
up in legal form. " Legal," says the King, 
" I don't know what you mean. My desires 
and caprices are the ordy laws here ; but you 
may rest assured of my gratitude." Dodon's 
bed is brought in, and the chatelaine of the 
Palace tucks him up and keeps watch by him 
until he falls into a sound sleep. Suddenly 
the shrill crowing of the Golden Cock awakens 
the King and all his attendants. The first 
time this happens he has, to send his unwilling 
sons to the war ; the second time he is obliged 
to go himself. There is a good deal of comic 



328 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

business about the departure of the King, who is 
obviously afraid of his warhorse. 

In the second act Dodon and the Voyevode 
Polkan, with their army, come to a narrow pass 
among the rocks which has evidently been the 
scene of a battle. The corpses of the warriors 
lie pale in the moonhght, while birds of prey 
hover around the spot. Here Dodon comes 
suddenly upon the dead bodies of his two sons, 
who have apparently killed each other. The 
wretched, egotistical king is reduced to tears at 
the sight. His attention is soon distracted, for, 
as the distant mist clears away, he perceives 
under the shelter of the hillside a large tent lit 
up by the first rays of the sun. He thinks it is 
the tent of the hostile leader, and Polkan 
endeavours to lead on the timid troops in hopes 
of capturing him. But, to the great astonish- 
ment of the King and his Voyevode, a beautiful 
woman emerges from the tent followed by her 
slaves bearing musical instruments. She sings 
a song of greeting to the dawn. Dodon 
approaches and asks her name. She replies 
modestly, with downcast eyes, that she is the 
Queen of Shemakha. Then follows a long 
scene in which she lures on the old King until he 
is hopelessly infatuated with her beauty. Her 
recital of her own attractions is made without 
any reserve* and soon she has completely turned 
Dodon's head. She insists on his singing, and 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 329 

mocks at his unmusical voice ; she forces him to 
dance until he falls exhausted to the ground, 
and laughs at his uncouth movements. This 
scene really constitutes the ballet of the opera. 
Finally the Queen of Shemakha consents to 
return to his capital and become his bride. 
Amid much that is genuinely comic there are 
a few touches of unpleasant realism in this 
scene, in which the ineffectual, indolent, and 
sensual old King is fooled to the top of his 
bent by the capricious and heartless queen. 
Here we have travelled far from the beautiful 
idealism of The City of Kitezh : the humour of 
the situation has a sharp tang to it which belies 
the spirit of Poushkin and Russian humour in 
general ; we begin to speculate as to whether 
Bielsky has not studied to some purpose the plays 
of George Bernard Shaw, so much read in Russia. 
The curtain rises in the third act upon 
another of those scenes of bustle and vigorous 
movement characteristic of Russian opera. 
The people are awaiting the return of King 
Dodon. "Jump and dance, grin and bow, 
show your loyalty but don't expect anything in 
return," says the sardonic chatelaine, Amelfa. 
There enters a wonderful procession which 
reminds us of an Eastern fairy tale: the 
advance guard of the King; the Queen of 
Shemakha, in a bizarre costume, followed by a 
grotesque cortege of giants, dwarfs, and black 



330 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

slaves. The spectacle for the time being allays 
the evident anxiety of the people. As the 
King and Queen pass by in their golden chariot 
the former appears aged and care-worn ; but he 
gazes on his companion with uxorious tender- 
ness. The Queen shows evident signs of bore- 
dom. At this juncture the Astrologer makes 
his appearance and a distant storm, long 
threatening, bursts over the city. The King 
gives a flattering welcome to the Astrologer and 
expresses his readiness to reward him for the 
gift of the Golden Cock. The Astrologer asks 
nothing less than the gift of the Queen of 
Shemakha herself. The King refuses with in- 
dignation, and orders the soldiers to remove 
the Astrologer. But the latter resists, and 
reminds Dodon once more of his promise. The 
King, beside himself with anger, hits the 
Astrologer on the head with his sceptre. General 
consternation in the crowd. The Queen laughs 
a cold, cruel laugh, but the King is terrified, 
for he perceives that he has killed the Astrologer. 
He tries to recover himself and takes comfort 
from the presence of the Queen, but now she 
openly throws off all pretence of affection and 
drives him away from her. Suddenly the Cock 
gives out a shrill, threatening cry ; he flies on 
to the King's head and with one blow of his 
beak pierces his skull. The King falls dead. 
A loud clap of thunder is followed by darkness, 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 331 

during which the silvery laugh of the Queen is 
heard. When it grows light again Queen and 
Cock have both disappeared. The unhappy and 
bewildered people sing a chorus of regret for the 
King : " Our Prince without a peer, was 
prudent, wise, and kind ; his rage was terrible, 
he was often implacable ; he treated us like 
dogs ; but when once his rage was over he was 
a Golden King. O terrible disaster ! Where 
shall we find another king ! " The opera 
concludes with a short Epilogue in which the 
Astrologer bids the spectators dry their tears, 
since the whole story is but fiction, and in the 
kingdom of Dodon there were but two real 
human beings, himself and the Queen. 

The music of this opera is appropriately wild 
and barbaric. We feel that in spite of forty 
years development it is essentially the work of 
the same temperament that produced the 
S5miphonic Poems "Sadko" and the Oriental 
symphony " Antar." 

A close study of the works of Rimsky- 
Korsakov reveals a distinguished musical per- 
sonality ; a thinker ; a fastidious and exquisite 
craftsman ; in a word — an artist of a refined 
and discriminating type who concerns himself 
very little with the demands and appreciation 
of the general public. Outside Russia, he has 
been censured for his subserviency to national 
influences, his exclusive devotion to a patriotic 



332 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

ideal. On the other hand, some Russian critics 
have accused him of introducing Wagnerism 
into national opera. This is only true in so far 
that he has grafted upon opera of the older, more 
melodic type the effective employment of some 
modern methods, more particularly the moderate 
use of the leitmotif. As regards orchestration, I 
have already claimed for him the fullest recog- 
nition. He has a remarkable faculty for the 
invention of new, brilliant, prismatic orchestral 
effects, and is a master in the skilful employ- 
ment of onomatopoeia. Those who assert — not 
entirely without reason — that Rimsky-Korsakov 
is not a melodist of copious and vivid inspiration 
must concede the variety, colour, independence 
and flashing wit of his accompaniments. This 
want of balance between the essential and 
accessory is certainly a characteristic of his 
music. Some of his songs and their accompani- 
ments remind me of those sixteenth-century 
portraits in which some slim, colourless, but 
distinguished Infanta is gowned in a robe of 
brocade rich enough to stand by itself, without 
the negative aid of the wearer. 

Rimsky-Korsakov does not correspond to our 
stereotyped idea of the Russian temperament. 
He is not lacking in warmth of feeling, which 
kindles to passion in some of his songs ; but his 
moods of exaggerated emotion are very rare. 
His prevailing tones are bright and serene, and 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 333 

occasionally flushed with glowing colour. If 
he rarely shocks our hearts, as Moussorgsky 
does, into a poignant realisation of darkness 
and despair, neither has he any of the hysterical 
tendency which sometimes detracts from the 
impressiveness of Tchaikovsky's cris de cceur. 

When a temperament, musically endowed, 
sees its subject with the direct and observant 
vision of the painter, instead of dreaming it 
through a mist of subjective exaltation, we get 
a type of mind that naturally tends to a pro- 
gramme, more or less clearly defined. Rimsky- 
Korsakov belongs to this class. Labelled or 
not, we feel in all his music the desire to depict. 

This representative of a school, reputed to be 
revolutionary, who has arrayed himself in the 
full panoply of musical erudition and scholarly 
restraint ; this poet whose imagination revels 
in the folk-lore of Russia and the fantastic 
legends of the East ; this professor who has 
written fugues and counterpoints by the dozen ; 
this man who looked like an austere school- 
master, and can on occasion startle us with 
an almost barbaric exuberance of colour and 
energy, offers, to my mind, one of the most 
fascinating analj^ical studies in all contemporary 
music. 



CHAPTER XIII 

TCHAIKOVSKY 

TYPICALLY Russian by temperament 
and in his whole attitude to life; 
cosmopolitan in his academic training 
and in his ready acceptance of Western ideals ; 
Tchaikovsky, although the period of his activity 
coincided with that of Balakirev, Cui, and 
Rimsky-Korsakov, cannot be included amongst 
the representatives of the national Russian 
school. His ideals were more diffused, and 
his ambitions reached out towards more uni- 
versal appreciation. Nor had he any of the 
communal instincts which brought together 
and cemented in a long fellowship the circle of 
Balakirev. He belonged in many respects to 
an older generation, the " B37roniacs," the in- 
curable pessimists of Lermontov's day, to whom 
life appeared as " a journey made in the night 
time." He was separated from the nationalists, 
too, by an influence which had been gradually 
becoming obhterated in Russian music since the 
time of Glinka-— I allude to the influence of 
Italian^opera. 



TCHAIKOVSKY 335 

The first aesthetic impressions of an artist's 
childhood are rarely quite obHterated in his 
subsequent career. We may often trace some 
peculiar quality of a man's genius back to the 
very traditions he imbibed in the nursery. 
Tchaikovsky's family boasted no skilled per- 
formers, and, being fond of music, had an orches- 
trion sent from the capital to their official resi- 
dence among the Ural Mountains. Peter Ilich, 
then about six years old, was never tired of hearing 
its operatic selections ; and in after life declared 
that he owed to this mechanical contrivance his 
passion for Mozart and his unchanging affection 
for the music of the Italian school. 

It is certain that while Glinka was influenced 
by Beethoven, Serov by Wagner and Meyerbeer, 
Cui by Chopin and Schumann, Balakirev and 
Rimsky-Korsakov by Liszt and Berlioz, Tchai- 
kovsky never ceased to blend with the char- 
acteristic melody of his country an echo of the 
sensuous beauty of the South. This reflection 
of what was gracious and ideally beautiful in 
Italian music is undoubtedly one of the secrets 
of Tchaikovsky's great popularity with the 
public. It is a concession to human weakness 
of which we gladly avail ourselves ; although, as 
modems, we have graduated in a less sensuous 
school, we are still willing to worship the old 
gods of melody under a new name. 

Tchaikovsky began quite early in life to 



336 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

frequent the Italian Opera in St. Petersburg; 
consequently his musical tastes developed far 
earlier on the dramatic than on the symphonic 
side. He knew and loved the operatic master- 
pieces of the Italian and French schools long 
before he knew the Symphonies of Beethoven or 
any of Schumann's works. His first opera, 
The Voyevode, was composed about a year after 
he left the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, in 1866. 
He had just been appointed professor of 
harmony at Moscow, but was still completely 
unknown as a composer. At this time he was 
fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of 
the great dramatist Ostrovsky, who generously 
offered to supply his first libretto. In spite of 
the prestige of the author's name, it was not 
altogether satisfactory, for Ostrovsky had origin- 
ally written The Voyevode as a comedy in five 
acts, and in adapting it to suit the requirements 
of conventional opera many of its best features 
had to be sacrificed. 

The music was pleasing and quite Italian in 
style. The work coincides with Tchaikovsky's 
orchestral fantasia " Fatum " or " Destiny," 
and also with the most romantic love-episode of 
his life — ^his fascination for Madame Desir6- 
Artot, then the star of Italian Opera in Moscow. 
Thus all things seemed to combine at this 
juncture in his career to draw him to dramatic 
art, and especially towards Italianised opera. 



TCHAIKOVSKY 337 

The Voyevode, given at the Grand Opera, 
Moscow, in January, 1869, provoked the most 
opposite critical opinions. It does not seem to 
have satisfied Tchaikovsky himself for, having 
made use of some of the music in a later opera 
{JThe Oprichnik), he destroyed the greater part 
of the score. 

The composer's second operatic attempt was 
made with Undine. This work, submitted to 
the Director of the Imperial Opera in St. 
Petersburg in 1869, was rejected, and the score 
mislaid by some careless official. When, after 
some years, it was discovered and returned to 
the composer, he put it in the fire without 
remorse. Neither of these immature efforts 
are worth serious consideration as affecting the 
development of Russian opera. 

The Oprichnik was begun in January 1870, 
and completed in April 1872. Tchaikovsky 
attacked this work in a complete change of spirit. 
This time his choice fell upon a purely national 
and historical subject. Lajechnikov's tragedy 
"The Oprichnik" is based upon an episode 
of the period of Ivan the Terrible, and possesses 
qualities whch might well appeal to a composer 
of romantic proclivities. A picturesque setting ; 
dramatic love and political intrigue; a series 
of effective — even sensational — situations, and 
finally several realistic pictures from national 
life ; all these things might have been turned to 



338 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

excellent account in the hands of a skilled 
librettist. Unluckily the book was not well 
constructed, while, in order to comply with the 
demands of the Censor, the central figure of the 
tragedy— the tyrant himself — ^had to be reduced 
to a mere nonentity. The most serious error, 
however, was committed by Tchaikovsky him- 
self, when he grafted upon The Oprichnik, with 
its crying need for national colour and special 
treatment, a portion of the pretty Italianised 
music of The Voyevode. The interpolation of 
half an act from a comedy subject into the 
hbretto of an historical tragedy confused the 
action without doing much to reUeve the lurid 
and sombre atmosphere of the piece. 

The " Oprichniki," as we have already seen 
in Rubinstein's opera The Bold Merchant Kalash- 
nikov, were the " Bloods " and dandies of the 
court of Ivan the Terrible — young noblemen 
of wild and dissolute habits who bound them- 
selves together by sacrilegious vows to protect 
the tyrant and carry out his evil desires. Their 
unbridled insolence, the tales of their Black 
Masses and secret crimes, and their utter 
disrespect for &,ge or sex, made them the terror 
of the populace. Sometimes they masqueraded 
in the dress of monks, but they were in reality 
robbers and murderers, hated and feared by the 
people whom they oppressed. 

