Russian opera

Russian opera (Russian: Ру́сская о́пера Rússkaya ópera) is the art of opera in Russia. Operas by composers of Russian origin, written or staged outside of Russia, also belong to this category, as well as the operas of foreign composers written or intended for the Russian scene. These are not only Russian-language operas. There are examples of Russian operas written in French, English, Italian, Latin, Ancient Greek, Japanese, or the multitude of languages of the nationalities that were part of the Empire and the Soviet Union.

Russian opera includes the works of such composers as Glinka, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

Searching for its typical and characteristic features, Russian opera (and Russian music as a whole), has often been under strong foreign influence. Italian, French, and German operas have served as examples, even when composers sought to introduce special, national elements into their work. This dualism, to a greater or lesser degree, has persisted throughout the whole history of Russian opera.

18th century

Opera came to Russia in the 18th century. At first there were Italian language operas presented by Italian opera troupes. Later some foreign composers serving to the Russian Imperial Court began writing Russian-language operas, while some Russian composers were involved into writing of the operas in Italian and French. And only at the beginning of the 1770s were the first modest attempts of the composers of Russian origin to compose operas to the Russian librettos made. This was not a real creation of Russian national opera per se, but rather a weak imitation of Italian, French or German examples. But nevertheless, these experiments were important, and paved the way for the great achievements of 19th and 20th centuries.


Originating in Italy in c1600, opera spread all over Europe and reached Russia in 1731, when the King of Poland and Elector of Saxony August II the Strong (based in Dresden) 'loaned' his Italian opera troupe to the Russian Empress Anna for the celebration of her coronation in Moscow.

The first opera shown in Russia was Calandro by Giovanni Alberto Ristori (1692–1753). It was given in Moscow in 1731 under his and his father Tommaso Ristori’s direction, with 13 actors and nine singers including Ludovica Seyfried, Margherita Ermini and Rosalia Fantasia.

Francesco Araja
Francesco Araja

After that Italian opera troupes were welcomed to Russia for the entertaining of the Empress and her Court.In 1735 a big Italian opera troupe led by a composer Francesco Araja was invited for the first time to work in Saint Petersburg. The first opera given by them was Araja’s La forza dell'amore e dell'odio, with a text by Francesco Prata, staged on February 8 [OS January 29], 1736 as Sila lyubvi i nenavisti (The Power of Love and Hatred). Araja’s next two productions were the operas seria Il finto Nino, overo La Semiramide riconosciuta to the text by Francesco Silvani given on February 9, 1737 [OS January 28], Saint Petersburg and Artaserse to the text by Pietro Metastasio, performed on February 9, 1738 [OS January 28] in Saint Petersburg. Araja spent around 25 year in Russia and wrote at least 14 operas for the Russian Court.

In 1742, in connection witho the celebration of the coronation of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna in Moscow the opera Tito Vespasiano [La clemenza di Tito] by Johann Adolf Hasse (1699–1783) was staged. A new theatre was built especially for this event. In 1743 at "Zimnij Dvorets", the (Winter Palace) in Saint Petersburg, instead of a small hall of "Comedie et opere" was built a new Opera House (architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli) that held about a thousand persons.

Valeriani Tsefal i Prokris
Valeriani: Sets for the "first Russian opera" Tsefal i Prokris by Araja, 1755

The next opera seria by Araja Seleuco, text by Giuseppe Bonecchi was given on May 7 [OS April 26] 1744 in Moscow as part of a double celebration of the anniversary of the coronation of Elizaveta Petrovna and conclusion of peace with Sweden.

The staging of Araja’s opera seria Bellerofonte, text by Giuseppe Bonecchi (December 9, 1750 [OS November 28], Saint Petersburg) was notable for the participation of a Russian singer from “pevchie” of the Court Capella, Mark Poltoratski, who played the role of Ataman, a nobleman of Kingdom of Likia.

The first opera written in Russian was Araja’s Tsefal i Prokris (Cephalus and Prokris, libretto by Alexander Sumarokov) that was staged at Saint Petersburg on March 7, [OS February 27], 1755.

The second opera set to a Russian text was Alceste, 1758, libretto by Alexander Sumarokov) by German composer Hermann Raupach (1728–1778) also serving to the Russian Court. Raupach spent 18 years in Russia and died in Saint Petersburg in 1778.

In 1757 a private opera enterprise directed by Giovanni Battista Locatelli (1713 – c. 1770) was invited to Saint Petersburg. They had shown an opera every week for the court, and two-three times a week they were allowed to give open public performances. The repertoire was mostly of Italian opera buffa. For the first three years the troupe had presented the seven operas by Baldassare Galuppi (1706–1785) including Il mondo della luna (The World of the Moon), Il Filosofo di campagna (The Village Philosopher), and Il mondo alla roversa, ossia Le donne che commandono (The Worlds Upside Down, or Women Command).

