Yamshchiki na podstave (‘Postal Coachmen at the Relay Station’)
- Richard Taruskin
(‘Postal Coachmen at the Relay Station’)
Comic opera in one act by Yevstigney Ipat’yevich Fomin to a libretto by Nikolay Alexandrovich L’vov ; possibly Tambov, Municipal Theatre, 1788.
The trifling plot concerns a postal coachman who evades an unjust conscription thanks to the kind intercession of the Empress Catherine II. Though almost unknown until the 1940s, the opera is now considered one of the masterpieces of 18th-century Russian music. The autograph score (in RUS-SPtob ) is dated 1787, at St Petersburg, but there is no record of a performance in either Russian capital. The libretto was published in Tambov in 1788, during the term of the poet Gavriil Derzhavin as provincial governor there, and an autograph of the text survives in Derzhavin’s archive in St Petersburg. It has therefore been suggested that the opera was intended by Derzhavin as a greeting for Catherine II during her extended tour of the southern provinces in 1787. However, the empress did not visit Tambov, and the opera was not performed in her presence....