Here is the story of The Oprichnik briefly 



TCHAIKOVSKY 339 

stated : Andrew Morozov, the descendant of a 
noble but impoverished house, and the only son 
of the widowed Boyarinya Morozova, is in love 
with the beautiful Natalia, daughter of Prince 
Jemchoujny. His poverty disqualifies him as a 
suitor. While desperately in need of money, 
Andrew falls in with Basmanov, a young 
Oprichnik, who persuades him to join the 
community, telling him that an Oprichnik can 
always fill his own pockets. Andrew consents, 
and takes the customary oath of celibacy. 
Afterwards, circumstances cause him to break 
his vow and marry Natalia against her father's 
wish. Prince Viazminsky, the leader of the 
Oprichniki, cherishes an old grudge against the 
family of Morozov, and works for Andrew's 
downfall. On his wedding-day he breaks in 
upon the feast with a message from the Tsar. 
Ivan the Terrible has heard of the bride's 
beauty, and desires her attendance at the royal 
apartments. Andrew, with gloomy forebodings 
in his heart, prepares to escort his bride, when 
Viazminsky, with a meaning smile, explains 
that the invitation is for the bride alone. 
Andrew refuses to let his wife go into the 
tjnrant's presence unprotected. Viazminsky pro- 
claims him a rebel and a traitor to his vows. 
Natalia is carried away by force, and the 
Oprichruki lead Andrew into the market-place 
to suffer the death-penalty at their hands. 



340 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Meanwhile Boyarinya Morozova, who had cast 
off her son when he became an Oprichnik, has 
softened towards him, and comes to see him on 
his wedding-day. She enters the deserted hall 
where Viazminsky, alone, is gloating over the 
success of his intrigue. She inquires un- 
suspectingly for Andrew, and he leads her to 
the window. Horror-stricken, she witnesses the 
execution of her own son by his brother 
Oprichniki, and falls dead at the feet of her 
implacable enemy. 

During its first season, this work was given 
fourteen times ; so that its success — for a 
national opera — may be reckoned decidedly 
above the average. Those who represented the 
advanced school of musical opinion in Russia 
condemned its forms as obsolete. Cui, in 
particular, called it the work of a schoolboy who 
knew nothing of the requirements of the l5nic 
drama, and pronounced it unworthy to rank 
with such masterpieces of the national school 
as Moussorgsky's Boris Godounov or Rimsky- 
Korsakov's Maid of Pskov. 

But the most pitiless of critics" was Tchaikov- 
sky himself, who declared that he always took 
to his heels during the rehearsals of the third 
and fourth acts to avoid hearing a bar of the 
music. "Is it not strange," he writes, " that 
in process of composition it seemed charming ? 
But what disenchantment followed the first 



TCHAIKOVSKY 341 

rehearsals ! It has neither action, style, nor 
inspiration ! " 

Both judgments are too severe. The Oprich- 
nik is not exactly popular, but it has never 
dropped out of the repertory of Russian opera. 
Many years ago I heard it in St. Petersburg, 
and noted my impressions. The characters, 
with the exception of the Boyarinya Morozova, 
are not strongly delineated ; the subject is lurid, 
" horror on horror's head accumulates " ; the 
Russian and Italian elements are incongruously 
blended ; yet there are saving qualities in the 
work. Certain moments are charged with the 
most poignant dramatic feeling. In this opera, 
even as in the weakest of Tchaikovsky's music, 
there is something that appeals to our common 
humanity. The composer himself must have 
modified his early judgment, since he was 
actually engaged in remodelling The Oprichnik 
at the time of his death. 

In 1872 the Grand Duchess Helena Pavlovna 
commissioned Serov to compose an opera on 
the subject of Gogol's Malo-Russian tale " Christ- 
mas Eve Revels." A celebrated poet, Polonsky, 
had already prepared the libretto, when the 
death of the Grand Duchess, followed by that 
of Serov himself, put an end to the scheme. 
Out of respect to the memory of this generous 
patron, the Imperial Musical Society resolved 
to carry out her wishes. A competition was 



342 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

organised for the best setting of Polonsky's text 
under the title of Vakoula the Smith, and 
Tchaikovsky's score carried off both first and 
second prizes. In after years he made con- 
siderable alterations in this work and renamed 
it Cherevichek (" The Little Shoes "). It is also 
known in foreign editions as Le Caprice d'Oxane. 
The libretto follows the general lines of the 
Christmas Eve Revels, described in the chapter 
dealing with Rimsky-Korsakov. 

Early in the 'seventies Tchaikovsky came 
under the ascendency of Balakirev, Stassov, 
and other representatives of the ultra-national 
and modern school, Cherevichek, like the Second 
Symphony — ^which is also Malo-Russian in colour- 
ing — and the symphonic poems " Romeo and 
Juliet" (1870), "The Tempest" (1874), and 
" Francesca di Rimini " (1876), may be regarded 
as the outcome of this phase of influence. The 
originality and captivating local colour, as well 
as the recdly poetical lyrics with which the book 
of this opera is interspersed, no doubt commended 
it to Tchaikovsky's fancy. Polonsky's Ubretto is 
a mere series of episodes, treated however with 
such art that he has managed to preserve 
the spirit of Gogol's text in the form of his 
polished verses. In Cherevichek Tchaikovsky 
makes a palpable effort to break away from 
conventional Italian forms and to write more in 
the style of Dargomijsky. But, as Stassov has 



TCHAIKOVSKY 343 

pointed out, this more modern and realistic 
style is not so well' suited to Tchaikovsky, 
because he is not at his strongest in declamation 
and recitative. Nor was he quite in sympathy 
with Gogol's racy humour which bubbles up 
under the veneer of Polonsky's elegant manner. 
Tchaikovsky was not devoid of a certain sub- 
dued and whimsical humour, but his laugh is 
not the boisterous reaction from despair which 
we find in so many Slav temperaments. Chere- 
vichek fell as it were between two stools. The 
young Russian party, who had partially inspired 
it, considered it lacking in realism and modern 
feeling ; while the public, who hoped for some- 
thing lively, in the style of " Le Domino 
Noir," found an attempt at serious national 
opera the thing which, above all others, bored 
them most. 

The want of marked success in opera did not 
discourage Tchaikovsky. Shortly after his dis- 
appointment in Cherevichek he requested Stassov 
to furnish him with a libretto based on Shake- 
speare's " Othello." Stassov was slow to com- 
ply with this demand, for he believed the 
subject to be ill-suited to Tchaikovsky's genius. 
At last, however, he yielded to pressure ; but 
the composer's enthusiasm cooled of its own 
accord, and he soon abandoned the idea. 

During the winter of 1876-1877, he was 
absorbed in the composition of the Fourth 



344 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

S5miphony, which may partially account for 
the fact that " Othello " ceased to interest him. 
By May he had completed three movements of 
the Symphony, when suddenly the tide of 
operatic passion came surging back, sweeping 
everything before it. Friend after friend was 
consulted in the search for a suitable subject. 
The celebrated singer Madame Lavrovsky 
suggested Poushkin's popular novel in verse, 
" Eugene Oniegin." " The idea," says Tchai- 
kovsky, " struck me as curious. Afterwards, 
while eating a solitary meal in a restaurant, I 
turned it over in my mind and it did not seem 
bad, Reading the poem again, I was fascinated, 
I spent a sleepless night, the result of which 
was the mise en scene of a charming opera upon 
Poushkin's poem." 

Some of my readers may remember the pro- 
duction of Eugene Oniegin in this country, 
conducted by Henry J. Wood, during Signor 
Lago's opera season in the autumn of 1892. It 
was revived in 1906 at Covent Garden, but 
without any regard for its national setting. 
Mme. Destinn, with all her charm and talent, did 
not seem at home in the part of Tatiana ; and 
to those who had seen the opera given in Russia 
the performance seemed wholly lacking in the 
right, intimate spirit. It was interpreted better 
by the Moody-Manners Opera Company, in the 
course of the same year. 



TCHAIKOVSKY 345 

The subject was in many respects ideally 
suited to Tchaikovsky — ^the national colour 
suggested by a master hand, the deUcate 
realism which Poushkin was the first to introduce 
into Russian poetry, the elegiac sentiment 
which pervades the work, and, above all, its in- 
tensely subjective character, were qualities which 
appealed to the composer's temperament. 

In May 1877 he wrote to his brother : " I 
know the opera does not give great scope for 
musical treatment, but a wealth of poetry, and 
a deeply interesting tale, more than atone for 
all its faults." And again, replying to some too- 
captious critic, he flashes out in its defence : 
" Let it lack scenic effect, let it be wanting in 
action ! I am in love with Tatiana, I am under 
the spell of Poushkin's verse, and I am drawn 
to compose the music as it were by an irresistible 
attraction." This was the true mood of in- 
spiration — ^the only mood for success. 

We must judge the opera Eugene Oniegin not 
so much as Tchaikovsky's greatest intellectual, 
or even emotional, effort, but as the outcome of 
a passionate, single-hearted impulse. Conse- 
quently the sense of joy in creation, of perfect 
reconcihation with his subject, is conveyed in 
every bar of the music. As a work of art, 
Eugene Oniegin defies criticism, as do some 
charming but illusive personalities. It would 
be a waste of time to pick out its weaknesses, 



346 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

which are many, and its absurdities, which are 
not a few. It answers to no particular standard 
of dramatic truth or serious purpose. It is too 
human, too lovable, to fulfil any lofty intention. 
One might liken it to the embodiment of some 
captivating, wayward, female spirit which sub- 
jugates all emotional natures, against their 
reason, if not against their will. The story is as 
obsolete as a last year's fashion-plate. The 
hero is the demon-hero of the early romantic 
reaction — " a Muscovite masquerading in the 
cloak of Childe Harold." His friend Lensky 
is an equally romantic being ; more blighted 
than demoniac, and overshadowed by that 
gentle and fataUstic melancholy which endeared 
him still more to the heart of Tchaikovsky. 
The heroine is a survival of an even earlier 
type. Tatiana, with her young-lady-like sensi- 
bilities, her superstitions, her girlish gush, 
corrected by her primness of propriety, might 
have stepped out of one of Richardson's novels. 
She is a Russian Pamela, a belated example of 
the decorous female, rudely shaken by the 
French Revolution, and doomed to final anni- 
hilation in the pages of Georges Sand. But in 
Russia, where the emancipation of women was 
of later date, this virtuous and victimised 
personage lingered on into the nineteenth century, 
and served as a foil to the Byxonic and misan- 
thropical heroes of Poushkin and Lermontov. 



TCHAIKOVSKY 347 

The music of Eugene Oniegin is the child of 
Tchaikovsky's fancy, born of his passing love 
for the image of Tatiana, and partaking of 
her nature — never rising to great heights of 
passion, nor touching depths of tragic despair, 
tinged throughout by those moods of romantic 
melancholy and exquisitely tender sentiment 
which the composer and his heroine share in 
common. 

The opera was first performed by the students 
of the Moscow Conservatoire in March, 1879. 
Perhaps the circumstances were not altogether 
favourable to its success ; for although the 
composer's friends were unanimous in their 
praise, the public did not at first show extra- 
ordinary enthusiasm. Apart from the fact 
that the subject probably struck them as 
daringly unconventional and lacking in sen- 
sational developments, a certain section of 
purists were shocked at Poushkin's chef-d' ceuvre 
being mutilated for the purposes of a libretto, 
and resented the appearance of the almost 
canonized figure of Tatiana upon the stage. 
Gradually, however, Eugene Oniegin acquired 
a complete sway over the public taste and its 
serious rivals became few in number. There 
are signs, however, that its popularity is on the 
wane. 

From childhood Tchaikovsky had cherished 
a romantic devotion for the personality of Joan 



348 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

of Arc, about whom he had written a poem at 
the age of seven. After the completion of 
Eugene Oniegin, looking round for a fresh 
operatic subject, his imagination reverted to the 
heroine of his boyhood. During a visit to 
Florence, in December, 1878, Tchaikovsky first 
approached this idea with something hke awe 
and agitation. " My difficulty," he wrote, 
" does not lie in any lack of inspiration, but 
rather in its overwhelming force. The idea has 
taken furious possession of me. For three 
whole days I have been tormented by the 
thought that while the material is so vast, 
human strength and time amount to so little. 
I want to complete the whole work in an hour, 
as sometimes happens to one in a dream." 
From Florence, Tchaikovsky went to Paris for a 
few days, and by the end of December settled 
at Clarens, on the Lake of Geneva, to compose 
his opera in these peaceful surroundings. To 
his friend and benefactress, Nadejda von Meek, 
he wrote expressing his satisfaction with his 
music, but complaining of his difficulty in 
constructing the libretto. This task he had 
undertaken himself, using Joukovsky's trans- 
lation of Schiller's poem as his basis. It is a 
pity he did not adhere more closely to the 
original work, instead of substituting for Schil- 
ler's ending the gloomy and ineffective last 
scene, of his own construction, in which Joan is 



TCHAIKOVSKY 349 

actually represented at the stake surrounded 
by the leaping flames. 

