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date: 11 December 2019

Miserly Knight, The [ Skupoy rïtsar’ ]locked

  • Richard Taruskin

Extract

[ Skupoy rïtsar’ ]

Opera in one act, op.24, by Sergey Vasil’yevich Rakhmaninov to the slightly shortened text of the ‘little tragedy’ (1830) by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin ; Moscow, Bol’shoy Theatre, 11/24 January 1906.

With this opera, the entire series of Pushkinian ‘little tragedies’ had been put to music after the fashion of Dargomïzhsky’s The Stone Guest, the first such setting, in which the unaltered original dramatic text was adopted in lieu of libretto (the others were Mozart and Salieri, set by Rimsky-Korsakov, and A Feast in Time of Plague, set by Cui). Rakhmaninov’s opera differs from the rest by virtue of its symphonic approach, which makes it one of the very few Russian operas in the tradition of Wagner’s Ring. Its high dramatic pressure, demanding a maximum of virtuosity from both singers and orchestra, achieves near-expressionistic intensity at climaxes, belying the composer’s reputation as a melancholic lyricist of limited expressive range....

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