Mikhail Lermontov’s Poem Demon tells of a fallen angel who loves a mortal but whose kiss proves fatal to her. It not only inspired the Vrubel painting you see above (one of a number by him on the same subject) but also an opera by Anton Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky’s teacher and founder of the Saint Petersburg conservatory.
Russian opera wasn’t alone in its fascination with ‘things that go bump in the night’ (as Weber’s Der Freischütz, Marschner’s Der Vampyr and Boito’s Mefistofele, among many others, bear witness). And, while Mussorgsky picked up on the on the historical aspect of Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, other Russian composers chose to focus on the fantastic nature of his other opera, Ruslan & Lyudmila; Rimsky-Korsakov in particular wrote several operas with fairy tale plots.
At this time Russian music was split into two factions: on one hand you had the кучка (kuchka), the Five led by Mily Balakirev – composers intent on forging an individual Russian music and rejecting ‘stagnant Germaness’, and, on the other, the purveyors (at least according to the members of the kuchka) of that Germaness represented mainly by the brothers Anton and Nicolai Rubinstein and Anton’s pupil Tchaikovsky.
Anton Rubinstein wrote no less than twenty operas but most of them, together with much of his other music, have lapsed into obscurity. But his essay in the supernatural, the Demon, persists. His pupil has had considerably more success, though even in the case of Tchaikovsky, of his list of eleven operas, only two – Eugene Onegin and one of his essays in the supernatural, The Queen of Spades – have become part of the standard operatic repertoire.
Demon: Acts 1 & 2 (semi-staged)
Demon: Act 3 (semi-staged)
Vocal score (German)
Eugene Onegin, Glyndebourne 1994:
Act 1 S1 n1 duo +quartet 4:00
N2 chor 9:10
N3 scene and Olga aria 14:15
N4 scene 17:45
N5 scene +quartet 20:46 (enter Lenski+Onegin)
N6 scene and Lenski arioso 24:05
N7 finale act 1 29:20 S 2
N8 intro+Tatiana bedroom 33:27
N9 Letter aria Tatiana 41:30
N10 scene+duet 54:43 S3
N11 maidens choir 1:01:52
N12 scene+aria Onegin 1:05:12 finale act1
Act2 S1 N13 a ball at the Larin’s house 1:15:00
N14 scene+couplés de Triquet 1:22:54
N15 Mazurka+scene 1:28:45
N16 finale act 2 1:33:10
S2 N17 intro+Lenski’s aria 1:38:00
N18 duel scene 1:47:30 finale act2
Act3 S1 N19 Polonaise 1:55:30
N20 scene 2:00:22 +Prince Gremin’s aria 2:05:40
N21 scene+Onegin’s aria 2:11:42 S2
N22 Finale 2:15:10
Vocal score (German)