Tchaikovsky worked at The Maid of Orleans 
with extraordinary rapidity. He was en- 
amoured of his subject and convinced of til- 
timate success. From Clarens he sent a droU 
letter to his friend and publisher Jurgenson, in 
Moscow, which refers to his triple identity as 
critic, composer, and writer of song-words. It 
is characteristic of the man in his lighter 
moods : 

" There are three celebrities in the world 
with whom you are well acquainted : the rather 
poor rhymer ' N. N. ' ; ' B. L., ' formerly musical 
cricit of the " Viedomosti," and the composer 
and ex-professor Mr. Tchaikovsky. A few hours 
ago Mr. T. invited the other two gentlemen to 
the piano and played them the whole of the 
second act of The Maid of Orleans. Mr. 
Tchaikovsky is very intimate with these gentle- 
men, consequently he had no difficulty in 
conquering his nervousness and played them his 
new work with spirit and fire. You should 
have witnessed their delight. . . . Finally the 
composer, who had long been striving to preserve 
his modesty intact, went completely off his 
head, and all three rushed on to the balcony 
like madmen to soothe their excited nerves in 
the fresh air." 

The Maid of Orleans won little more than a 



350 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

succes d'estime. There is much that is effective 
in this opera, but at the same time it displays 
those weaknesses which are most characteristic 
of Tchaikovsky's unsettled convictions in the 
matter of style. The transition from an opera 
so Russian in colouring and so lyrical in senti- 
ment as Eugene Oniegin to one so universal and 
heroic in character as The Maid of Orleans, 
seems to have presented difldculties. Just as 
the national significance of The Oprichnik 
suffered from moments of purely Italian in- 
fluence, so The Maid of Orleans contains 
incongruous lapses into the Russian style. 
What have the minstrels at the court of Charles 
VI. in common with a folk-song of Male- 
Russian origin ? Or why is the song of Agnes 
Sorel so reminiscent of the land of the steppes 
and birch forests ? The gem of the opera is 
undoubtedly Joan's farewell to the scenes of 
her childhood, which is full of touching, idyllic 
sentiment. 

In complete contrast to the fervid enthusiasm 
which carried him through the creation of The 
Maid of Orleans was the spirit in which Tchai- 
kovsky started upon his next opera. One of 
his earliest references to Mazeppa occurs in a 
letter to Nadejda von Meek, writteii in the 
spring of 1882. " A yeair ago," he says, 
" Davidov (the 'cellist) sent me the libretto of 
Mazeppa, adapted by Bourenin from Poushkin's 



TCHAIKOVSKY 351 

poem ' Poltava.' I tried to set one or two 
scenes to music, but made no progress. Then 
one fine day I read the libretto again and also 
Poushkin's poem. I was stirred by some of the 
verses, and began to compose the scene between 
Maria and Mazeppa. Although I have not 
experienced the profound creative joy I felt 
while working at Eugene Oniegin, I go on with 
the opera because I have made a start and in its 
way it is a success." 

Not one of Tchaikovsky's operas was born to 
a more splendid destiny. In August, 1883, a 
special meeting was held by the directors of 
the Grand Opera in St. Petersburg to discuss 
the simultaneous production of the opera in 
both capitals. Tchaikovsky was invited to be 
present, and was so astonished at the lavishness 
of the proposed expenditure that he felt con- 
vinced the Emperor himself had expressed a 
wish that no expense should be spared in 
mounting Mazeppa. It is certain the royal 
family took a great interest in this opera, which 
deals with so stirring a page in Russian history. 

The Mazeppa of Poushkin's masterpiece does 
not resemble the imaginary hero of Bjnron's 
romantic poem. He is dramatically, but realis- 
tically, depicted as the wily and ambitious 
soldier of fortune ; a brave leader, at times an 
impassioned lover, and an inexorable foe. Tchai- 
kovsky has not given a very powerful musical 



352 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

presentment of this daring and passionate 
Cossack, who defied even Peter the Great. But 
the characterisation of the heroine's father 
Kochubey, the tool and victim of Mazeppa's 
ambition, is altogethet admirable. The mono- 
logue in the fortress of Bielotserkov, where 
Kochubey is kept a prisoner after Mazeppa has 
treacherously laid upon him the blame of his 
own conspiracy, is one of Tchaikovsky's finest 
pieces of declamation. Most of his critics are 
agreed that this number, with Tatiana's famous 
Letter Scene in the second act of Eugene Oniegin, 
are the gems of his operatic works, and display 
his powers of psychological analysis at their 
highest. 

The character of Maria, the unfortunate 
heroine of this opera, is also finely conceived. 
Tchaikovsky is almost always stronger in the 
delineation of female than of male characters. 
" In this respect," says Cheshikin, in his 
volume on Russian Opera, "he is the Tour- 
geniev of music." Maria has been separated 
from her first love by the passion with which 
the fascinating Hetman of Cossacks succeeds in 
inspiring her. She only awakens from her 
infatuation when she discovers all his cruelty 
and treachery towards her father. After the 
execution of the latter, and the confiscation of 
his property, the unhappy girl becomes crazed. 
She wanders — a kind of Russian Ophelia — ^back 



TCHAIKOVSKY 353 

to the old homestead, and arrives just in time to 
witness an encounter between Mazeppa and her 
first lover, Andrew. Mazeppa wounds Andrew 
fatally, and, having now attained his selfish 
ends, abandons the poor mad girl to her fate. 
Then follows the most pathetic scene in the 
opera. Maria does not completely recognise her 
old lover, nor does she realise that he is dying. 
Taking the young Cossack in her arms, she 
speaks to him as to a child, and unconsciously 
lulls him into the sleep of death with a graceful, 
innocent slumber song. This melody, so remote 
from the tragedy of the situation, produces an 
effect more poignant than any dirge. Mazeppa, 
partly because of the unrelieved gloom of the 
subject, has never enjoyed the popularity of 
Eugene Oniegin. Yet it holds its place in the 
repertory of Russian opera, and deservedly, since 
it contains some of Tchaikovsky's finest in- 
spirations. 

Charodeika {" The Enchantress ") followed 
Mazeppa in 1887, and was a further step towards 
purely dramatic and national opera. Tchaikov- 
sky himself thought highly of this work, and 
declared he was attracted to it by a deep-rooted 
desire to illustrate in music the saying of 
Goethe : " das Ewigwcibliche zieht uns hinan," 
and to demonstrate the fatal witchery of 
woman's beauty, as Verdi had done in "La 
Traviata " and Bizet in " Carmen." The 

AA 



354 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Enchantress was first performed at the Maryinsky 
Theatre, St. Petersburg, in October 1887. 
Tchaikovsky himself conducted the first per- 
formances, and, having hoped for a success, 
was deeply mortified when, on the fourth 
performance, he mounted to the conductor's 
desk without a sign of applause. For the first 
time the composer complained bitterly of the 
attitude of the press, to whom he attributed this 
failure. As a matter of fact, the criticisms upon 
Charodeika were less hostile than on some 
previous occasions ; but perhaps for this reason 
they were none the less damning. It had 
become something like a pose to misunderstand 
any effort on Tchaikovsky's part to develop the 
purely dramatic side of his musical gifts. He 
was certainly very strongly attracted to lyric 
opera ; and it was probably as much natural 
inclination as deference to critical opinion which 
led him back to this form in The Queen of 
Spades {" Pique-Dame "). 

The libretto of this opera, one of the best ever 
set by the composer, was originally prepared by 
Modeste Tchaikovsky for a musician who 
afterwards declined to make use of it. In 1889 
the Director of the Opera suggested that the 
subject would suit Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. 
The opera was commissioned, and all arrange- 
ments made for its production before a note of 
it was written. The actual composition was 



TCHAIKOVSKY 355 

completed in six weeks, during a visit to 
Florence. 

The story of The Queen of Spades is borrowed 
from a celebrated prose-tale of the same name, 
by the poet Poushkin. The hero is of the 
romantic type, like Manfred, Rene, Werther, 
or Lensky in Eugene Oniegin — a type which 
always appealed to Tchaikovsky, whose cast of 
mind, with the exception of one or two peculiarly 
Russian qualities, seems far more in harmony 
with the romantic first than with the realistic 
second half of the nineteenth century. 

Herman, a young lieutenant of hussars, a 
passionate gambler, falls in love with Lisa, 
whom he has only met walking in the Summer 
Garden in St. Petersburg. He discovers that 
she is the grand-daughter of an .old Countess, 
once well known as " the belle of St. Peters- 
burg," but celebrated in her old age as the most 
assiduous and fortunate of card-players. On 
account of her uncanny appearance and reputa- 
tion she goes by the name of " The Queen of 
Spades." These two women exercise a kind of 
occult influence over the impressionable Herman. 
With Lisa he forgets the gambler's passion in 
the sincerity of his love ; with the old Countess 
he finds himself a prey to the most sinister appre- 
hensions and impulses. Rumour has it that 
the Countess possesses the secret of three cards, 
the combination of which is accountable for her 



356 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

extraordinary luck at the gaming-table. Her- 
man, who is needy, and knows that without 
money he can never hope to win Lisa, deter- 
mines at any cost to discover the Countess's 
secret. Lisa has just become engaged to the 
wealthy Prince Yeletsky, but she loves Her- 
man. Under pretext of an assignation with 
Lisa, he manages to conceal himself in the old 
lady's bedroom at night. When he suddenly 
appears, intending to make her divulge her 
secret, he gives her such a shock that she dies 
of fright without telling him the names of the 
cards. Herman goes half-mad with remorse, 
and is perpetually haunted by the apparition 
of the Countess. The apparition now shows him 
the three fatal cards. 

The night after her funeral he goes to the 
gaming-house and plays against his rival Yelet- 
sky. Twice he wins on the cards shown him by 
the Countess's ghost. On the third card he 
stakes all he possesses, and turns up — not the 
expected ace, but the Queen of Spades. At that 
moment he sees a vision of the Countess, who 
smiles triumphantly and vanishes. Herman in 
despair puts an end to his life. 

The subject, although somewhat melodram- 
atic, offers plenty of incident and its thrill is 
enhanced by the introduction of the super- 
natural element. The work entirely engrossed 
Tchaikovsky. " I composed this opera with 



TCHAIKOVSKY 357 

extraordinary joy and fervour," he wrote to the 
Grand Duke Constantine, " and experienced so 
vividly in myself all that happens in the tale, 
that at one time I was actually afraid of the 
spectre of the Queen of Spades. I can only 
hope that all my creative fervour, my agitation 
and my enthusiasm wiU find an echo in the 
hearts of my audience." In this he was not dis- 
appointed. T he Queen of Spades, fi rst perf ornied 
in St. Petersburgin December, i8qo, soon took 
a strongho ld on the public, and now vies inTpopu- 
i Sty vM Sr^ugene''Omegtn. '"It is strange that 
this opera "EasheverfbiSHlls way to the English 
stage. Less distinctively national tha n Eugene 
Oniegm-,its psycho logica l probJe misstronger, its 
dramatic appeal more direct ; consequently it 
would have a greater chance of success. 

lolanthe, a l57ric opera in one act, was Tchai- 
kovsky's last production for the stage. It was 
first given in St. Petersburg in December, 1893, 
shortly after the composer's death. " In lolan- 
the," says Cheshikin, " Tchaikovsky has added 
one more tender and inspired creation to his 
gallery of female portraits ... a figure remind- 
ing us at once of Desdemona and Opheha." The 
music of lolanthe is not strong, but it is pervaded 
by an atmosphere of tender and inconsolable 
sadness ; by something which seems a faint and 
weak echo of the profoundly emotional note 
sounded in the " Pathetic " Symphony. 



358 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

We may sum up Tchaikovsky's operatic 
development as follows : Beginning with con- 
ventional Italian forms in The Opnchnik he 
passed in Cherevichek to more modern methods, 
to the use of melodic recitative and ariosos ; 
while Eugene Oniegin shows a combination of 
both these styles. This first operatic period is 
purely l5n:ical. Afterwards, in The Maid oj 
Orleans, Mazeppa, and Charodeika, he passed 
through a second period of dramatic tendency. 
With Pique-Dame he reaches perhaps the height 
of his operatic development ; but this work is 
the solitary example of a third period which we 
may characterise as lyrico-dramatic. In lolan- 
the he shows a tendency to return to simple 
lyrical forms. 

From the outset of his career he was equally 
attracted to the dramatic and symphonic ele- 
ments in music. Of the two, opera had perhaps 
the greater attraction for him. The very 
intensity of its fascination seems to have stood 
in the way of his complete success. Once bitten 
by an operatic idea, he went blindly and un- 
critically forward, believing in his subject, 
in the quality of his work, and in its ultimate 
triumph, with that kind of undiscerning op- 
timism to which the normally pessimistic some- 
times fall unaccountable victims. The history 
of his operas repeats itself : a passion for some 
particular subject, feverish haste to embody 



TCHAIKOVSKY 359 

his ideas ; certainty of success ; then dis- 
enchantment, self-criticism, and the hankering 
to remake and remodel which pursued him 
through Ufe. 

Only a few of Tchaikovsky's operas seem able 
to stand the test of time. Eugene Oniegin and 
The Queen of Spades achieved popular success, 
and The Opnchnik and Mazeppa have kept 
their places in the repertory of the opera 
houses in St. Petersburg and in the provinces ; 
but the rest must be reckoned more or less 
as failures. Considering Tchaikovsky's reputa- 
tion, and the fact that his operas were never 
allowed to languish in obscurity, but were all 
brought out under the most favourable circum- 
stances, there must be some reason for this 
luke-warm attitude on the part of the public, of 
which he himself was often painfully aware. The 
choice of subjects may have had something to 
do with this ; for the books of The Opnchnik 
and Mazeppa, though dramatic, are exceedingly 
lugubrious. But Polonsky's charming text to 
Cherevichek should at least have pleased a 
Russian audience. 

