La Fée

Tchaikovsky's music for Octave Feuillet's comedy La Fée (Фея), or The Fairy (TH 20 ; ČW 425) [1], was composed in the summer of 1879 for an amateur production at his sister Aleksandra Davydova's estate at Kamenka. Only two fragments — from a 'Cradle Song' and Waltz — have survived.


On 17/29 July 1879, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Kamenka: "We are also putting together an entertainment, namely a production which will take place at the end of the month. As in previous years, I shall be the prompter" [2]. He also mentioned this in a letter to Modest Tchaikovsky of 21 July/2 August: "We've been putting together a spectacle here. It consists of Trouble from a Tender Heart, and La Fée" [3].

None of Tchaikovsky's letters mention to the fact that he had written music to go with the production, and its extent and instrumentation are unknown.


The play La Fée, comédie en un acte en prose by the French dramatist Octave Feuillet (1821–1890) was first published in Paris in 1856.


The performance was scheduled for 2/14 August 1879 at Kamenka. On 8/20 August, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Simaki: "Our production took place. I was the prompter..." [4]


The composer's autograph score has been lost. However, Two musical sketches made by Modest Tchaikovsky have been preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive (a16, No. 36). These consist of of 16 bars of music in waltz-time (in G major) and 10 bars of music in 6/8 (in G minor); in the first bar of the waltz theme are the words: "Dor, mon". Between the sketches, Modest Tchaikovsky has written: "Berceuse by P. I. Tchaikovsky, written to words from Octave Feuillet's piece La Fée, a piece for a domestic spectacle at Kamenka".


The theme noted down by Modest Tchaikovsky for the Cradle Song was first published in 1955 in Aleksandr Glumov's book Music in the Russian Dramatic Theatre [5]. The Waltz theme has not been published.

Notes and References

  1. Entitled 'The Fairy' in TH, and 'Cradle Song and Waltz for the play "The Fairy"' in ČW.
  2. Letter 1232 to Nadezhda von Meck, 17/29 July 1879.
  3. Letter 1238 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 28 July/9 August 1879, Trouble from a Tender Heart (Беда от нежного сердца) was a play by the Russian dramatist Vladimir Sollogub (1813-1882).
  4. Letter 1244 to Nadezhda von Meck, 8/20 August 1879.
  5. Aleksandr Glumov, Музыка в русском драматическом театре. Исторические очерки (1955), p. 258. The sketches were reprinted in: Yury Davydov, Записки о П. И. Чайковском (1965), p. 93-94. Both these sources set additional Russian words to the music that are not found in Modest Tchaikovsky's original manuscript.