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Opera “Sadko” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Opera-epic “Sadko” – one of the most famous works of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Her path to the audience was not easy, because the emperor himself crossed out Sadko from the repertoire of the Mariinsky Theater. And only thanks to the private opera by Savva Mamontov, she was first introduced to the audience, winning universal recognition as an example of Russian musical epos.

Starting point

Russian antiquity and ancient Russian literature – epics, songs, legends, legends – always had a wide circle of readers. Among them was the music critic Vladimir Stasov. At the beginning of 1861 he tried to interest the epics of the Novgorod epics about the merchant Sadko Milia Balakirev, the composer, the head of the “Mighty Handful”. And later Modest Mussorgsky advised Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov to compose an orchestral work on this material. Being not indifferent to folklore and especially to the theme of wandering, the young composer, immediately after returning from the circumnavigation, wanted to embody the epic about Sadko in his music.

Voyages – that worried Rimsky-Korsakov from early childhood. At the age of 12, following his elder brother Warrior, he entered the Naval Cadet Corps. Then, after graduation, the future officer went to serve on the Almaz clipper. He visited many countries – England, Norway, France, Italy, Spain, the USA and Brazil. The impressions received during the journey touched the composer’s imagination. And the images of the sea are in his most famous works – the symphonic film “Scheherazade”, the cycle of romances “By the Sea”, the opera “The Tale of Tsar Saltan” and, of course, “Sadko”.

So in 1867 the symphonic picture of the same name appeared.

Without changing the traditions of the “Mighty Handful”
27 years later, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov returns to the epic of Sadko. The idea of ​​a new work was born to the composer when he received a letter from the writer Nikolai Findeisen, in which he urged Rimsky-Korsakov to write an opera about the Novgorod merchant.

He shared his plan in a letter to Vladimir Stasov: they were bound by many years of creative friendship. Referring to the numerous variants of epic, Stasov advised the composer to widely show the pictures of the national life and life of Ancient Novgorod. Active work on the creation of the libretto of the opera began in the summer of 1894. Other composer friends, Vasily Yastrebtsev and Nikolai Shtrup, took part in the development of the plan.

“During the summer, the plan of the opera-epic Sadko with me, as I recall, was finalized,” Rimsky-Korsakov writes in The Chronicle of My Musical Life.

Then began the collaboration on the Sadret libretto with Vladimir Belsky, a philologist and an expert on Russian antiquity. He introduced the image of Lyubava into the libretto in order to strengthen the storyline and dramaturgy, introduced a number of corrections to the texts of the finished numbers (for example, the songs of three foreign guests).

The work on the opera was thorough and went in the best traditions of the Kukchists: every word, every note was discussed with colleagues.

“Opera“ Sadko ”appeared in the form of seven paintings of epic content. The real and the fantastic, the dramatic (as such is planned for the epic) and the everyday are in complete harmony with each other. ”
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
“My opera obviously failed …”
In the autumn of 1896, the opera Sadko was proposed to the Mariinsky Theater. The audition was attended by the director of the Imperial Theaters Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the chief conductor Eduard Napravnik, the stage teacher Osip Palechek and the stage director Platon Domerschikov.

“Played by Felix Blumenfeld; I sang along and explained what I could. – Remembers Rimsky-Korsakov. – I must admit that Felix was somehow not in a hit, played reluctantly and somewhat disheartenedly; I was worried and soon hoarse. Apparently, the listeners did not understand anything and nobody liked the opera. The handler was gloom and jelly. The piece was not all played “for a late time”. My opera obviously failed in the eyes of Vsevolozhsky, and, having become acquainted with her, he took a completely different tone in his explanations. ”

The management of the theater refused to Rimsky-Korsakov, explaining that the piece was too complicated to be performed. The composer was saddened, but the hope to see his child on the stage did not leave him, because the emperor made the final decision.

January 24, 1897 Nicholas II inquired about the musical features of the new opera. After Vsevolozhsky was saying about some similarity between Sadko and the music of Mlada and Nights before Christmas, the emperor removed Sadko from the repertoire with the words: “In that case, there is nothing to put Sadko.” Let the management find something more fun instead of this opera. ”

“The ways of a genius are inscrutable! Go listen to “Sadko”
The idea to put the opera by the forces of the private opera company Savva Mamontov (in the Solodovnikov Theater building) was suggested by the student and friend of the composer – music critic Semen Kruglikov.

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