In the 1760–80s in Russia there were working in turn Venetian Galuppi, Manfredini from Pistoia, Traetta from Bitonto near Barri, Paisiello from Taranto, Sarti, Cimarosa from Campania, and Spaniard Martin y Soler. Each of them brought an important contribution, producing operas to the Italian as well as Russian libretti. Here are listed some of the operas written and premiered in Russia:

Vincenzo Manfredini (1737–1799) spent 12 years in Russia and died in Saint Petersburg. The son and pupil of famous baroque composer Francesco Manfredini, he was a music teacher for Pavel Petrovich who later became Emperor of Russia. For the Russian Imperial Court Manfredini wrote five operas including: Semiramide (1760, Saint Petersburg), L'Olimpiade (1762 Moscow) and Carlo Magno (1763 Saint Petersburg).

Tommaso Traetta (1727–1779) was a maestro di cappella at the Russian Imperial Court for eight years (1768–1775, and wrote there five operas, including: Astrea placata (1770 Saint Petersburg), Antigone (1772 Saint Petersburg), and Le quattro stagioni e i dodici mesi dell'anno (1776 St Petersburg).

Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816), a famous Neapolitan composer of more than 100 operas seria and buffa, he spent in Russia eight years (1776–1783), where he wrote 12 operas including Nitteti (1777 Saint Petersburg), Lucinda e Armidoro (1777 Saint Petersburg), Il barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La precauzione inutile (1782 Hermitage Theatre), and Il mondo della luna (1782 Kamenny Island Theatre).

Giuseppe Sarti (1729–1802), a composer of about 40 operas, he spent in Russia eighteen years (1784–1802). After being for eight years a maestro di cappella at the Imperial Court, he spent the next four years at the service of Prince Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin at his estate in Southern Russia. Then he returned to the Court. In 1801 he solicited permission to return, because his health was broken. The emperor Alexander I dismissed him in 1802 with a liberal pension. Sarti died in Berlin. His most successful operas in Russia were Armida e Rinaldo and The Early Reign of Oleg (Nachal'noye upravleniye Olega), for the latter of which the empress herself wrote the libretto. Among the nine operas written in Russia are also: Gli amanti consolati (1784 Saint Petersburg), I finti eredi (1785 Saint Petersburg, Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre), Castore e Polluce (1786 Hermitage Theatre) and La famille indienne en Angleterre (1799 Saint Petersburg, Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre).

Domenico Cimarosa, (1749–1801) another famous Neapolitan composer, singer, violinist, harpsichordist, conductor ant teacher, who composed about 75 operas, was a maestro di cappella in Russia for five years (1787–1791), where wrote: La felicità inaspettata (1788 Hermitage Theatre), La vergine del sol'e (1788? Hermitage Theatre; 1789 Saint Petersburg, Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre) and La Cleopatra (Cleopatra e Marc Antonio 1789 Hermitage Theatre)

Vicente Martín y Soler (1754–1806) a Spanish organist and composer of 21 operas and 5 ballets, he settled in Russia c1788, where he was called "Martini". He wrote there: Gore-Bogatyr Kosometovich (libretto by Catherine II of Russia, 1789 Hermitage Theatre) with overture on three Russian tunes, Pesnolyubie (1790 Hermitage Theatre), and La festa del villagio (1798 Hermitage Theatre).

Two of his operas premiered in Vienna, but also staged in Russia, Una cosa rara, o sia Bellezza ed onestà (The Rare Thing) and L'arbore di Diana (Diana's Tree) were especially popular. The first of them performed in Russian translation of Ivan Dmitrievsky had some elements of the antifeudal directivity. He died in Saint Petersburg in January 1806.

Ivan Kerzelli (also known as I. I. Kerzelli, or Iosif Kertsel) was a representative of a big family of foreign musicians Kerzelli (probably of Czech origin), settled in Russia in the 18th century. He is regarded as a composer of a few famous operas: Lyubovnik - koldun (The Lover-Magician 1772 Moscow), Rozana i Lyubim (Rozana und Lyubim 1778, Moscow), Derevenskiy vorozheya (The Village Wizard c. 1777 Moscow) (Overture and songs were printed in Moscow 1778; They were the first opera fragments printed in Russia) and Guljanye ili sadovnik kuskovskoy (Promenade or the Gardener from Kuskovo 1780 or 1781 Kuskovo, Private Theatre of Count Nikolai Sheremetev).

Antoine Bullant (also known as Antoine or Jean Bullant, 1750–1821), another composer of Czech origin settled in Russia in 1780 wrote a large number of operas with Russian librettos, often within Russian national settings. He was especially famous for his comic opera Sbitenshchik (Сбитеньщик — Sbiten Vendor), comic opera in 3 acts, written to the libretto by Yakov Knyazhnin (remake of Molière's L'école des femmes). The opera was staged 1783 or 1784 in Saint Petersburg, at the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, and was played until 1853.

There were also extremely popular the operas by Belgian/French André Ernest Modeste Grétry (1741–1813), like L'Amitié à l'épreuve (first staged 1779, Kuskovo theatre) or Les Mariages samnites that was performed during 12 years (since 1885, Kuskovo, Ostankino theatres) with serf-soprano Praskovya Zhemchugova at the private opera of Nikolai Sheremetev.


Two talented young Russians Berezovsky and Bortniansky were sent by Catherine II to Italy to study art of music composition.

