Demon, The [Demon]
- Richard Taruskin
Opera in a prologue, three acts and apotheosis by Anton Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Rubinshteyn to a libretto by Pavel Alexandrovich Viskovatov (based on a scenario worked out by the composer with Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov and modified) after the poem (‘oriental tale’) by Mikhail Yur’yevich Lermontov (1839); St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre, 13/25 January 1875.
Rubinstein composed this opera at a time when Lermontov’s romantic tale of supernatural seduction, with its Mephistophelian hero and its exotic setting, was perhaps the most popular narrative poem in Russia. Banned as sacrilegious until 1860 (as at first was the opera), it concerns the love of a fallen angel for a Caucasian princess (Tamara, daughter of Gudal), whom he pursues to a monastery, whither she has retreated to mourn her bridegroom (whom the Demon has killed) and to escape the unseen spirit’s luring speeches. Their single face-to-face encounter ends with a kiss by which the Demon takes possession of the mortal beauty, killing her; yet her suffering has redeemed her soul in the sight of God, and the Demon is cheated at the last of his own redemption through love of her. The original cast included Ivan Mel′nikov in the title role, Osip Petrov as Gudal, Wilhelmina Raab as Tamara and Fyodor Komissarzhevsky as Sinodal; Eduard Nápravník conducted....