I find another reason for the comparative 
failure of so many of Tchaikovsky's operas. 
It was not so much that the subjects in them- 
selves were poor, as that they did not always 
suit the temperament of the composer ; and 
he rarely took this fact sufficiently into 



36o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

consideration. Tchaikovsky's outlook was essen- 
tially subjective, individual, particular. He 
himself knew very well what was requisite for 
the creation of a great and effective opera : 
" breadth, simplicity, and an eye to decorative 
effect," as he says in a letter to Nadejda von 
Meek. But it was exactly in these qualities, 
which would have enabled him to treat such 
subjects as The Oprichnik, The Maid of Orleans, 
and Mazeppa, with greater power and freedom, 
that Tchaikovsky was lacking. In all these 
operas there are beautiful moments ; but they 
are almost invariably the moments in which 
individual emotion is worked up to intensely 
subjective expression, or phases of elegiac 
sentiment in which his own temperament could 
have full play. 

Tchaikovsky had great diffictilty in escaping 
from his intensely emotional personality, and in 
viewing life through any eyes but his own. He 
reminds us of one of those actors who, with all 
their power of touching our hearts, never 
thoroughly conceal themselves under the part 
they are acting. Opera, above all, cannot be 
" a one-man piece." For its successful realis- 
ation it demands breadth of conception, variety 
of sentiment and sympathy, powers of subtle 
adaptability to all kinds of situations and 
emotions other than our own. In short, opera 
is the one form of musical art in which the 



TCHAIKOVSKY 361 

objective outlook is indispensable. Whereas 
in l5n:ic poetry self-revelation is a virtue ; in the 
drama self-restraint and breadth of view are 
absolute conditions of greatness and success. 
We find the man reflected in Shakespeare's 
sonnets, but humanity in his plays. Tchaikov- 
sky's nature was undoubtedly too emotional 
and self-centred for dramatic uses. To say 
this, is not to deny his genius ; it is merely an 
attempt to show its qualities and its limitations. 
Tchaikovsky had genius, as Shelley, as Byron, 
as Heine, as Lermontov had genius ; not as 
Shakespeare, as Goethe, as Wagner had it. As 
Bjnron could never have conceived " Julius 
Csesar " or " Twelfth Night," so Tchaikovsky 
could never have composed such an opera as 
" Die Meistersinger." Of Tchaikovsky's operas, 
the examples which seem destined to Uve 
longest are those into which he was able, by 
the nature of their literary contents, to infuse 
most of his exclusive temperament and lyrical 
inspiration. 



CHAPTER XIV 

CONCLUSION 

ALTHOUGH I have now passed in review 
the leading representatives of Russian 
opera, my work would be incomplete if 
I omitted to mention some of the many talented 
composers — the minor poets of music — who have 
contributed works, often of great value and origin- 
ality, to the repertories of the Imperial Theatres 
and private opera companies in Russia. To 
make a just and judicious selection is no easy 
task, for there is an immense increase in the 
number of composers as compared to five- 
and-twenty years ago, and the general level 
of technical culture has steadily risen with 
the multiplication of provincial opera houses, 
schools, and orchestras. If we cannot now 
discern such a galaxy of native geniuses as 
Russia possessed in the second half of the 
nineteenth century, we observe at least a very 
widespread and lively activity in the musical 
life of the present day. The tendency to work 
in schools or groups seems to be d57ing out, and 
the art of the younger musicians shows a 



CONCLUSION 363 

diffusion of influences, and a variety of ex- 
pression, which make the classification of con- 
temporary composers a matter of considerable 
difficulty. 

In point of seniority, Edward Franzovich 
Napravnik has probably the first claim on our 
attention. Born August 12/26, 1839, at Beisht, 
near Koniggratz, in Bohemia, he came to St. 
Petersburg in 1861 as director of Prince 
Youssipov's private orchestra. In 1863 he was 
appointed organist to the Imperial Theatres, 
and assistant to Liadov, who was then first 
conductor at the opera. In consequence of the 
latter's serious illness in 1869, Napravnik was 
appointed his successor and has held this 
important post for over fifty years. He came 
into power at a time when native opera was 
sadly neglected, and it is to his credit that he 
continued his predecessor's work of reparation 
with tact and zeal. The repertory of the 
Maryinsky Theatre, the home of Russian Opera 
in St. Petersburg, has been largely compiled on 
his advice, and although some national operas 
may have been unduly ignored, Napravnik has 
effected a steady improvement on the past. 
Memorable performances of Glinka's A Life 
for the Tsar ; of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Oniegin, 
The Oprichnik, and The Queen of Spades ; and 
of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas, both of , his early 
and late period, have distinguished his reign 



364 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

as a conductor. Under his command the 
orchestra of the Imperial Opera has come to be 
regarded as one of the finest and best disciplined 
in the world. He has also worked indefatigably 
to raise the social and cultural condition of the 
musicians. 

As a composer Napravnik is not strikingly 
original. His music has the faults and the 
qualities generally found side by side in the 
creative works of men who follow the con- 
ductor's vocation. His operas, as might be 
expected from so experienced a musician, are 
solidly constructed, written with due con- 
sideration for the powers of the soloists, and 
effective as regards the use of choral masses. 
On the other hand, they contain much that is 
purely imitative, and flashes of the highest 
musical inspiration come at long intervals. 
His first opera. The Citizens of Nijny-Novgorod} 
was produced at the Maryinsky Theatre in 
1868. The libretto by N. Kalashnikov deals 
with an episode from the same stirring period in 
Russian history as that of A Life for the Tsar, 
when Minin, the heroic butcher of Nijny- 
Novgorod, gathered together his fellow towns- 
folk and marched with the Boyard Pojarsky 
to the defence of Moscow. The national senti- 

^ Citizens of the Lower-town would be a more literal 
translation of the title, but would convey nothing to 
foreigners. 



CONCLUSION 365 

ment as expressed in Napravnik's music seems 
cold and conventional as compared with that of 
Glinka or Moussorgsky. The choruses are often 
interesting, especially one in the church style, 
sung at the wedding of Kouratov and Olga— 
the hero and heroine of the opera — which, 
Cheshikin says, is based on a theme borrowed 
from Bortniansky, and very finely handled. 
On the whole, the work has suffered, because the 
nature of its subject brought it into competition 
with Glinka's great patriotic opera. Tchaikov- 
sky thought highly of it, and considered that 
it held the attention of the audience from first 
to last by reason of Napravnik's masterly sense 
of cUmax ; while he pronounced the orchestra- 
tion to be brilliant, but never overpowering, 

A more mature work is Harold, an opera in 
five acts, or nine scenes, first performed in St. 
Petersburg in November, 1886, with every 
possible advantage in the way of scenery and 
costumes. Vassilievich, Melnikov and Strav- 
insky took the leading male parts ; while 
Pavlovskaya and Slavina created the two chief 
female characters. The success of the opera 
was immediate, the audience demanding the 
repetition of several numbers ; but it must 
have been to some extent a succes d'estime, for 
the work, which is declamatory rather than 
lyrical, contains a good deal of monotonous 
recitative and — ^because it is more modern and 



366 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Wagnerian in form — ^the fine choral effects 
which lent interest to Napravnik's first opera 
are lacking, here. In 1888 Harold was given in 
Moscow and Prague. Napravnik's third oper- 
atic work, Doubrovsky, was produced at the 
Maryinsky Theatre in 1895, and soon travelled 
to Moscow, and the round of the provincial opera 
houses, finding its way to Prague in 1896,, and 
to Leipzig in 1897. The libretto by Modeste 
Tchaikovsky, brother of the composer, based 
upon Poushkin's ultra-romantic Byronic tale 
" Doubrovsky " is not very inspiring. Such 
dramatic and emotional qualities as the story 
contains have been ruthlessly deleted in this 
colourless adaptation for operatic purposes. 
The musical material matches the book in its 
facile and reminiscent quality ; but this ex- 
perienced conductor writes gratefully and skil- 
fully for the singers, the orchestra being carefully 
subordinated to vocal effects. Interpolated in 
the opera, by way of a solo for Doubrovsky, is a 
setting of Copp^e's charming words " Ne jamais 
la voir, ni I'entendre." 

Napravnik's fourth opera, Francesca da 
Rimini, is composed to a libretto by E. Pono- 
mariev founded on Stephen Phillip's " Francesca 
and Paolo." It was first presented to the public 
in November 1902, the leading parts being 
created by that gifted pair, Nicholas and Medea 
Figner. Less popular than Harold or Doubrov- 



CONCLUSION 367 

sky, the musical value of Francesca is incon- 
testably greater. Although the composer can- 
not altogether free himself from the influence of 
Wagner's " Tristan und Isolde," the subject has 
inspired him to write some very expressive and 
touching music, especially in the scene where the 
unhappy lovers, reading of Lancelot, seal their 
own doom with one supreme and guilty kiss ; 
and in the love duet in the third act. Besides 
these operas, Napravnik composed a Prologue 
and six choral numbers for Count Alexis 
Tolstoy's dramatic poem " Don Juan." 

Although not of influential importance, the 
name of Paul Ivanovich Blaramberg cannot be 
omitted from a history of Russian opera. The 
son of a distinguished General of French 
extraction, he was born in Orenburg, September 
14/26, 1841. His first impulsion towards a 
musical career originated in his acquaintance 
with -Balakirev's circle ; but his relations with 
the nationalist school must have been fleeting, 
as some time during the 'sixties he went abroad 
for a long stay, and on his return to Russia, in 
1870, he settled in Moscow, where he divided his 
time between writing for the Moscow Viedomosty 
and teaching theory in the Philharmonic School. 
Later on he went to live on an estate belonging 
to him in the Crimea. 

Blaramberg has written five operas in all. 
Skomorokhi {The Mummers), a comic opera in 



368 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

three acts, based on one of Ostrovsky's comedies, 
was composed in 1881, and was partly produced 
by the pupils of the opera class of the Moscow 
Philharmonic Society, in the Little Theatre, in 
1887. The opera is a curious blend, some 
portions of it being in the declamatory manner 
of Dargomijsky, without his expressive realism, 
and others in the conventional style of opera 
huffa, degenerating at times into mere farcical 
patter-singing. It contains, however, a few 
successful numbers in the folk-style, especially 
the love-duet in 5-4 measure, and shows the 
influence of the national school. The music of 
The Roussalka-Maiden is more cohesive, and 
written with a clearer sense of form. There are 
fresh and pleasant pages in this work, in which 
local colour is used with unaffected simplicity. 
Blaramberg's third opera, Mary of Burgundy,. 
is a more pretentious work, obviously inspired 
by Meyerbeer. The subject is borrowed from 
Victor Hugo's drama " Marie Tudor." It was 
produced at the Imperial Opera House, Moscow, 
in 1888. In his fourth opera, Blaramberg has 
not been fortunate in his choice of a libretto," 
which is based upon one of Ostrovsky's " Dram- 
atic Chronicles," Toushino — rather a dull his- 
torical play dating from 1606, the period of 
Boris Godounov's regency. Strong, direct, ele- 
mentary treatment, such as it might have 
received at the hands of Moussorgsky, could 



CONCLUSION 369 

alone have invested the subject with dramatic 
interest ; whereas Blaramberg has clothed it in 
music of rather conventional and insipid char- 
acter. In common with Skomorokhi, however, 
the work contains some admirable touches of 
national colour, the composer imitating the 
style of the folk-singing with considerable 
success. Blaramberg's fifth operatic work, en- 
titled The Wave (Volna), is described as "an 
Idyll in two acts," the subject borrowed from 
Byron's " Don Juan " : namely, the episode 
of Haidee's love for Don Juan, who is cast at her 
feet " half -senseless from the sea." Of this 
work Cheshikin says : "It consists of a series 
of duets and trios, with a set of Eastern dances 
and a ballad for bass, thrown in for variety's 
sake, but having no real connection with the 
plot. The music is reminiscent of Gounod ; the 
melody is of the popular order, but not altogether 
commonplace, and embellished by Oriental 
fiorituri." An atmosphere of Eastern languor 
pervades the whole opera, which may be 
attributed to the composer's long sojourn in 
the Crimea. 

A name more distinguished in the annals of 
Russian music is that of Anton Stepanovich 
Arensky, born in Old Novgorod, in 1861. The 
son of a medical man, he received his musical 
education at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, 
where he studied under Rimsky-Korsakov, On 

BB 



370 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

leaving this institution, in 1882, he was appointed 
to a professorship at the Moscow Conservatoire. 
He was also a member of the Council of the 
Synodal School of Church Music at Moscow, and 
conducted the concerts of the Russian choral 
society for a period of over seven years. In 
1894, Balakirev recommended Arensky for the 
Directorship of the Imperial Chapel at St. 
Petersburg, a post which he held until 1901. 
Arensky's first opera A Dream on the Volga 
was produced at the Imperial Opera House, 
Moscow, in December 1892. The work was not 
given in St. Petersburg until 1903, when it 
was performed at the People's Palace. The 
subject is identical with Ostrovsky's comedy 
" The Voyevode," which the dramatist himself 
arranged for Tchaikovsky's use in 1867. Tchai- 
kovsky, as we have seen, destroyed the greater 
part of the opera which he wrote to this libretto, 
but the manuscript of the book remained, and in 
1882, at Arensky's request, he handed it over to 
him " with his benediction." Arensky ap- 
proached the subject in a different spirit to 
Tchaikovsky, giving to his music greater dram- 
atic force and veracity, and making more of 
the Russian element contained in the play. 
The scene entitled " The Voyevode's Dream," 
in the fourth act, in which the startled, night- 
mare cries of the guilty old Voyevode are heard 
in strange contrast to the lullaby sung by the 



CONCLUSION 371 

old woman as she rocks the child in the cradle, 
is highly effective. In his use of the folk-tunes 
Arensky follows Melgounov's system of the 
" natural minor," and his handling of national 
themes is always appropriate and interesting. 
His harmonisation and elaboration by means of 
variations of the familiar tune " Down by Mother 
Volga " is an excellent example of his skill in 
this respect. Arensky 's melody has not the 
sweeping lines and sustained power of Tchai- 
kovsky's, but his tendency is lyrical and 
romantic rather than realistic and declamatory, 
and his use of arioso is marked by breadth and 
clearness of outline. 