Maksym Berezovsky (1745–1777) went to Italy in the spring of 1769 to train with Padre Giovanni Battista Martini at the Bologna Philharmonic Academy, where he graduated with distinction. He wrote an opera seria Demofoonte to the Italian libretto by Pietro Metastasio for the carnival at Livorno (staged February 1773).

Dmytro Bortniansky

Dmytro Bortniansky (1751–1825), a pupil of Hermann Raupach and Baldassare Galuppi, went to Italy following his teacher Galuppi. In Italy, Bortniansky gained considerable success composing operas: Creonte (1776) and Alcide (1778) in Venice, and Quinto Fabio (1779) at Modena. Bortniansky returned to the court at Saint Petersburg in 1779 where composed four more operas (all in French, with libretti by Franz-Hermann Lafermière): Le Faucon (1786), Le Fete du Seigneur (1786), Don Carlos (1786), and Le Fils-Rival ou La Moderne Stratonice (1787).

At the same time in Russia, a successful one-act opera Anyuta (Chinese Theatre, September 6 [OS August 26] 1772) was created to the text by Mikhail Vasilyevich Popov. Music was a selection of popular songs specified in the libretto. It is a story about a girl called Anyuta, brought up in a peasants’ household, who in fact turned out to be of noble birth, and the story of her love for a nobleman, Victor, eventually ending happily, with wedding bells ringing. The score doesn’t survived and the composer of it is unknown, however, sometimes it was attributed to Vasily Pashkevich or even to Yevstigney Fomin who that time was just 11 years old.

The music of another successful Russian opera Melnik – koldun, obmanshchik i svat (The Miller who was a Wizard, a Cheat and a Match-maker, text by Alexander Ablesimov, Moscow, 1779), on a subject resembling Rousseau’s Le Devin du village, is attributed to a theatre violin player and conductor Mikhail Sokolovsky (c. 1756–?). Later the music was revised by Yevstigney Fomin.

Vasily Pashkevich (1742–1797), a Russian composer was famous for his comic opera The Miser. Its roles are: Scriagin, Liubima’s guardian; Liubima, his niece; Milovid, her beloved; Marfa, the servant girl that Scriagin is in love with; Prolaz, Milovid’s manservant who is in Scriagin’s service. Accordingly the speech and the names of the characters of Molière's comedy were turned into Russian as well as the music that combines some features of European form with typically Russian melodies. Another his opera Fevey was written to the libretto by Catherine II. Other operas are: The Carriage Accident (Neschastye ot karety, 1779 Saint Petersburg, Karl Kniper Theatre, St Petersburg Bazaar (Sankt Peterburgskiy Gostinyi Dvor, 1782 Saint Petersburg), Kniper Theatre, The Burden Is Not Heavy if It Is Yours (Svoya nosha ne tyanet, 1794), The Early Reign of Oleg (Nachal'noye upravleniye Olega, libretto by Catherine II, 1790 Saint Petersburg)– together with Giuseppe Sarti and C. Cannobio), Fedul and His Children (Fedul s det'mi, libretto by Catherine II, 1791 Saint Petersburg) – together with Martin y Soler), The Pasha of Tunis (Pasha tunisskiy, 1782 libretto by Mikhail Matinsky) and You Shall Be Judged As You Lived (Kak pozhivyosh', tak i proslyvyosh 1792St. Petersburg) — rev. of St Petersburg Bazaar.

Evstigney Fomin
Yevstigney Fomin

Italian-trained Yevstigney Fomin (1761–1800) composed about 30 operas including the most successful opera-melodrama Orfey i Evridika to the text by Yakov Knyazhnin. Among his other operas are: The Novgorod Hero Boyeslayevich (Novgorodskiy bogatyr’ Boyeslayevich, text by Catherine II, 1786 Saint Petersburg), The Coachmen at the Relay Station (Yamshchiki na podstave 1787 Saint Petersburg), Soirées (Vecherinki, ili Gaday, gaday devitsa, 1788 Saint Petersburg), Magician, Fortune-teller and Match-maker (Koldun, vorozheya i svakha 1789 Saint Petersburg), The Miller who was a Wizard, a Cheat and a Match-maker (Melnik - koldun, obmanshchik i svat, 1779 Moscow, originally: Mikhail Sokolovsky), The Americans (Amerikantsy, comic opera, 1800 Saint Petersburg), Chloris and Milo (Klorida i Milon, 1800 Saint Petersburg), and The Golden Apple (Zolotoye yabloko, 1803 Saint Petersburg).

19th century

The 19th century was the golden age of Russian opera. It began with a success of a massive and slowly developing operatic project: the opera Lesta, dneprovskaya rusalka and its three sequels (1803–1807, first in Saint Petersburg) based on the German romantic-comic piece Das Donauweibchen by Ferdinand Kauer (1751–1831) with the Russian text and additional music by Russianized Venetian immigrant Catterino Cavos (1775–1840) and Stepan Davydov (1777–1825).

The next success was a patriotic opera Ivan Susanin (1815) by Cavos based on an episode from Russian history.

This success was continued with the brilliant operatic career of Alexey Verstovsky (1799–1862), who composed more 30 opera-vaudevilles and 6 grand-operas including Askold's Grave (Askoldova mogila, first performed in 1835) that received about 200 performances in Saint Petersburg and 400 in Moscow only for the first 25 years.

