2. Dargomyzhsky & Khovanshchina

Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813-1869) is the ‘missing link’ of Russian opera. While it was Glinka who created the first recognisably national music, it was mostly Dargomyzhsky who influenced the operatic style of subsequent generations of composers.

In his last opera, The Stone Guest – which is a setting of Pushkin’s retelling of the Don Juan story – the composer did something rather unusual: instead of working from a specially written operatic libretto, he set Pushkin’s short play practically word for word*. The result was a work with practically no recognisable operatic forms, such as the aria, and without ensembles; where the vocal line consisted entirely of ‘melodic recitative’. It was to have a profound influence on the operatic writing of the Balakirev circle, particularly Mussorgsky.

* the only other example I can think of is Swiss composer, Frank Martin’s setting of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

For some rather baffling reason this performance starts with the last scene of the opera. I’ve set it up so that when you click on the video it will start at the opening prelude (some 20 minutes or so in) but be aware that, when you get to the ‘end’, you need to go back to the start to complete the opera.

Vocal score

…and, for those of you who want to explore Mussorgsky’s ‘national music drama’ of Khovanshchina (with English subtitles if watch it on YouTube or click on any of the timings), here’s the entire opera (in the Shostakovich version):

0:00:00 – Intro
0:00:18 – Prelude: Dawn on the Moscow River (Andante tranquillo)
0:05:55 – Act 1 – Moscow, Red Square Shaklovity dictates his denunciation – 11:28 to 16:17 Dosifey’s lament – 49:01 to 52:44

0:52:58 – Act 2 – Summer study of Prince Golitsyn Marfa’s Fortune Telling – 1:06:17 to 1:11:41

1:32:42 – Act 3 – The Streltsy Quarter, south of the Moscow river Marfa’s Song “A maiden wandered” – 1:35:25 to 1:39:31 Shaklovity’s Aria – 1:53:21 to 1:58:46

2:15:39 – Act 4, Scene 1 – A richly furnished chamber in Prince Ivan Khovansky’s Palace Dance of the Persian Slaves – 2:22:02 to 2:29:44 Chorus “A young swan swims” – 2:31:53 to 2:34:46
2:34:56 – Act 4, Scene 2 – Moscow. The square before the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed Introduction: The Departure of Golitsyn – 2:34:56 to 2:38:32 Streltsy are lead to their execution – 2:46:50 to 2:49:31 March of the Preobrazhensky regiment – 2:49:31 to 2:52:13

2:52:23 – Act 5 – A pine forest, a secluded monastery, a moonlit night Dosifey’s Aria “Here, in this holy place” – 2:52:23 to 2:57:55 Love Requiem – 3:10:01 to 3:12:23 Final Chorus “God will save me” – 3:13:35 to 3:16:06 3:16:16 – Credits, applause

Vocal score
(only Rimsky-Korsakov version available)