Arensky's second opera Raphael was composed 
for the first Congress of Russian Artists held in 
Moscow ; the occasion probably gives us the 
clue to his choice of subject. The first pro- 
duction of the opera took place in April 1894, 
and in the autumn of the following year it was 
given at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. 
The part of Raphael, which is written for a female 
voice, was sung by Slavina, La Fornarina being 
represented by Mravina. The work consists of 
a series of small delicately wrought musical 
cameos. By its tenderness and sweet romantic 
fancy the music often recalls Tchaikovsky's 
Eugene Oniegin ; but it is more closely united 
with the text, and greater attention is paid to 
the natural accentuation of the words. Between 



372 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Raphael and his last opera, Nal and Damyanti, 
Arensky wrote music to Poushkin's poem 
" The Fountain of Bakhchisarai," for the com- 
memoration of the centenary of the poet's birth. 
The analysis of this work does not come within 
the scope of my subject, but I mention it because 
it was a great advance on any of his previous 
vocal works and led up to the increased 
maturity shown in Nal and Damyanti. 

The libretto of this opera was prepared by 
Modeste Tchaikovsky from Joukovsky's free 
translation of Riickert's poem. Nal and Dam- 
yanti was first performed at the Moscow Opera 
House in January 1904. Some external in- 
fluences are still apparent in the work, but they 
now proceed from Wagner rather than from 
Tchaikovsky. The orchestral introduction, an 
excellent piece of work, is occasionally heard in 
the concert room ; it depicts the strife between 
the spirits of light and darkness which forms 
the basis of this Oriental poem. This opera is 
the most suitable for stage performance of any 
of Arensky's works ;, the libretto is well written, 
the plot holds our attention and the scenic 
effects follow in swift succession. Here Aren- 
sky has thrown off the tendency to miniature 
painting which is more or less perceptible in his 
earlier dramatic works, and has produced an 
opera altogether on broader and stronger lines. 
It is unfortunate, however, that he still shows a 



CONCLUSION 373 

lack of complete^musical independence ; as 
Cheshikin remarks : " from Tchaikovsky to 
Wagner is rather an abrupt modulation ! " 

Perhaps the nearest approach to a recognised 
" school " now extant in Russia is to be found 
in Moscow, where the influence of Tchaikovsky 
lingers among a few of his direct disciples, such 
as Rachmaninov, Grechyaninov, and Ippolitov- 
Ivanov. 

Sergius Vassilievich Rachmaninov (b. 1873), 
so well known to us in England as a pianist and 
composer of instrumental music, was a pupil of 
the Moscow Conservatoire, where he studied 
under Taneiev and Arensky. Dramatic music 
does not seem to exercise much attraction for 
this composer. His one-act opera Aleko, the 
subject borrowed from Poushkin's poem " The 
Gipsies," was originally written as a diploma 
work for his final examination at the Con- 
servatoire in 1872, and had the honour of being 
produced at the Imperial Opera House, Moscow, 
in the following season. Aleko was given in St. 
Petersburg, at the Taurida Palace, during the 
celebration of the Poushkin centenary in 1899, 
when Shaliapin took part in the performance. 
It is a blend of the declamatory and l5Tical 
styles, and the music, though not strikingly 
original, runs a pleasing, sympathetic, and 
somewhat uneventful course. 

Alexander Tikhonovich Grechyaninov, born 



374 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

October 13/25 1864, in Moscow, entered the 
Conservatoire of his native city where he made 
the pianoforte his chief study under the guidance 
of Vassily Safonov. In 1893 he' joined the St. 
Petersburg Conservatoire in order to learn 
composition from Rimsky-Korsakov. The fol- 
lowing year a quartet by him won the prize 
at the competition organised by the St. Peters- 
burg Chamber Music Society. He wrote in- 
cidental music to Ostrovsky's " Snow Maiden " 
and to Count Alexis Tolstoy's historical dramas 
" Tsar Feodor " and " Ivan the Terrible " before 
attempting to compose the opera Dobrynia 
NikUich on the subject of one of the ancient 
Byliny or national legends. The introduction 
and third act of this work was first given in 
public in February 1903, at one of Count 
Sheremetiev's popular concerts, and in the 
following spring it was performed in its entirety 
at the Imperial Opera House, with Shaliapin. 
in the title role. It is a picturesque, wholly 
lyrical work. Kashkin describes the music as 
agreeable and flowing, even in those scenes where 
the nature of the subject demands a more 
robust and vigorous musical treatment. Dob- 
rynia NikUich obviously owes much to Glinka's 
Russian and Liudmilla and Borodin's Prince 
Igor. 

Another musician who is clearly influenced 
by Tchaikovsky is Michael Ippolitov-Ivanov 




SHAI.rAI'fN IN HOild's " MEI-rSTOFKI,E" 



CONCLUSION 375 

(b. 1859), a distinguished pupil of Rimsky- 
Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, 
He was afterwards appointed Director of the 
School of Music, and of the Opera, at Tifiis in the 
Caucasus, where his first opera Ruth was 
produced in 1887. In 1893 he accepted a 
professorship at the Moscow Conservatoire, and 
became conductor of the Private Opera Com- 
pany. Ippolitov-Ivanov is a great connoisseur 
of the music of the Caucasian races, and also of 
the old Hebrew melodies. He makes good use 
of the latter in Ruth, a graceful, idyllic opera, 
the libretto of which does not keep very 
strictly to Biblical traditions. In igoo Ippolitov- 
Ivanov's second opera Assy a — ^the libretto 
borrowed from Tourgeniev's tale which bears 
the same title — ^was produced in Moscow by the 
Private Opera Company. The tender melan- 
choly sentiment of the music reflects the 
influence of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Oniegin ; but 
by way of contrast there are some lively scenes 
from German student life. 

With the foregoing composers we may link 
the name of Vassily Sergeivich Kalinnikov 
(1866-1900), who is known in this country by his 
Symphonies in G minor and A major. He 
composed incidental music to Count Alexis 
Tolstoy's play " Tsar Boris " (Little Theatre, 
Moscow, 1897) and the Prologue to an opera 
entitled The Year 181 2, which was never finished 



376 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

in consequence of the musician's failing health 
and untimely death. KalinnikoV hardly had 
time to outgrow his early phase of Tchaikovsky 
worship. 

Another Muscovite composer of widely 
different temperament to Ippolitov-Ivanov, or 
Kalinnikov, is Sergius Ivanovich Taneiev/ born 
November 13/25, 1856, in the Government of 
Vladimir. He studied under Nicholas Rubin- 
stein and Tchaikovsky at the Moscow Con- 
servatoire and made his debut as a pianist at one 
of the concerts of the I. R. M. S. in 1875. He 
remained Tchaikovsky's friend long after he had 
ceased to be his pupil, and among the many 
letters they exchanged in after years there is 
one published in Tchaikovsky's " Life and 
Letters," dated January 14/26, 1891, which 
appears to be a reply to Taneiev's question : 
" How should Opera be written ? " At this 
time Taneiev was engaged upon his Orestes, 
the only work of the kind he has ever composed. 
The libretto, based upon the Aeschylean 
tragedy, is the work of Benkstern and has 
considerable literary merit. Orestes, although 
described by Taneiev as a Trilogy, is, in fact, 
an opera in three acts entitled respectively: 
(i) Agamemnon, (2) Choephoroe, (3) Eumenides. 

' This composer must not be confused with his nephew 
A. S. Taneiev, the composer of a rather Frenchified 
opera entitled "Love's Revenge." 



CONCLUSION 377 

Neither in his choice of subject, ,nor in his 
treatment of it, has Taneiev followed the 
advice given him by Tchaikovsky in the letter 
mentioned above. Perhaps it was not in his 
nature to write opera " just as it came to him," 
or to show much emotional expansiveness. 
Neither does he attempt to write music which is 
archaic in style ; on the contrary, Orestes is 
in many respects a purely Wagnerian opera. 
Leitmotifs are used freely, though less system- 
atically than in the later Wagnerian music- 
dramas. The opera, though somewhat cold 
and laboured, is not wanting in dignity, and is 
obviously the work of a highly educated 
musician. The representative themes, if they 
are rather short-winded, are often very expres- 
sive ; this is the case with the leitmotif of the 
ordeal of Orestes, which stands out prominently 
in the first part of the work, and also forms the 
motive of the short introduction to the Trilogy. 
Towards the close of last century the new 
tendencies which are labelled respectively " im- 
pressionism " " decadence," and " symbol- 
ism," according to the point of view from which 
they are being discussed, began to make them- 
selves felt in Russian art, resulting in a partial 
reaction from the vigorous realism of the 
'sixties and 'seventies, and also from the 
academic romanticism which was the prevalent 
note of the cosmopolitan Russian school. What 



378 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

Debussy had derived from his study of Mous- 
sorgsky and other Russian composers, the Slavs 
now began to take back with interest from the 
members of the younger French school. The 
flattering tribute of imitation hitherto offered 
to Glinka, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner was now 
to be transferred to Gabriel Faure, Debussy, 
and Ravel. In two composers this new current 
of thought is clearly observed. 

Vladimir Ivanovich Rebikov (b. 1866) re- 
ceived most of his inusical education in 
BerUn and Vienna. On his return to Russia 
he settled for a time at Odessa, where his first 
opera In the Storm was produced in 1894. A 
few years later he organised a new branch of 
the I. R. M. S. at Kishiniev, but in 1901 he 
took up his abode permanently in Moscow. 
Rebikov has expressed his own musical creed 
in the following words : " Music is the language 
of the emotions. Our emotions have neither 
starting point, definite form, nor ending : when 
we transmit them through music it should be in 
conformity with this point of view."^ Acting 
upon this theory, Rebikov's music, though it 
contains a good deal that is original, leaves an 
impression of vagueness and formlessness on 
the average mind ; not, of course, as compared 
with the very latest examples of modernism, 

' Quoted in the article on this composer in the Russian 
edition of Riemann's Musical Dictionary, 1904. 



CONCLUSION 379 

but in comparison with what immediately 
precedes it in Russian music. In his early 
opera In the Storm, based on Korolenko's legend 
" The Forest is Murmuring " {Liess Shoumit), 
the influence of Tchaikovsky is still apparent. 
His second work, The Christmas Tree, was 
produced at the Aquarium Theatre, Moscow, in 
1903. Cheshikin says that the libretto is a 
combination of one of Dostoievsky's tales with 
Hans Andersen's " The Little Match-Girl " and 
Hauptmann's " Hannele." The contrast between 
the sad reality of life and the bright visions of 
Christmastide lend themselves to scenic effects. 
The music is interesting by reason of its extreme 
modem tendencies. The opera contains several 
orchestral numbers which seem to have escaped 
the attention of enterprising conductors — a 
Valse, a March of Gnomes, a Dance of Mum- 
mers, and a Dance of Chinese DoUs. 

The second composer to whom I referred as 
showing signs of French impressionist influence 
is Serge Vassilenko (b, 1872, Moscow). He 
first came before the public in 1902 with a 
Cantata, The Legend of the City of Kitezh. Like 
Rachmaninov's Aleko, this was also a diploma 
work. The following year it was given in 
operatic form by the Private Opera Company in 
Moscow. Some account of the beautiful mys- 
tical legend of the city that was miraculously 
saved from the Tatars by the fervent prayers of 



38o THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

its inhabitants has already been given in the 
chapter dealing with Rimsky-Korsakov. It 
remains to be said that Vassilenko's treatment 
of the subject is in many ways strong and 
original. He is remarkably successful in reviv- 
ing the remote, fantastic, rather austere atmo- 
sphere of Old Russia, and uses Slavonic and 
Tatar melodies in effective contrast. The work, 
which does not appear to have become a 
repertory opera, is worth the study of those who 
are interested in folk-music. 

There is little satisfaction in presenting my 
readers with a mere list of names, but space does 
not permit me to do much more in the case of the 
following composers : 

G. A. Kazachenko (b. 1858), of Malo-Russian 
origin, has written two operas : Prince Sereb- 
ryany (1892) and Pan Sotnik {1902),^ which 
have met with some success. A. N. Korest- 
chenko, the composer of Belshazzar's Feast (1892), 
The Angel of Death (Lermontov), and The Ice 
Palace (1900). N. R. Kochetov, whose Terrible 
Revenge (Gogol) was produced in St. Petersburg 
in 1897 ; and Lissenko, sometimes called " the 
Malo-Russian Glinka," the composer of a 
whole series of operas that enjoy some popularity 
in the southern provinces of Russia. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, for the 

' Pan is the title of the Polish gentry, Sotnik, literally a 
centurion, a military grade. 



CONCLUSION 381 

proportion of Russian composers who have 
produced operatic works is a striking fact in 
the artistic history of the country — a phenome- 
non which can only be attributed to the encour- 
agement held out to musicians by the great and 
increasing number of theatres scattered over 
the vast surface of the Empire. 