However the most important events in the history of Russian opera were two great operas by Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857) A Life for the Tsar, (Zhizn za tzarya, originally entitled Ivan Susanin 1836) and Ruslan and Lyudmila (based on the tale by Alexander Pushkin, 1842. These two works inaugurated a new era in Russian music and upraise of Russian national opera.

Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Alexander Dargomyzhsky

Since these, opera became a leading genre for the most of Russian composers. Glinka was followed by Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813–1869) with his Rusalka (1856) and revolutionary The Stone Guest (Kamenny gost, completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and premiered in 1872).

Other composers were:

Russian opera reached its apogee with the works by Modest Mussorgsky and his antipode Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

Modest Mussorgsky's (1839–1881) Boris Godunov remains the greatest masterpiece of Russian opera, despite what many consider to be serious technical faults and a bewildering array of versions (Original Version of 1869, Revised Version of 1872, Rimsky-Korsakov Edition of 1908, Shostakovich Edition of 1940, etc.). His other operas were left unfinished:

Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) completed ten operas including the most famous Eugene Onegin (Yevgeny Onegin), 1877–1878, 1879 Moscow and The Queen of Spades (Pikovaya dama), 1890, 1890 Saint Petersburg, which now belong to the world's standard repertoire. His other operas are:

  • Voyevoda (The Voivode), 1867–1868, destroyed by the composer, but posthumously reconstructed
  • Undina (or Undine), 1869, not completed, partly destroyed by the composer
  • The Oprichnik, 1870–1872, 1874 Saint Petersburg
  • Vakula the Smith (Kuznets Vakula), 1874, 1876 Saint Petersburg
  • The Maid of Orleans (Orleanskaya deva), 1878–1879, 1881 Saint Petersburg
  • Mazepa 1881–1883, 1884 Moscow
  • Cherevichki (rev. of Vakula the Smith) 1885, 1887 Moscow
  • The Enchantress (also The Sorceress or Charodeyka), 1885–1887, 1887 Saint Petersburg
  • Iolanta (Iolanthe), 1891, 1892 Saint Petersburg

Not less important was Aleksandr Borodin’s (1833–1887) Prince Igor – (Knyaz Igor, completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov, 1890).

Prolific Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908) completed fifteen operas, the most significant achievements of the art of opera in Russia at the end of the century. The most notable of them are:

The last three of them already belong to the 20th century Russian opera.

There were built a lot of new opera theatres including Bolshoi Theatre (opened since 1825 Moscow), and Mariinsky Theatre, opened since 1860 Saint Petersburg).

The history of 19th century Russian opera could be observed in the selected list of premieres at the Saint Petersburg theatres:

Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre

Mariinsky Theatre (since 1860)

Mamontov's Private Russian Opera established in 1885. Savva Mamontov discovered talent of Chaliapin, commissioned designs from Mikhail Vrubel, Konstantin Korovin, Natalia Goncharova and Ivan Bilibin, staged the late operas by Rimsky Korsakov.

Opera spread to the provincial centres of Kiev (1867), Odessa (1887) and Kharkiv (1880).

20th century

The political collisions of 20th century divided Russian opera composers into those who managed to escape to the West, successfully or not, and those who continued to live in not particular friendly atmosphere of the Soviet and Post-Soviet regimes. And nevertheless, the process of producing of new operas was not diminished, but just opposite, it was immensely grown.

Zimin Opera established in 1904, Sergei Diaghilev's Saisons Russes began in Paris in 1913.

Vladimir Rebikov (1866–1920) composer of more than 10 operas is best of all known for his opera The Christmas Tree (Yolka, 1894–1902) in which he presented his ideas of “melo-mimics” and “rhythm-declamation” (see melodeclamation).

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) completed three operas:

All three operas were staged at the Bolshoi Theatre. He began but did not finish the fourth Monna Vanna (1907, 1st act in a vocal score) after Maurice Maeterlinck who refused to give permission to the composer for using of his text. These operas, written on the border between two centuries, rather belong to the world of the romantic opera of the past. Escaping Russia in 1917 Rachmaninoff never returned to operatic projects again.

Unlike him, Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) had been returning to this genre again and again, full of fresh and innovative ideas. Sometimes it is difficult to qualify these works as pure operas but rather "opera-ballets", "opera-cantatas", or "music theatre". Here is the list:

Sergei Prokofiev’s (1891–1953) operas are full of humour, wit, and novelty. Here is the list of his completed operas:

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975) was another great opera composer struggling all his life in the clutch of the communist ideology. His satirical opera The Nose, after the completely absurd story by Gogol was criticized in 1929 by RAPM as "formalist". His second opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District performed in 1934 with an enormous success was condemned by the authorities even more harshly. This forced him to recompose it much later, in 1962, as Katerina Izmailova in a style more simplified and conventional to meet the requirements of the new rulers of the regime. Shostakovich was involved in many more operatic projects.

