Fragments from the opera “A Life for the Tsar”. Commemorating the 185th premiere anniversary
On December 9, 1836, the opera by opera of Mikhail Glinka "A Life for the Tsar" the premiered in St. Petersburg. The opera title was changed several times while it was created. Originally, the composer called it “Ivan Susanin” called it. At the closing stage, the opera was named "Death for the Tsar". Glinka begged for permission to dedicate it to Nicholas I of Russia. The dedication of the first Russian opera on such significant and important plot was well received, and simultaneously the final version of its title - "A Life for the Tsar" was approved.
The opera premiered in St. Petersburg. The opera, which was applauded by Emperor Nicholas I, became a symbol of the new state ideology – triplicity: Eastern Orthodoxy, czarist regime, national spirit. “A Life for the Tsar” was the first Russian opera without spoken dialogues. It radically changed the Russian music evolution, and became the operatic genre reference for many years. This opera gained notoriety and man of thorny destiny. Its final chorus - "Slavsya!” (Let you Glory) - is one of the non-formal tokens of the Russian sovereignty.
The performance of "A Life for the Tsar" opened the renovated Bolshoi Theater in St. Petersburg (now the building of the St. Petersburg Conservatory). The Imperial court was present in full force. Vasily Zhukovsky, Alexander Pushkin, Pyotr Viazemsky, Vladimir Odoevsky, Alexey Koltsov, Ivan Krylov, young Ivan Turgenev were among the audience.
Odoevsky in his two "Letters to the amateur of music about the opera by Glinka" (published 10 days after the premiere) noted that the composer "raised the folk tune to tragedy», which means that he did not only modeled the folk music style, but disclosed means for conveying generous emotions and profound content in those tones. The composer began to write this patriotic work on the advice of Vasily Zhukovsky. The content is based on the feat of the Kostroma peasant Ivan Susanin. The name of the main personage became genericized. A common peasant that performed a heroic feat that would always cause admiration, this was the idea that the composer wanted to emphasize. Susanin gave his life for the Tsar. Operatic dramatic composition musical pieces were innovative. This set the stage for creation of a new operatic genre - folk musical drama. The composer's message was to combine Russian melodiousness with European harmonics and music compositions.
The poem "Ivan Susanin" by Kondraty Ryleyev had a great influence on the opera protagonist image building. Glinka created the style of the Russian "grand opera" - epic wide, long-lasting, with well-developed choral scenes and demonstration of human destinies amidst historical events. This pattern of Russian opera was repeatedly reproduced and developed by the followers of Glinka ("Prince Igor", "The Maid of Pskov", "Kitezh", "Boris Godunov", "Khovanshchina", "War and Peace").
After the Czar’s demise, the opera was renamed as "Ivan Susanin". During the Soviet era, the libretto was edited. The final anthem was differently phrased: "Glory, glory, Soviet system." Thanks to the poet Sergey Gorodetsky that together with conductor Samuil Samosud created a new "Soviet" libretto, the opera by Glinka was staged at the Bolshoi Theater in 1939 by the stage-director Boris Mordvinov.
A tradition had appeared in the Bolshoi Theater since 1945 - the opera "Ivan Susanin" started of a theatre season for very long time. The prominent basses - Maxim Mikhailov, Ivan Petrov, Alexander Vedernikov and Yevgeny Nesterenko performed the part of Ivan Susanin. The opera was popular with the audience on the Russian stage up to the present days. Several attempts were undertaken to stage the opera following to the original libretto, hence they all failed.
To mark the 185th anniversary of the opera by Mikhail Glinka "A Life for the Tsar" premiere of at the Mariinsky Theater, a musical selection comprised from the fragments of the first classical national Russian opera, in which, as contemporaries noted, Glinka was able to elevate a folk melody to a tragedy is posted in our Sound Library. Opera has become a prime pattern and creative yardstick for the subsequent generations of Russian classical opera composers.