As we have seen, all the leading represen- 
tatives of Russian music, whether they belonged 
to the nationalist movement or not, occupied 
themselves with opera. There are, however, 
two distinguished exceptions. Anatol Con- 
stantinovich Liadov (b. 1855) ^^^ Alexander 
Constantinovich Glazounov (b. 1865) were both 
members, at any rate for a certain period of their 
lives, of the circles of Balakirev and Belaiev, 
but neither of them have shared the common 
attraction to dramatic music. Glazounov, it is 
true, has written some remarkably successful 
ballets — " Raymonda " and " The Seasons " — 
but shows no inclination to deal with the 
problems of operatic style. 

The " opera-ballet," which is not — what at the 
present moment it is frequently being called — a 
new form of operatic art, but merely the revival 
of an old one,^ is engaging the attention of the 
followers of Rimsky-Korsakov. At the same 

■ For example, the Court ballets of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries were practically opera-ballets, since 
they included songs, dances and spoken dialogue. 



382 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

time it should be observed that the application 
of this term to A Night in May and The Golden 
Cock is not sanctioned by what the composer 
himself has inscribed upon the title pages. 

At the present time the musical world is eago-ly 
expecting the production of Igor Stravinsky's 
first opera The Nightingale. This composer, 
by his ballets The Bird of Fire, Petrouchka, 
and The Sacrifice to Spring, has worked us 
up through a steady crescendo of interest to a 
climax of curiosity as to what he will produce 
next. So far, we know him only as the com- 
poser of highly original and often brilliant in- 
strumental works. It is difficult to prophesy 
what his treatment of the vocal element in 
music may prove to be. The work is in three acts, 
based upon Hans Andersen's story of the Emperor 
of China and the Nightingale. The opera was 
begun several years ago, and we are therefore pre- 
pared to find in it some inequality of style ; but 
the greater part of it, so we are told, bears the 
stamp of Stravinsky's "advanced" manner, and the 
fundamental independence and novelty of the 
score of The Sacrifice to Spring leads us to 
expect in The Nightingale a work of no ordinary 
power. 

Russia, from the earliest institution of her 
opera houses, has always been well served as 
regards foreign artists. All the great European 
stars have been attracted there by the princely 



CONCLUSION 383 

terms offered for their services. Russian opera, 
however, had to be contented for a long period 
with second-rate singers. Gradually the na- 
tural talent of the race was cultivated, and 
native singers appeared upon the scene who were 
equal in every respect to those imported from 
abroad. The country has always been rich in 
bass and baritone voices. One of the most 
remarkable singers of the last century, O. A. 
Petrov (1807-1878), was a bass-baritone of a 
beautiful quality, with a compass extending 
from B to G sharp. He made his d6but at the 
Imperial Opera, St. Petersburg, in 1830, as 
Zoroaster in " The Magic Flute." Stassov often 
spoke to me of this great artist, the operatic 
favourite of his young days. There were few 
operatic stars, at least at that period, who did 
not — so Stassov declared — make themselves 
ridiculous at times. Petrov was the exception. 
He was a great actor ; his facial play was varied 
and expressive, without the least exaggeration ; 
he was picturesque, forcible, graceful, and, above 
all, absolutely free from conventional pose. His 
interpretation of the parts of Ivan Sousanin in 
A Life for the Tsar, the Miller in The Roussalka, 
of Leporello in The Stone Guest, and, even in his 
last days, of Varlaam in Boris Godounov, were 
inimitable for their depth of feeling, historic 
truth, intellectual grasp, and sincerity. Artistic- 
ally speaking, Petrov begat Shaliapin. 



384 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

To Petrov succeeded Melnikov, a self-taught 
singer, who was particularly fine in the parts of 
Russian, the Miller, and Boris Godounov. 
Among true basses Karyakin possessed a phe- 
nomenal voice, but not much culture. A critic 
once aptly compared his notes for power, depth, 
and roundness to a row of mighty oaken 
barrels. 

Cui, in his " Recollections of the Opera," 
speaks of the following artists, stars of the 
Mar5dnsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, between 
1872 and 1885 : Menshikova, who possessed a 
powerful soprano voice of rare beauty ; Raab, 
who was musically gifted ; Levitskaya, dis- 
tinguished for her sympathetic qualities, and 
Pavlovskaya, a remarkably intelligent and 
" clever " artist. But his brightest memories of 
this period centre around Platonova. Her 
voice was not of exceptional beauty, but she 
was so naturally gifted, and her impersonation 
so expressive, that she never failed to make a 
profound impression. " How she loved Russian 
art," says Cui, " and with what devotion she 
was prepared to serve it in comparison with 
most of the favourite singers of the day ! None 
of us native composers, old or young, could 
have dispensed with her. The entire Russian 
repertory rested on her, and she bore the burden 
courageously and triumphantly." Her best parts 
were Antonida in A Life for the Tsar, Natasha 



CONCLUSION 385 

in The Roussalka, Marina in Boris Godounov, 
and Donna Anna in The Stone Guest. 

Among contraltos, after Leonova's day, Lav- 
rovskaya and Kroutikova were the most popu- 
lar. The tenors Nikolsky, Orlov, and Vas- 
siliev all had fine voices. Orlov was good as 
Michael Toucha in The Maid of Pskov ; while 
VassUiev's best part was the King of Berendei 
in Rimsky-Korsakov's Snow Maiden. Another 
tenor, whose reputation however was chiefly 
made abroad, was Andreiev. 

Later on, during the 'eighties and 'nineties, 
Kamenskaya, a fine soprano, was inimitable in 
the part of Rogneda (Serov), and in Tchaikov- 
sky's Maid of Orleans. Dohna, a rich and 
resonant mezzo-soprano, excelled as Ratmir 
in Glinka's Russian. Slavina, whose greatest 
success was in Bizet's " Carmen," and Mravina, 
a high coloratura soprano, were both favourites 
at this time. To this period also belong the 
triumphs of the Figners — ^husband and wife. 
Medea Figner was perhaps at her best as Carmen, 
and her husband was an admirable Don Jose, 
but it is as the creator of Lensky in Eugene 
Oniegin, and of Herman in The Queen of Spades 
that he will live in the affections of the Russian 
public. 

In Feodor Ivanovich Shaliapin, Russia pro- 
bably possesses the greatest living operatic 
artist. Born February 1/13, 1873, in the 

cc 



386 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

picturesque old city of Kazan, he is of peasant 
descent. He had practically no education in 
childhood, and as regards both his intellectual 
and musical culture he is, to all intents- and 
purposes, an autodidact. For a time he is said 
to have worked with a shoe-maker in the same 
street where Maxim Gorky was toiling in the 
baker's underground shop, so graphically de- 
scribed in his tale " Twenty-six and One," For 
a short period Shaliapin sang in the Arch- 
bishop's choir, but at seventeen he joined a local 
operetta company which was almost on the 
verge of bankruptcy. When no pay was forth- 
coming, he earned a precarious livelihood by 
frequenting the railway station and doing the 
work of an outporter. He was often perilously 
near starvation. Later on, he went with a 
travelling company of Malo-Russians to the 
region of the Caspian and the Caucasus. On 
this tour he sang — -and danced, when occasion 
demanded. In 1892 he found himself in Tiflis, 
where his voice and talents attracted the 
attention of a well-known singer Oussatov, who 
gave him some lessons and got him engaged at 
the opera in that town. He made his debut 
at Tiflis in A Life for the Tsar. In 1894 he sang 
in St. Petersburg, at the Summer Theatre in the 
Aquarium, and also at the Panaevsky Theatre. 
The following year he was engaged at the 
Maryinsky Theatre, but the authorities seem 




SHALIAPIN AS DON QUIXOTE 



CONCLUSION 387 

to have been blind to the fact that in Shaliapin 
they had acquired a second Petrov. His ap- 
pearances there were not very frequent. It was 
not until 1896, when the lawyer-millionaire 
Mamantov paid the fine which released him 
from the service of the Imperial Opera House, 
and invited him to join the Private Opera 
Company at Moscow, that Shaliapin got his 
great chance in life. He became at once the 
idol of the Muscovites, and admirers journeyed 
from St. Petersburg and the provinces to hear 
him. When I visited St. Petersburg in 1897, 
I found Vladimir Stassov full of enthusiasm for 
the genius of Shaliapin. Unluckily for me, the 
season of the Private Opera Company had just 
come to an end, but I learnt at secondhand to 
know and appreciate Shaliapin in all his great 
impersonations. By 1899 the Imperial Opera 
of Moscow had engaged him at a salary of 60,000 
roubles a year. His fame soon spread abroad 
and he was in request at Monte Carlo, Buenos 
Aires, and Milan ; in the last named city he 
married, and installed himself in a house there 
for a time. Visits to New York and Paris 
followed early in this century, and finally, 
through the enterprise of Sir Joseph Beecham, 
London had an opportunity of hearing this great 
artist during the season of 1913. Speaking to 
me of his London experiences, Shaliapin was 
evidently deeply moved by, and not a little 



388 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

astonished at, the enthusiastic welcome accorded 
to him and to his compatriots. He had, of course, 
been told that we were a cold and phlegmatic 
race, but he found in our midst such heart-felt 
warmth and sincerity as he had never before 
experienced outside Russia. 

Shaliapin's romantic history has proved a 
congenial soil for the growth of all manner of 
sensational tales and legends around his life and 
personality. They make amusing material for 
newspaper and magazine articles ; but as I am 
here concerned with history rather than with 
fiction, I will forbear to repeat more than one 
anecdote connected with his career. The inci- 
dent was related to me by a famous Russian 
musician. I will not, however, vouch for its 
veracity, but only for its highly picturesque 
and dramatic qualities. A few years ago the 
chorus of the Imperial Opera House desired to 
present a petition to the Emperor. It was 
arranged that after one of the earlier scenes in 
Boris Godounov the curtain should be rung up 
again, and the chorus should be discovered 
kneeling in an attitude of supplication, their 
faces turned towards the Imperial box, while 
their chosen representative should offer the 
petition to the " exalted personage " who was 
attending the opera that night. When the 
curtain went up for the second time it disclosed 
an unrehearsed effect. Shaliapin, who was not 



CONCLUSION 389 

aware of the presentation of the petition by the 
chorus, had not left the stage in time. There, 
among the crowd of humble petitioners, stood 
Tsar Boris ; dignified, colossal, the very 
personification of kingly authority, in his superb 
robes of cloth of gold, with the crown of 
Monomakh upon his head. For one thrilling, 
sensational moment Tsar Boris stood face to 
face with Tsar Nicholas II. ; then some swift 
impulse, born of custom, of good taste, or of the 
innate spirit of loyalty that lurks in every 
Russian heart, brought the dramatic situation 
to an end. Tsar Boris dropped on one knee, 
mingling with the supplicating crowd, and 
etiquette triumphed, to the inward mortification 
of a contingent of hot-headed young revolution- 
ists who had hoped to see him defy convention 
to the last. 

In Russia, where some kind of pohtical 
leitmotif is bound to accompany a great per- 
sonality through life, however much he may 
wish to disassociate himself from it, attempts 
have been made to identify Shahapin with the 
extreme radical party. It is sufiicient, and much 
nearer the truth, to say that he is a patriot, with 
all that the word implies of love for one's 
country as it is, and hope for what its destinies 
may yet be. Shaliapin could not be otherwise 
than patriotic, seeing that he is Russian through 
and through. When we are in his society the 



390 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

two qualities which immediately rivet our 
attention are his Herculean virility and his 
Russian-ness. He is Russian in his sincerity 
and candour, in his broad human sympathies, 
and in a certain child-like simplicity which 
is particularly engaging in this much-worshipped 
popular favourite. He is Russian, too, in his 
extremes of mood, which are reflected so clearly 
in his facial expression. Silent and in repose, 
he has the look of almost tragic sadness and 
patient endurance common in the peasant types 
of Great Russia. But suddenly his whole face 
is lit up with a smile which is full of drollery, 
and his humour is frank and infectious. 

As an actor his greatest quality appears to me 
to be his extraordinary gift of identification with 
the character he is representing. Shaliapin 
does not merely throw himself into the part, to 
use a phrase commonly applied to the histrionic 
art. He seems to disappear, to empty himself 
of all personality, that Boris Godounov or Ivan 
the Terrible may be re-incarnated for us. It 
might pass for some occult process ; but it is 
only consummate art. While working out his 
own conception of a part, unmoved by con- 
vention or opinion, Shaliapin neglects no acces- 
sory study that can heighten the realism of his 
interpretation. It is impossible to see him 
as Ivan the Terrible, or Boris, without realising 
that he is steeped in the history of those periods, 



CONCLUSION 391 

which live again at his will.^ In the same way 
he has studied the masterpieces of Russian art 
to good purpose, as all must agree who have 
compared the scene of Ivan's frenzied grief over 
the corpse of Olga, in the last scene of Rimsky- 
Korsakov's opera, with Repin's terrible picture 
of the Tsar, clasping in his arms the body of the 
son whom he has just killed in a fit of insane 
anger. The agonising remorse and piteous 
senile grief have been transferred from Repin's 
canvas to ShaUapin's living picture, without the 
revolting suggestion of the shambles which mars 
the painter's work. Sometimes, too, Shaliapin 
will take a hint from the living model. His 
dignified maJse-up as the Old Believer Dositheus, 
in Moussorgsky's Khovanstchina, owes not a little 
to the personality of Vladimir Stassov. 