There were a lot more of the composers about the same generation, who had managed to create hundreds of operas. Some of them shared the same problems with Shostakovich and Prokofiev who returned to live to the Soviet Russia, and was deadly embraced by its suffocative regime. Others were at the opposite side, serving the suffocating roles. A serious condemnation and persecution of the Soviet Union's foremost composers, such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich and many others, had emerged in 1948 in connection to the opera by Vano Muradeli (1908–1970), Velikaya druzhba (The Great Friendship); see Zhdanov Doctrine.

Here is just a short list of the opera composers of that times:

Yuri Shaporin (1887–1966), opera The Decembrists (written during a period of 33 years 1930–1953, staged 1953)
Isaak Dunayevsky (1900–1955), 14 operettas including White Acacia (1955)
Alexander Mossolov (1900–1973), 4 operas including. The Barrage (1929–1930)
Vissarion Shebalin (1902–1936), 3 operas including The Taming of the Shrew (1957)
Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904–1987), 7 operas including Colas Breugnon (1936–1976)
Veniamin Fleishman (1913–1941), opera Rothschild's Violin (1941) completed and orchestrated by Dmitri Shostakovich
Tikhon Khrennikov (1913–2007), 5 operas including "Into the Storm" (1936–1939)
Grigory Frid (1915–2012), 2 chamber mono-operas including The Diary of Anne Frank (1968)
Mieczysław Weinberg (1919–1996), 7 operas including The Portrait (1980) and The Idiot (1985)

Also: Vladimir Shcherbachev, Sergei Vasilenko, Vladimir Fere, Vladimir Vlasov, Kirill Molchanov, Alexander Kholminov, etc. (see: Russian opera articles#20th century).

The next generations who found themselves already in the Post-Stalin epoch had own specific problems. The ideological and stylistic control and limitation of creative freedom by the authorities and older colleagues-composers in the hierarchical structures of the Union of Composers made almost impossible the innovation and experiment in any field of musical art. It was a feeling that old bad times returned again, when in 1979 at the Sixth Congress of the Composers' Union, its leader Tikhon Khrennikov denounced seven composers (thereafter known as the "Khrennikov Seven"), who for some reason or other had been played in the West – there were at least four opera composers among them.

As a result even quite new phenomena appeared: a "samizdat (underground) opera" (see Nikolai Karetnikov). Some of these operas still never been performed, others luckily received their premieres in the West, and only a few found their place at the operatic stages of the homeland. The collapse of the Soviet Union did not improve this hopeless situation much.

The list of the composers who contributed to the development of Russian opera nearer to the end of the 20th century:

Edison Denisov (1929–1996), 3 Operas including L'écume des jours ( The Foam of Days, completed 1981)
Nikolai Karetnikov (1930–1994), 2 operas including Till Eulenspiegel, opera in two acts (1965–1985)
Sergei Slonimsky (born 1932), 3 operas including Mary Stewart (1978–1980)
Rodion Shchedrin (born 1932), 3 operas including Myortvye dushi (Dead Souls 1976)
Alfred Schnittke (1934–1998), 3 operas including Zhizn’ s idiotom (Life with an Idiot, 1990–1991)
Boris Tishchenko (b. 1939 ) 2 operas including Kradenoe solntse (The Stolen Sun, 1968)
Alexander Knaifel (born 1943) 2 operas including Kentervilskoye prividenie (The Canterville Ghost, 1965–1966)
Nikolai Korndorf (1947–2001), chamber opera MR (Marina and Rainer) (1989)
Elena Firsova (born 1950), 2 chamber operas including The Nightingale and the Rose

Also: Nikolai Sidelnikov, Andrei Petrov, Sandor Kallosh, Leonid Hrabovsky, Alexander Vustin, Gleb Sedelnikov, Merab Gagnidze, Alexander Tchaikovsky, Vasily Lobanov, Dmitri N. Smirnov, Leonid Bobylev, Vladimir Tarnopolsky, and so on (see: Russian opera articles#20th century).

21st century

The Russian opera is continuing its development in the 21st century. It began with the noisy premieres of two comic operas, whose genre could be described as "opera-farce":

The first was Tsar Demyan – a frightful opera performance (a collective project of the five participants: composers Leonid Desyatnikov and Vyacheslav Gaivoronsky from Saint Petersburg, Iraida Yusupova and Vladimir Nikolayev from Moscow, and the creative collective "Kompozitor," (a pseudonym for the well-known music critic Pyotr Pospelov) to the libretto by Elena Polenova after a folk-drama Tsar Maksimilyan, premiere June 20, 2001 Mariinski Theatre, Saint Petersburg. Prize "Gold Mask, 2002" and "Gold Soffit, 2002".

Another opera The Children of Rosenthal by Leonid Desyatnikov to the libretto by Vladimir Sorokin, was commissioned by the Bolshoi Theatre and premiered on March 23, 2005.

