- Richard Taruskin
Opera in five acts by Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov to his own libretto, after the drama by Lev Alexandrovich Mey; St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre, 1/14 October 1902.
At once Rimsky-Korsakov’s grandest opera and his least significant, Servilia was given seven times in St Petersburg in the autumn of 1902, six times in Moscow in the autumn of 1904, and thereafter disappeared unregretted into Lethe. The action, set in Neronian Rome (ad 67), concerns the fate of a senator’s daughter (the title character, soprano) who, converted to Christianity by the example of a secret Christian (Nevoleya, soprano) who saves her life, in turn converts, by dying innocently, a whole stageful of Romans in time for the final curtain, which falls on a choral Credo à la Palestrina (originally composed as an ‘Amen’ to end the 1877 revision of Rimsky’s Maid of Pskov). The opera is dedicated to the memory of Mey; the première was conducted by Felix Blumenfeld, with Ivan Yershov as Valery, Andrey Labinsky as Afer and Vladimir Kastorsky as the old man....