Here is an appreciation of Shaliapin which 
will be of special interest to the vocahst : 

" One of the most striking features of his 
technique is the remarkable fidelity of word 
utterance which removes all sense of artificiality, 
so frequently associated with operatic singing. 
His diction floats on a beautiful cantilena, 
particularly in his mezzo-voce singing, which — 
though one would hardly expect it from a 
singer endowed with such a noble bass voice — 

^ " A singer's mind becomes subtler with every mental 
excursion into history, sacred or profane." — ^D. Ffrangcon 
Davies. " The Singing of the Future." John Lane, The 
Bodley Head. 



392 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

is one of the most telling -features of his 
performance. There is never any striving after 
vocal effects, and his voice is always subservient 
to the words. This style of singing is surely 
that which Wagner so continually demanded 
from his interpreters ; but it is the antithesis 
of that staccato ' Ba5n:euth bark ' which a few 
years ago so woefully misrepresented the 
master's ideal of fine lyric diction. The atmo- 
sphere and tone-colour which Shaliapin imparts 
to his singing are of such remarkable quality 
that one feels his interpretation of Schubert's 
' Doppelganger ' must of necessity be a thing 
of genius, unapproachable by other contempor- 
ary singers. The range of his voice is extensive, 
for though of considerable weight in the lower 
parts, his upper register is remarkable in its 
conformity to his demands. The sustained 
upper E natural with which he finishes that great 
song ' When the king went forth to war,' is 
uttered with a delicate pianissimo that would do 
credit to any lyric tenor or soprano. Yet his 
technique is of that high order that never 
obtrudes itself upon the hearer. It is always 
his servant, never his master. His readings are 
also his own, and it is his absence of all con- 
ventionality that makes his singing of the 
' Calunnia ' aria from ' II Barbiere ' a thing 
of dehght, so full of humour is its interpre- 
tation, and so satisfying to the demands of the 



CONCLUSION 393 

most exacting ' bel cantist.' The reason is not 
far to seek, for his method is based upon a 
thoroughly sound breath control, which produces 
such splendid comtahile results. Every student 
should listen to this great singer and profit by 
his art." ^ 

A few concluding words as to the present 
conditions of opera in Russia. They have 
greatly changed during the last thirty years. 
In St. Petersburg the Maryinsky Theatre, 
erected in i860, renovated in 1894, and more or 
less reorganised in 1900, was for a long time the 
only theatre available for Russian opera in the 
capital. In 1900 the People's Palace, with a 
theatre that accommodates 1,200 spectators, was 
opened with a performance of A Life for the 
Tsar ; here the masterpieces of national opera 
are now given from time to time at popular 
prices. Opera is also given in the great hall 
of the Conservatoire, formerly the " Great 
Theatre " ; and occasionally in the " Little 
Theatre." In Moscow the " Great Theatre " or 
Opera House is the official home of music- 
drama. It now has as rivals, the Zimin Opera 
(under the management of S. I. Zimin) and the 
National Opera. In 1897 the Moscow Private 
Opera Company was started with the object of 

Communicated at my request by my friend, Mr. 
Herbert Heyner, who has made a special study of Shaliapin's 
art both at the opera and from gramophone records. 

DD 



394 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

producing novelties by Russian composers, and 
encouraging native opera in general. It • was 
located at first in the Solodovnikov Theatre, 
under the management of Vinter, and the 
conductorship of Zeleny. It soon blossomed 
into a fine organisation when S. Mamantov, a 
wealthy patron of art, came to its support. 
Through its palmy days (1897-1900), Ippolitov- 
Ivanov was the conductor, and a whole series of 
national operas by Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, and 
others were superbly staged. Shaliapin first 
made his mark at this time. 

Numerous private opera companies sprang 
up in Russia about the close of last century. 
Cheshikin gives a list of over sixty, mounting 
opera in the provinces between 1896 and 1903 ; 
indeed the whole country from Archangel to 
Astrakhan and from Vilna to Vladivostok seems 
to have been covered by these enterprising 
managers ; and the number has doubtless in- 
creased in the last ten years. When, in addition 
to these, we reckon the many centres which 
boast a state-supported opera house, it would 
appear that Russians have not much to complain 
of as regards this form of entertainment. But 
the surface of the country is vast, and there are 
still districts where cultivated music, good or bad, 
is an unknown enj oyment. Nor must we imagine 
that the standard of these provincial private com- 
panies is always an exalted one, or that national 



CONCLUSION 395 

operas, if presented at all, are mounted as we are 
accustomed to see them in Western Europe. 
We may hope that the case cited by a critic, of 
a Moscow manager who produced Donizetti's 
" La Fille du Regiment " under the title of " A 
Daughter of the Regiment of La Grande 
Armee," in a Russian version said to have been 
the work of an English nursery governess, with 
a picture of the Battle of Marengo as a set 
background, was altogether exceptional. But 
indifferent performances do occur, even in a 
country so highly educated in operatic matters 
as Russia may fairly claim to be. 

As I write the last pages of this book, the com- 
prehensiveness of its title fills me with dismay. 
"An Introduction to the Study of Russian 
Opera" would have been more modest and 
appropriate, since no complete and well-balanced 
survey of the subject could possibly be con- 
tained in a volume of this size. Much that is 
interesting has been passed over without com- 
ment ; and many questions demanded much 
fuller treatment. One fact, however, I have 
endeavoured to set forth in these pages in the 
clearest and most emphatic terms : Russian 
opera is beyond all question a genuine growth 
of the Russian soil ] it includes the aroma and 
flavour of its native land " as the wine must 
taste of its own grapes." Its roots he deep in 
the folk-music, where they have spread and 



396 THE RUSSIAN OPERA 

flourished naturally and without effort. So 
profoundly embedded and so full of vitality 
are its fibres, that nothing has been able to 
check their growth and expansion. Discouraged 
by the Church, its germs still lived on in the 
music of the people ; neglected by the pro- 
fessional element, it found shelter in the hearts 
of amateurs ; refused by the Imperial Opera 
Houses, it flourished in the drawing-rooms of a 
handful of enthusiasts. It has always existed 
in some embryonic form as an inherent part of 
the national life ; and when at last it received 
official recognition, it quickly absorbed all that 
was given to it in the way of support and atten- 
tion, but persisted in throwing out its vigorous 
branches in whatever direction it pleased. Per- 
secution could not kill it, nor patronage spoU it ; 
because it is one with the soul of the people. May 
it long retain its lofty idealism and sane vigour ! 



INDEX OF OPERAS 



Abizarb, 35 

Acts of Artaxerxes, The, lO, 17 

Act of Joseph, The, 32 

Adam and Eve, 18 

Alcide, 33 

Aleko, 373 

Alexander and Darius; 23 

Americans, The, 41, 43 

Amore per Regnante, 34 

Angel of Death, The, 380 

Angelo, 272, 273, 274 

Aniouta, 40, 41, 42, 96 

Aimida, 50 

Askold's Tomb, 64 

Assya, 373 

Belshazzar's Feast, 380 
Berenice, 34 

Bird of Fire, The, 39, 382 
Boeslavich, The Novgorodian 

Hero, 40, 41 
Boris Godonnov, 223, 228-240, 

250, 388 
Bomidary Hills, The, 64 
Boyarinya Vera Sheloga, 291, 

308 

Caprice d'Oxane, Le (see Chere- 
vichek), 304 

Captain's Daughter, The, 280 

Captive in the Caucasus, The, 
269, 274 

Cephialus and Procius, 36 

Cbarodeika (see The Enchant- 
ress) 

Chaste Joseph, The, 18 

Cherevichek, 342, 343, 338, 359 

Chlorida and Milon, 41 

Christmas Eve Revels, 304, 305, 
306, 341 



Christmas Festivals of Old, O7 
Christmas Tree, The, 379 
Christus, 166 
Citizens of Nijny-Novgorod.The, 

364. 365 
Clemenza di Tito, La, 36 
Cosa Rara, La, 49 
Cossack Poet, The, 39 
Credulity, 67 
Cruelty of Nero, The, 25 

Daphnis Pursued, 28 

Deborah, 66 

Demofonti, 33 

Demon, The, 163, 172-177 

Dianino, 49 

Dido Forsaken, 33 

Didone, 52 

Dmitri Donskoi, 163, 168-172 

Dobiynia Nikitich, 59, 374 

Doubrovsky, 366 

Dream on the Volga, A, 370, 371 

Early Reign of Oleg, The, 47,30 
Enchantress, The, 353, 354, 358 
Epic of the Army of Igor, The, 2 
Esmeralda, 119, 124, ryi 
Esther, 66 
Eudocia Crowned, or Theodosia 

11,35 
Eugene Oniegin, 344-347. 35°. 

353. 355. 357. 358, 359, 363, 

371. 373 

Fair at Sorochinsi, The, 228 
Fall of Sophonisba, The, 27 
Faucon, Le, 54 

Feast in Time of Plague, A, 277 
Fedoul and Her Children, 47, 49 
Feramors, 163, 181 

EE 



398 



INDEX OF OPERAS 



Fevel, Tsarevich, 46, 47 

FUs Rival, Le, 34 

Fingal, 66 

Flibustier, Le, 275, 276 

Forced Marriage, The, 67 

Forza deU'Amore e dell' Odio, 

La, 34 
Francesca da Rimiai, 366, 367 

Golden Galf, The, 22 
Golden Cock, The, 323-331, 382 
Good Luke, or Here's my Day, 

49 

Good Maiden, The, 40 

Goriousha, 166 

Gostinny Dvor of St. Peters- 
burg, The, 45 

Gromoboi, 65 

HADji-Abrek, 164, 171 
Harold) 365, 366 
Homesickness, 64 

Ice Palace, The, 380 

Ilya the Hero, 59, 60 

In the Storm, 378 

Invisible Prince, The, 39 

lolanthe, 357, 358 

Iphigenia in Aulis, 49 

Iphigenia in Taurida, 52 

Ivan Sousanin, 59, 60, 62, 90, 

91, 92 
Ivan the Terrible {see The Maid 

of Pskov) 

Judith, 150-134, 191 
Judith cut off the head of 
Holofemes, How, 18, ig, zo 

Kastchei the Immortal, 318, 

319, 320 
Khovanstchina, 241-248, 293 
Kinder der Heide, 165 
Kitezh, the Invisible City of, 

321-325, 329 
The legend of the City of, 

379. 380 

Legend of Tsar Saltan, The, 
315. 316 



Life for the Tsar, A, 62, 86, 93- 

104, 145, 171, 291, 292. 363, 

393 
Love Brings Trouble, 46 

Maccabees, The, 163 
Mahomet and Zulima, 35 
Maid of Orleans, The, 349, 350, 

358. 
Maid of Pskov, The, 171, 283, 

289-293, 308, 34a 
Mam'selle Fifi, 276 
Mandarin's Son, The, 269 
Mary of Burgundy, 368 
Match-Maker, The, 226, 227 
Mazeppa, 330-353, 358, 359 
M6decin malgre lui, Le, 25 
Merchant Kalashnikov, The, 166, 

177-180 
Miller, The Wizard-,40, 42, 44, 36, 

96 
Minerva Triumphant, 39 
Miroslava, or the Funeral Pyie. 

60 
Miser, The, 48 
Mithriadates, 33 
Mlada, 303, 304 
Moonlight Night, or The Domo- 

voi. A, 68 
Moses, 166 

Mountains of Piedmont, The, 60 
Mozart and Salieri, 307, 317 
Mummers, The, 367 

Nal and Damyanti, 372 

Nativity, 22 

Nebuchadnezzar, 21 

Nero, 163, 171 

Night in May, A,_295-299, 382 

Nightingale, The, 382 

OEdipus, 224, 225 

CEdipus in Athens, 66 

CEdipus Rex, 66 

Oprichnik, The, 337-341. 35°, 

358, 359, 363 
Orestes, 376, 377 
Orpheus, 41 
Orpheus and Eurydice, 18 



INDEX OF OPERAS 



399 



Pan Sotnik, 380 
Pan Tvardovsky, 64 
Pan Voyevode, 320, 321 
Papagei, Der, 166 
Paradise Lost, 165 
Peasants.The.or The Unexpected 

Meeting, 59 
Petrouchka, 322, 382 
Pique-Dame {see The Queen of 

Spades) 
Power of Evil, The, 157, 158, 159 
Prince Igor, 171, 182, 192, 206, 

256-266, 296, 374 
Prince Kholmsky, 104 
Prince Serebryany, 380 
Prisoner in the Caucasus, The, 

68, 188 
Prodigal Son, The, 22 

Queen of Spades, The, 354-357, 

358, 359, 363 
Quinto Fatao, 53 

Raphael, 371 
Regeneration, 40 
R6 Pastore, II, 52 
Rogneda, 154, 155, 156 
Roussalla, TTie, 121-130 
Roussalka of the Dnieper, The 59 
Roussalka-Maiden, The, 368 
Ruins of Babylon, The 59 
Russian and Liudmilla 77, S3, 
105-114, 145, 261, 291, 292, 

374 
Ruth, 375 

Sadko, The Rich Merchant, i 
Sadko, a legendary opera, 251, 

288, 309-312 
Saint Alexis, 21 
Salatnmbd, 225 
Saracen, The, 274, 275 
Scipio Africanus, 27 
Seleucus, 35 
Servilia, 317, 318 
Shulamite, The, 166, 180 



SibirsHe Okhotniki (The Siber- 
ian Hunters), 164 
Sinner's Repentance, The, 38 
Skomorokhi {see The Mummers) 
Snow-Maiden, The, 295, 299-303 
Stone Guest, The, 123, 130-136, 