List of Russian opera theatres

"Comedie et opere", (small hall in a wing of Zimniy Dvorets—(The Winter Palace, From 1735 St Petersburg)
Theatre of Letniy Sad — (Summer Garden), from 1735 St Petersburg)
Opera House (with 1000 seats, at Zimniy Dvorets — (The Winter Palace, from 1743, St Petersburg)
Moscow Theatre (built 1742 for the coronation of Elizaveta Petrovna, Moscow)
Kuskovo Summer Theatre (from 1755, Kuskovo near Moscow)
Karl Kniper Theatre (1777–1797 St Petersburg)
Chinese Opera Theatre (From 1779, Tsarskoe Selo near St Petersburg)
Petrovsky Theatre (with 1000 seats, from 1780–1805, Moscow)
Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre (1783–1811, St Petersburg)
Hermitage Theatre (from 1785 St Petersburg)
Ostankino Theatre (from July 22, 1795, Ostankino near Moscow)
Imperial Kamenny Theatre or the Bolshoi Theatre of Saint Petersburg, (St Petersburg)
Petrovka Theatre (from 1786–1805 Moscow)
Bolshoi Theatre (from 1825 Moscow)
Kamenny Island Theatre (from 1826 St Petersburg)
Mariinsky Theatre, (from 1860 St Petersburg)

See also


  • Abraham, Gerald: The Concise Oxford History of Music, Oxford 1979 ISBN 0-19-284010-X
  • [Abramovsky A.] Абрамовский А. Русская опера до Глинки Moscow 1940
  • [Aseev B. N.] Асеев Б. Н. Русский драматический театр XVII – XVIII веков. Moscow 1958
  • [Berkov P. N.] Берков П. Н. Русская комедия и комическая опера XVIII века. М. – Л., 1950
  • [Findeizein N. F.] Финдейзен Н. Ф. Очерки по истории музыки в России. т. 2, М.-Л. 1929
  • [Gozenpud A. A.] Гозенпуд А. А., Музыкальный театр в России Л., 1959 г.
  • [Gurevich L.] Гуревич Л. История русского театрального быта, т.1. М. – Л., 1939
  • [Druskin M.] Друскин М. Очерк VI в кн. Очерки по истории русской музыки. Л., 1956
  • [History of Russian Music] История русской музыки в 10 томах, т. 2, 3. Moscow 1984
  • [Keldysh Yu. V.] Келдыш Ю. В. Русская музыка XVIII века Moscow 1965
  • [Livanova T. N.] Ливанова Т. Н. Русская музыкальная культура XVIII века в ее связях с литературой, театром и бытом в 2-х томах 1952–1953 гг. т.1, т.2
  • [Rabinovich A. S.] Рабинович А.С. Русская опера до Глинки Moscow 1948
  • [Rapatskaya L. A.] Рапацкая Л.А. Русское искусство XVIII века Moscow 1995
  • [Serov A. N.] Серов А. Н. Опера в России и русская опера // Серов А.Н. Критические статьи. Т. 4. Спб. 1965
  • Taruskin, Richard: Russia in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7
  • Frolova-Walker, Marina: Russian Federation, 1730–1860, Opera; Powell, Jonathan: 1860–90, Opera; Barttlett, Rosamund (Music of the Soviet Period) in the entry Russian Federation, The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 21 ISBN 0-333-60800-3

External links

Alexander Borodin

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Порфи́рьевич Бороди́н, IPA: [ɐlʲɪkˈsandr pɐrˈfʲi rʲjɪvʲɪtɕ bərɐˈdʲin] (listen); 12 November 1833 – 27 February 1887) was a Russian chemist and Romantic musical composer of Georgian ancestry. He was one of the prominent 19th-century composers known as "The Mighty Handful", a group dedicated to producing a uniquely Russian kind of classical music, rather than imitating earlier Western European models. Borodin is known best for his symphonies, his two string quartets, the symphonic poem In the Steppes of Central Asia and his opera Prince Igor. Music from Prince Igor and his string quartets was later adapted for the US musical Kismet.

A doctor and chemist by profession, Borodin made important early contributions to organic chemistry. Although he is presently known better as a composer, during his lifetime, he regarded medicine and science as his primary occupations, only practising music and composition in his spare time or when he was ill. As a chemist, Borodin is known best for his work concerning organic synthesis, including being among the first chemists to demonstrate nucleophilic substitution, as well as being the co-discoverer of the aldol reaction. Borodin was a promoter of education in Russia and founded the School of Medicine for Women in Saint Petersburg, where he taught until 1885.

Alexander Dargomyzhsky

Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky (Russian: Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Даргомы́жский) (14 February [O.S. 2 February] 1813 – 17 January [O.S. 5 January] 1869) was a 19th-century Russian composer. He bridged the gap in Russian opera composition between Mikhail Glinka and the later generation of The Five and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Dargomyzhsky was born in Troitsko village, Belyovsky District, Tula Governorate, and educated in Saint Petersburg. He was already known as a talented musical amateur when in 1833 he met Mikhail Glinka and was encouraged to devote himself to composition. His opera Esmeralda (libretto by composer, based on Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame) was composed in 1839 (performed 1847), and his Rusalka was performed in 1856; but he had little success or recognition either at home or abroad, except in Belgium, until the 1860s, when he became the elder statesman, but not a member, of The Five.

