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Bolshoi News>Bolshoi Digest>Bolshoi Digest of 09 June 2014, Monday

09 June 2014, Monday

"Invitation to the Museum" - M.I.Glinka - 210th anniversary

This year we celebrate the 210th anniversary of Mikhail I. Glinka, a great Russian composer and the father of Russian national classical music. The importance of Glinka's creative work in the history of music can be compared to the impact that Pushkin had on the Russian literature. Both of them were fathers of the mighty artistic movement that is called the Russian classics. Pushkin and Glinka introduced and formulated the cornerstone of the nationality of art. In the dark times of reaction during the rule of Nicholas I. Glinka brought the image of a simple peasant to the opera stage. This image expressed the wisdom of the nation, the beauty, the greatness and the nobleness of its soul. The image of Susanin represents the Russian heroic character, which reveals its greatness during hard times. If there had been no Susanin, the Russian opera would have had neither Tsar Boris, nor Dosifei in "Khovanshchina", nor Prince Igor, nor characters of "The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh and Maiden Fevronia", nor Kutuzov in the opera "War and Peace" by S. Prokofiev. This mighty Glinka tradition - the tradition of truth, nationality and patriotism - has been developing in the Russian opera for over a hundred years.

Naturally, the nationality of Glinka's creative work did not appear by chance. It was formed as a result of a happy coincidence of numerous historic and cultural factors. We know that the composer spent his childhood in the Russian provinces - in the village of Novospasskoye in the Smolensk Governorate. The sensitive ear of the young composer absorbed every musical tradition that one could hear on the Russian estate of the 19th century - peasants' ritual songs, music of serf orchestras and church choirs, popular ball dances and lyrical romances. All of these were later reflected in Glinka's own artistic explorations.

In 1817 Glinka's parents brought him to Saint Petersburg and put him in a boarding school for children of the nobility where he was tutored by Wilhelm Küchelbecker. While in Saint Petersburg, Glinka also took lessons with Karl Zeuner and John Field. In 1822, having graduated from boarding school successfully, Glinka met A.S. Pushkin, whom he was friends with until the poet's death.

In 1824 Glinka was appointed assistant secretary of the Department of Public Highways. However, music became his main occupation. His talent particularly showed in the genre of romance. The young composer constantly mastered his skills, studied opera and symphonic literature and worked with the home orchestra a lot as a conductor.

In 1830-1834 Glinka visited Italy, Austria and Germany. In Italy he met H. Berlioz, F. Mendelssohn, V. Bellini and G. Donizetti; he also was fond of Italian romantic opera. In winter of 1833-1834 in Berlin Glinka devoted a lot of time and effort to studying music harmony and counterpoint under the guidance of Siegfried Dehn. In 1834 Glinka received news about his father's death and decided to return to Russia without further delay.

When Glinka came back to Russia, he had great plans to create Russian national opera. Having searched for a plot for a long time, Glinka followed the advice of V. Zhukovsky and chose the legend about Ivan Susanin. In 1836 the opera "A Life for the Tsar" was finished. It premiered on November 27th (December 9th ) of 1836. The success was tremendous; society gave the opera a very warm welcome. Soon after the production of the opera in Saint Petersburg, "A Life for the Tsar" premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre (1842).

In 1837 Mikhail Glinka started working on a new opera, based on the plot of A.S. Pushkin's poem "Ruslan and Lyudmila", even though he did not have a ready libretto yet. The composer first had the idea to compose the opera while the poet still was alive. Glinka hoped to make a plan, following his directions, but because of Pushkin's death he had to address friends and acquaintances - supportive poets and amateurs. "Ruslan and Lyudmila" premiered on November 27th (December 9th ), 1842, exactly six years after the premiere of "Ivan Susanin". Compared to "Ivan Susanin", Glinka's new opera caused stronger criticism. The opera was first presented to the Moscow audience at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1848; the cast starred artists from Saint Petersburg. Before the end of the century the opera was staged at the Bolshoi Theatre three more times. Unlike in the opera "A Life for the Tsar", here Glinka follows the rules of the epic genre. Following the special composition features of "adventure epic", Glinka changes the place quickly and several of times: in acts 1 and 5 the action is set in pagan Russia, in act 2 - on a nameless battlefield and in the cave of the hermit Finn, in act 3 - in Naina's magical castle, in act 4 - in Chernomor's magical gardens. Glinka developed the theme of sorcery and magic in particular detail; this was a special area of his creative work. The East is portrayed in the music in a wonderful way; it is slow and languorous in the aria of Ratmir and wild and uncontrolled in Lezginka. Glinka's two operas defined the main genres of the Russian classical opera. His opera discoveries have turned out to be in demand during almost all the history of the Russian music.

From 1844 till 1848 the composer stayed in France and Spain. This trip strengthened the Russian master's popularity in Europe. Berlioz became a great fan of his talent and performed pieces by Glinka in his concert in spring of 1845. Glinka's gala was organized in Paris and was a great success. In Spain the composer studied the culture, traditions and language of the Spanish people; he wrote down Spanish melodies and watched folk festivals. Two orchestra overtures - "Capriccio Brilliante on the Jota Aragonesa" (1845) and "Recuerdos de Castilla" (1848, 2nd edition - "Recollection of a Summer Night in Madrid", 185) - were inspired by these activities. In spring of 1856 Glinka made his last trip abroad (to Berlin). He was captivated by ancient polyphony and was researching the heritage of G.F. Handel and J.S. Bach.
Glinka's music is imbued with a feeling of beauty; it is also marked with sophisticated artistry. The profound concordance of "feeling and form", precise proportions, "harmony and commensuration of the whole" result in its particular clarity and lucidity and make him "the most classical, the strictest and the most lucid of all 19th century composers" (G.A. Larosh).


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