- Richard Taruskin
Opera in one act by Sergey Vasil’yevich Rakhmaninov to a libretto by Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko -danchenko after Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin ’s dramatic narrative poem Tsïganï (‘The Gypsies’, 1824); Moscow, Bol’shoy Theatre, 27 April/9 May 1893.
Aleko was an official graduation piece, assigned not only to the 19-year-old Rakhmaninov but to all three members of Arensky’s class in free composition at the Moscow Conservatory in 1892 (the settings by Lev Conus [Konyus] and Nikita Morozov were not published or performed; another opera on the same libretto, by Paul Juon, was performed in Tbilisi in 1897). Starting with the two gypsy dances, which were done by 23 March/4 April, Rakhmaninov completed the full score something over three weeks later, on 16/28 April. The work effectively launched the young composer’s professional career, earning him not only the highest possible grade and a gold medal but also his first publication (vocal score, ...