His last opera, The Stone Guest, is his most famous work, known as a pioneering effort in melodic recitative. With the orchestration and the end of the first scene left incomplete at his death, it was finished by César Cui and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and was much prized by The Five for what was perceived as its progressive approach to operatic expression. It was premiered in 1872, but never became a lasting standard operatic repertoire item.Dargomyzhsky also left some unfinished opera projects, among them an attempted setting of Pushkin's Poltava, from which a duet survives. Besides operas, his other compositions include numerous songs, piano pieces, and some orchestral works.He died in Saint Petersburg in 1869, aged 55.

Alfred Schnittke

Alfred Garrievich Schnittke (Russian: Альфре́д Га́рриевич Шни́тке, Alfred Garrievich Shnitke; November 24, 1934 – August 3, 1998) was a Soviet and German composer. Schnittke's early music shows the strong influence of Dmitri Shostakovich. He developed a polystylistic technique in works such as the epic Symphony No. 1 (1969–1972) and his first concerto grosso (1977). In the 1980s, Schnittke's music began to become more widely known abroad with the publication of his second (1980) and third (1983) string quartets and the String Trio (1985); the ballet Peer Gynt (1985–1987); the third (1981), fourth (1984), and fifth (1988) symphonies; and the viola concerto (1985) and first cello concerto (1985–1986). As his health deteriorated, Schnittke's music started to abandon much of the extroversion of his polystylism and retreated into a more withdrawn, bleak style.

Dmitry Kabalevsky

Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky (Russian: Дми́трий Бори́сович Кабале́вский; 30 December [O.S. 17 December] 1904 – 14 February 1987) was a Russian composer.

He helped to set up the Union of Soviet Composers in Moscow and remained one of its leading figures. He was a prolific composer of piano music and chamber music; many of his piano works have been performed by Vladimir Horowitz. He is probably best known in Western Europe for the "Comedians' Galop" from The Comedians Suite, Op. 26 and his third piano concerto.

Donetsk Ballet

Donetsk Ballet is a ballet company based in the city of Donetsk, Ukraine. Donetsk Ballet performs works of classical ballet and contemporary dance. The company tours internationally.

Feodor Chaliapin

Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin (Russian: Фёдор Иванович Шаляпин, tr. Fyodor Ivanovich Shalyapin, IPA: [ˈfʲɵdər ɪˈvanəvʲɪtɕ ʂɐˈlʲapʲɪn]; February 13 [O.S. February 1] 1873 – April 12, 1938) was a Russian opera singer. Possessing a deep and expressive bass voice, he enjoyed an important international career at major opera houses and is often credited with establishing the tradition of naturalistic acting in his chosen art form.During the first phase of his career, Chaliapin endured direct competition from three other great basses: the powerful Lev Sibiriakov (1869–1942), the more lyrical Vladimir Kastorsky (1871–1948), and Dmitri Buchtoyarov (1866–1918), whose voice was intermediate between those of Sibiriakov and Kastorsky. The fact that Chaliapin is far and away the best remembered of this magnificent quartet of rival basses is a testament to the power of his personality, the acuteness of his musical interpretations, and the vividness of his performances.

Fyodor Stravinsky

Fyodor Ignatievich Stravinsky (Russian: Фёдор Игна́тиевич Страви́нский), 20 June [O.S. 8 June] 1843, in Golovintsy, Minsk Governorate – 4 December [O.S. 21 November] 1902) was a Russian bass opera singer and actor of Polish descent. He was the father of Igor Stravinsky and the grandfather of Théodore Strawinsky and Soulima Stravinsky.

Helikon Opera

Helikon Opera is a Russian opera company based in Moscow, specializing in unconventional productions. Their main performing base is the 250 seat Mayakovsky Theater, the former ballroom in the palace of the Shakhovskoi-Glebov-Streshneva family who were patrons of the arts in 19th century Moscow. The company was founded by Dmitry Bertman and gave its first performance, Stravinsky's Mavra, on April 10, 1990.

Helikon Opera gives 200 performances a year, primarily in Moscow but also abroad, performing in the UK for the first time in 1997. The company's repertoire includes both mainstream works and rarely performed operas and chamber operas. In the past they have staged Fleishman's Rothschild's Violin, Hindemith's Hin und zurück and Prokofiev's Maddalena and were the first company to revive Tchaikovsky's Undine (1994) and to stage Prokofiev's The Ugly Duckling (1992). In October 2010, Helikon gave the first performance of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa to be seen in Moscow in six years.During the restoration works on the palace, begun in 2006, the company has performed temporarily in a small theatre at 11 Novy Arbat.

List of Russian opera singers

This a list of opera singers from Russian Federation, Soviet Union and Russian Empire including both ethnic Russians and people of other ethnicities. This list includes those, who were born in the Russian Federation/Soviet Union/Russian Empire but later emigrated, and those, who were born elsewhere but immigrated to the country and performed there for a long time.

Opera came to Russia in the 18th century. At first there were mostly Italian language operas presented by Italian opera troupes. Later some foreign composers serving to the Russian Imperial Court began to write Russian-language operas, while some Russian composers were involved into writing of the operas in Italian and French. Only at the beginning of the 1770s the first modest attempts of the composers of Russian origin to compose operas to the Russian librettos were made. The 19th century was the golden age of Russian opera, with such prominent composers as Mikhail Glinka, Alexander Dargomyzhsky, Modest Mussorgsky, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Their traditions were carried on to the 20th century by Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres continue to be the main opera and ballet scenes of Russia and one of the most prominent in the world.