187, 218, ^51, 261, 290 
Svietlana, 60 

Tale of the Invisible City of 

Kitezh, The, {see Kitezh) 
Taniousha, or the Fortunate 

Meeting, 39, 42 
Terrible Revenge, 380 
Three Hunchback Brothers,The, 

59 
Tobias, 18 
Tom the Fool (Thomouska- 

Dourachok), 163 
Toushino, 368 
Tower of Babel, The, 165, 171, 

180 
Tradimento per I'honore, II, 27 
Triumph of Bacchus, The, 120, 

122 

Tsar's Bride, The, 312-315 
Tutor-Professor, "The, 41 
Two Antons, The, 48 

Undine, 337 

Vadim, or The Twenty Sleeping 

Maidens, 64 
Vakoula the Smith {see Le 

Caprice d'Oxane), 304, 342 
Veillle des Paysans, La, 67 
Village Festival, a, 49 
Voyevode, The, 336-338 

Wave, The, 369 
William Ratclifi, 269-272 
Wizard, The Fortune-Teller and 
the Match-maker, The, 41 

Year 1812, The, 375 
Youth of John III, The, 60 



INDEX OF NAMES 



Ablessimov, 40 
Aivazovsky, 112 
Aksakov, 64 
Alabiev, 66, 67, 68, 88 
Alekseievna,TsarevnaNatalia, 30 
Alexander I., 46, 57 

II, 89 

Ill, 294 

Andreiev, 385 

Anne, Empress (Duchess of 

Courland), 30, 32, 55 
Antonolini, 59 

Araja, Francesco, 34, 35, 36, 37 
Arensky, Anton Stepanovich, 

281, 369, 373 
Arnold, Youry, 61, 164, 171 
Asancldevsky, 284 

Bakhtourin, 105 

Bakounin, 146 

Balakirev, Mily Alexeich, 122, 
145, 149. 183-197, 198-207,217, 
223, 254, 267, 280, 282, 334, 

335, 367. 381 
Baratinsky, 113 
Basili, 85 

Bayan, the Skald, 6, 108 
Belaiev, Mitrofane Petrovich, 

205-209, 381 
Bellaigue, M. Camille, 102, 103, 

236, 302 
Berezovsky, M. S., 44, 52, 53 

V. v., 3 

Bielsky, V., 325, 329 

Birpn, Duke of Courland, 33, 38 

Blaramberg, Paul Ivanovich, 

367-369 
Borodin, Alexander, 186, 190, 
192, 199, 204, 206, 216, 253- 
266, 270, 303 



Bortniansky, Dmitri Stepano- 
vich, 53, 54. 365 
Bourenin, 250 
Bruneau, AUred, 97 

Canobbio, 47 
Carlisle, Lord, 13 
Catherine I, Empress, 31 

II, 36, 39, 40, 45, 49-5». 

56 
Cavos, Catterino, 58-63, 69, 92 
Cheshikin, 19, 28, 35, 54, 63, 
99. 143, i68, 175, 262, 294, 
304, 317, 319, 352, 357, 365, 

369, 373, 379, 394 
Cimarosa, 37, 44 
Constantiae, the Grand Duke, 

286, 357 
Cui, C^sar, 186, 188, 192, 194, 

217, 223, 264, 266-280, 291, 

303, 335, 340. 384 

DARGOMijSKy,Alexander Sergei- 
vich, 117-X36, 137, 138, 156, 
168, 171, 1S6, 195, 216, 218, 
223, 228, 270, 307, 368 

Davidov, 309 

Dehn, Siegfried, 87, 88, 115, 
119, 163 

Dimitri of Rostov (Daniel Toup- 
talo), 21, 22, 38 

Dmitrievsky, Ivan, 38, 39 

Dolina, 385 

Dostoievslqr, 379 

Dutsh, 208 

Elizabeth, Empress, 35, 38, 56 
Esposito, 307 

Famitzin, Professor, 196 



INDEX OF NAMES 



401 



Feodorovna, Tsaritsa Piascovya, 

30 

Empress Alexandra, 164 

Field, John, 63, 79, 86 

Figner, Nicholas and Medea, 

366, 385 
Fletcher, Giles, 10, 11 
Fomin^ E. Platovich, 39-45, 55, 

96 
Ftirst, Otto, 29, 30 

Galuppi, Baldassare, 44, 52, 53 
Gedeonov, 92, log, 128, 134, 303 
Glazounov, Alexander C, 206, 

267, 381 
Glinka, Michael Ivanovich, 4, 

62, 63, 68-88, 118, 119, 120. 

137, 145, 153, 156. 185, 202, 

216, 218, 253, 262, 270, 281, 

290, 294, 334. 365 

his Operas, 88-116 

Godounov, Boris, 12, 368 
Gogol, 88, 129, 270, 295, 341 
Golenishtiev-Koutouzov, Count, 

231 
Golovin, Boyard, 24 
Goncharov, 262 
Gorboimov, 35, 39 
Goussakovs^, A., 211 
Gregory, Yagan Gottfried, 15, 

16, 17, 21 
Gretchyaninov, Alexander Tik- 

honovich, 281, 373 
Gutovsky, Simon, 17 

Herke, 195 

Holstein, Duke of, 8, 31 

Hunke, 146 

Ilyinski, Dimitri, 29 
Inglis, Peter, 16 
Ippolitov-Ivanov, Michael, 281, 

374. 394 
Ivan the Terrible, 12 

Joseph, the Patriarch, 12 
Joukovsky, 60, 64, 65, 86, 89, 

115, 221, 348, 372 
Jurgenson, J. B., 36, 42 



Kalashinkev, 159 
Kalashnikov, N., 364 
Kalinnikov, Vassfly Sergeivich, 

375 
Kamenskaya, 383 
KanillS, 282 
Kapnist, 41 

Karamzin, 57, 221, 233 
Karatagyn, 42, 44 
Karmalina, the sisters, 128, 131, 

194, 204 
Karyakin, 384 
Kashkin, 276, 374 
Kazachenko, G. A., 380 
Kistner, Baron, 291 
Kobyakov, 49 
Kochetov, N. R., 380 
Koltsov, 221 
Kondratiev, 230 
Korestchenko, A. N., 380 
Korf, Baron, 212 
Korolenko, 379 
Koslov, 86 
Koukohiik, 104 
Koulikov, 177 
Kozlovsky, Joseph Antonovich, 

65, 66 
Kroutitsky, 42 
Kroutikova, 385 
Krylov, 57, 59, 115 
Kunst, Johann Christain, 24, 

25, 26, 29 

Lajechnikov, 337 

Laroche, 193 

Lavrov, 208 

Lavrovsky, Madame, 344, 385 

Lefort, General Franz, 25 

Lenz ,147, 2i8 

Leonova, Mme., 232, 269, 289, 

385 
Lermontov, 165, 172, 177, 211, 

267, 334. 380 
Levitskaya, 3 84 
Liadov, Anatol C, 167, 206, 

211, 281, 363, 381 
Liapounov, 203 
Likhatchiev, 13 
Lissenko, 380 
Lobanov, D., 152 



402 



INDEX OF NAMES 



Locatelli, 56 

Ix)dyjens]qr, Nicholas, 186, 211 

Lomakin, 190 



Maikov, v., 49, 172 
Maleziomova, Mme., 167 
Mamantov, 266, 387, 394 
Mann, 31 

Martin, Vincente, 48, 49 
Martini, Padre, 44 
Matinsky, Michael, 40, 45 
Matveiev, Boyard, 13, 16, 17, 

23 
Maupassant, Guy de, 276 
Maurer, Ludwig, 63, 66 
Meek, Nadejda von, 285, 348, 

360 
Medoks, 56 
Melgounov, 371 
Melnikov, 176, 266, 272, 289, 

365. 384 
Menshikova, 384 
Mey, 291 
Meyer, Carl, 79 
Mikhailovich, Alexis Tsar, 8, 12, 

13. 14. IS. 17. 21. 22 
Milioukhov, Professor, g 
Molas, Mme. (see Pourgold), 194 
Moniuszko, 268 
MorfiU, R. W. Professor, 256 
Moussorgsky, Modeste, 70, 140, 

147, 186, 188, 192, 196, 216, 

217-252, 253, 264, 289, 291, 

303, 365 
Mravina, 371, 385 
Muscovy, Grand Duke of, 8 
Myassedov, 188 

Napravnik, Edward Franzo- 

vich, 269, 289, 309, 363-367 
Naryshkin, Natalia, 13 
Nekrassov, 129, 221 
Nicholas I, the Emperor, 92 

II, 268 

Nikitin, 129, 221 
Nikolaiev, 41 
Nikolsky, Professor, 228, 
Nikolsky (Singer), 385 
Nossov, 39 



Obmana, 79 

Odoevsky, Prince, 89, lai 

Oginslq', Prince Gregory, 27 

Olearius, Adam, 8 

Orlov, 289, 385 

Oserov, 66 

Ostrovsky, 157, 158, 270; 295, 

336, 368, 370 
OuUbishev, 147, 183 
Ouroussov, Prince, 56 
Oussatov, 386 

Paesiello, Giovanni, 37, 44, 51 
Paskievich, Vassily, 45, 46, 47, 

48,55 
Patouillet, 8, 21, 22 
Paul I, the Emperor, 49 
Petrovich, Tsarevich, 54, 

57 

Pavlovna, Grand Duchess He- 
lena, 142, 151, 163, 164, 341 

Pavlovskaya, 365, 384 

Peter the Qtaaf., 23, 24, 26, 31 

Petrov, Ossip, 64, 93, 128, 176, 
289, 383 

Petrovsky, 318 

Platonova, 289, 384 

Plestcheiev, 67, 270 

Procopius, 2 

Prokovich, Bishop Theofane, 32 

Polonsky, 341, 342, 359 

Polotsky, Simeon, 19, 21, 22 

Ponomariev, E., 366 

Popov, M. v., 40, 41 

Potemkin, 14, 44, 51 

Pourgold, Alexandra N. (see 
Molas), 194, 228 

Nadejda N. (see Rimsky- 

Korsakov), 195 

Poushkin, 57, 89, 105, 121, 123, 
129, 131, 221, 233, 234, 262, 
269, 277, 280, 307, 325, 344, 
350. 355. 366, 373 

Count Moussin-, 256 

Raab, 384 

Rachmaninov, Sergius Vassilie- 

vich, 321, 373 
Raphael, 371 
Razoumovsky, Count, 



INDEX OF NAMES 



403 



Rebikov, Vladimir Ivanovich, 
378 

Richepm, Jean, 276 

Rimsky-Korsakov, 70, 123, 167, 
186, 187, 188; 189, 192, 196, 
199, 205, 206, 216, 219, 226, 
231, 248-252, 281-333, 369. 

365 

Mme. (see Pourgold), 195 

Rodislavsky, 39 

RosenbuTg, 165 

Rozen, Baron, 90 

Rubinstein, Anton, 139, 142, 

143, 149, 162-182, 196, 201, 

215. 294 
Nicholas, 165, 376 

Saliebi, 44 

Sarti, Giuseppe, 37, 44, 47, 50, 

Savinov, the Protopope, 17 
Sekar-Rojansky, 309 
Serov, Alexander, 19, 54, 65, 98, 
106, 128, 133, 143-160, 170, 

191. 195. 271. 294. 335. 341 
— ^- his operas, 150-160 
Shakovsky, Prince, 60, 66 
Shaliapin, Feodor I., 64, 128, 

266, 291, 293, 307, 373, 374, 

383. 385-393. 394 
Sheremetiev, Count, 374 
Shestakov, Liudmilla Ivanovna, 

194, 290 
Shkafer, 307 
Slavina, 365, 371, 385 
Smimov, Simeon, 28 
Sollogoub, Count, 163 
Soloviev, 94, 159 
Soumarakov, 36 
Splavsky, 24, 25 
Stassov, Vladimir, 77, 78, 84, 

88, io6, 123, 132, 135, 139, 

144, 150, 159, 173, 186, 195, 
199, 212-217, 223, 225, 226, 
231, 248, 255, 290, 343, 383, 

391 
Steibelt, 63 
Steiner, 63 

Stravinsl^, Igor, 281, 322, 382 
Stravinsky (Singer), 365 



Taneiev, Sergius Ivanovich, 

373. 376 
Tarquini, 63 
Tchaikovsl^, P. T.; 48, 31, 70, 

"4. 155, 195. 196, 254, 266, 

27X, 281, 285, 294, 333. 334. 

361, 365. 370. 373. 376. 379 

Modeste, 354, 366, 372 

Tcherepnin, 210, 281 

Tikhonraviev, 15 

Titov, 56 

— ■ — Alexis, Nicholas, and Ser- 

gius, 66, 67 
Todi, 51 
Tolstoy, Count Alexis, 109, 367 

Theophil, 195 

Tourgeniev, 109, 214 
Trediakovsky, Vassily Cyiillo- 

vich, 32, 33, 34 
Tseibikha, 118 

Usipov, Prince 119 

Vassilenko, Serge, 379 
Vassiliev, 385 
Vassilievich, 365 
Vaznietsov, 261, 309 
Verstovsky, Alexis Nicholae- 

vich, 63-67 
Villoins, A., 162 
Vinter, 394 

Vistakov, Professor, 172 
Vladimir, " The Red Sun " 3 
Volkov, F. G., 36, 38, 39 
Von-Staden, Count, 14 
Vyazemsky, Prince, 89 

Wagner, 151, 160 

Yagjinsky, Count, 45 
Yagoujinsky, 31 
Yastrebteiev, V., 230 
Youssipov, Prince, 91, 363 

Zagoskin, 64 

Zaremba, 195, 284 

Zeleny, 394 

Zeuner, 79 

Zimin, 393 

Zotov, Mme. S. I., 194 

Zvantsiev, K. I., 151