Donald Macleod explores Russian opera, starting with Verstovsky's Askold's Grave, Glinka's A Life for the Tsar, Dargomizhsky's The Stone Guest and Mussorgsky's The Marriage.
As part of the BBC's focus on opera in 2010, Donald Macleod explores the rich tradition of Russian opera, from Glinka to Schnittke. Opera began in Italy and that's where Russia got it from too; a string of Italians from Ristori to Cimarosa staged productions in St Petersburg and thereby planted the seeds from which Russia's own operatic tradition eventually sprang. That first sapling appeared in 1836 with Mikhail Glinka's A Life for the Tsar, universally regarded as the first 'real' Russian opera. In The Stone Guest, Alexander Dargomïzhsky continued the move away from the Italian tradition with his naturalistic approach to text-setting, which removed the distinction between aria and recitative. Mussorgsky took part in early private run-throughs of Dargomïzhsky's work and was so impressed that he decided to try his hand at the same kind of thing; the result was The Marriage, his first opera and an important milestone on the way to his masterpiece, Boris Godunov.
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