A number of Russian opera singers rose to fame already in the 18th century, but it was the late 19th and the 20th centuries that saw the appearance of many world-renown, well-remembered and still popular soloists, including Leonid Sobinov, Galina Vishnevskaya and, of course, Feodor Chaliapin, the greatest bass of all time. Contemporary Russia is represented at the world scene with such singers as Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Anna Netrebko.

Mikhail Glinka

Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (Russian: Михаил Иванович Глинка, tr. Mikhaíl Ivánovich Glínka; 1 June [O.S. 20 May] 1804 – 15 February [O.S. 3 February] 1857) was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the fountainhead of Russian classical music. Glinka's compositions were an important influence on future Russian composers, notably the members of The Five, who took Glinka's lead and produced a distinctive Russian style of music.

Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Моде́ст Ильи́ч Чайко́вский; 13 May [O.S. 1 May] 1850–15 January [O.S. 2 January] 1916) was a Russian dramatist, opera librettist and translator.

Nicolas Nabokov

Nicolas Nabokov (Николай Дмитриевич Набоков; 17 April [O.S. 4 April] 1903 – 6 April 1978) was a Russian-born composer, writer, and cultural figure. He became a U.S. citizen in 1939.

Private Opera

The Private Opera (Russian: Частная Опера), also known as:

The Russian Private Opera (Русская Частная Опера);

Moscow Private Russian Opera, (Московская Частная Русская Опера);

Mamontov's Private Russian Opera in Moscow (Мамонтова Частная Русская Опера в Москве);

Korotkov's Theatre (Театр Кроткова, 1885-1888);

Vinter's Theatre (Театр Винтера, 1896-1899);

Private Opera Society (Товарищество Частной Оперы, 1899-1904); and

Solodovnikov Theatre (Театр Солодовникова, from 1895; later used by Zimin opera, Moscow Operetta, and Helikon Opera)was a private operatic enterprise, a company established in 1885 by famous Russian industrialist and philanthropist Savva Mamontov, who staged the operas, conducted the orchestra, trained the actors, taught them singing and paid all the expenses.

Savva Mamontov

Savva Ivanovich Mamontov (Russian: Са́вва Ива́нович Ма́монтов, IPA: [ˈsavə ɪˈvanəvʲɪtɕ ˈmaməntəf]; 3 October (15 October N.S.), Yalutorovsk – 6 April 1918, Moscow) was a Russian industrialist, merchant, entrepreneur and patron of the arts.

Sergei Leiferkus

Sergei Leiferkus (born 4 April 1946) is an operatic baritone from Russia, known for his dramatic technique and powerful voice particularly in Russian and Italian language repertoire. He is most notable for his roles as Scarpia in Tosca, Iago in Otello, Grand-prétre de Dagon in Samson et Dalila and Simon Boccanegra as the title role. Leiferkus was born in Leningrad (now known as St Petersburg), Russia. He studied music at the St. Petersburg conservatory.

In 1972, he made his debut with Maly Theatre of Leningrad and received recognition for Eugene Onegin, Iolanta, Barber of Seville and Don Giovanni. He joined Kirov Opera Company in 1977 performing in Prokofiev's War and Peace as Andrei. While at the Kirov Opera, Leiferkus's talent began to receive international reputation as a powerful singer and imaginative actor.Leiferkus has toured most opera houses in the world including Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera, Opéra Bastille in Paris, Teatro alla Scala, San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Netherlands Opera, Teatro Colón, at the Edinburgh Festival, Bregenzer Festspiele, Glyndebourne and Salzburg Easter Festival. He has also worked with many notable conductors and orchestras including Georg Solti, James Levine, Claudio Abbado, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti and Seiji Ozawa with London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic.

Vasily Zhukovsky

Vasily Zhukovsky was the foremost Russian poet of the 1810s and a leading figure in Russian literature in the first half of the 19th century. He held a high position at the Romanov court as tutor to the Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna and later to her son, the future Tsar-Liberator Alexander II.

Zhukovsky is credited with introducing the Romantic Movement into Russia. The main body of his literary output consists of free translations covering an impressively wide range of poets, from ancients like Ferdowsi and Homer to his contemporaries Goethe, Schiller, Byron, and others. Many of his translations have become classics of Russian literature, better written and more enduring in Russian than in their original languages.

Vissarion Shebalin

Vissarion Yakovlevich Shebalin (Russian: Виссарио́н Я́ковлевич Шебали́н; 11 June [O.S. 29 May] 1902 – 29 May 1963) was a Soviet composer.

Yevgeny Nesterenko

Yevgeny Yevgenievich Nesterenko (Евгений Евгеньевич Нестеренко, born 8 January 1938) is a Soviet and Russian operatic bass.

Yevstigney Fomin

Yevstigney Ipat'yevich Fomin (Russian: Евстигне́й Ипа́тьевич Фоми́н) (born St Petersburg 16 August [O.S. 5 August] 1761 – died St. Petersburg c 27 April [O.S. 16 April] 1800) was a Russian opera composer of the 18th century.

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