Letter 348

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 17/29 April 1874
Addressed to Pyotr Shchurovsky
Where written Venice
Language Russian
Autograph Location Moscow: Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum
Publication Чайковский на московской сцене (1940), p. 456–457
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 348–349

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
17/29 апреля 1874 г[ода]

Пётр Андреевич!

Во-первых, очень благодарю за ответную телеграмму, а во-вторых, извиняюсь, что ввёл Вас в расход. Дело в том, что Милан довольно скучный город, и мне хотелось поэкономизировать временем, которого в моём распоряжении очень мало. Теперь, узнавши от Вас, что «Жизнь за царя» пойдёт не ранее 12-го, я решаюсь, минуя Милан (это был бы крюк), махнуть во Флоренцию и ещё южнее, с тем чтобы к 12 уже приехать в Милан и ждать первого представления. Вы пишете, что оно состоится между 12 и 20 мая. Будьте добры, оповестите меня, почему это не решено, и вообще дайте, ради Бога, несколько сведений о том, как идёт дело постановки, какие встречает она препятствия и проч. Потрудитесь ответ Ваш адресовать в Неаполь poste restante, ибо я ещё не знаю, где остановлюсь. Прошу Вас назначить мне самый поздний срок, дабы не пришлось мне напрасно отрываться от Неаполя, который меня несказанно интересует, для того, чтоб бездельно жить в Милане, в котором я дважды уже был и который сам по себе для меня не интересен. Передайте самый искренний привет Александре Григорьевне и Лаврову.

Преданный Вам,

П. Чайковский

17/29 April 1874

First of all, I am very grateful for your telegraphic reply, and, secondly, I apologize for having put you to expense [1]. The thing is that Milan is a rather boring city, and I would like to use up my time sparingly, since I have very little of it at my disposal. Now that I have found out from you that "A Life for the Tsar" will not be performed before the 12th, I have decided to by-pass Milan (which would be a detour) and travel straight to Florence and even more southern regions, with the intention of then coming to Milan by the 12th to await the first performance [2]. You write that it will take place between 12 and 20 May. Be so kind as to tell me why this has not been decided yet, and, in general, do let me have, for God's sake, some information as to how the project of staging the opera is going, what obstacles it is encountering and so on [3]. Please address your letter to Naples, poste restante, as I don't know yet where I shall be staying. I kindly ask you to specify the very latest date so that I don't have to tear myself in vain from Naples, a city which interests me awfully, in order to go and live idly in Milan, for I have been to the latter twice already and it is a place which in itself is of no interest to me. Give my most heartfelt greetings to Aleksandra Grigoryevna [4] and to Lavrov [5].

Your devoted,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. In his capacity as music critic for the newspaper Moscow Register, Pyotr Shchurovsky had come to Milan in April 1874 because the first performance in Italy of Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar was due to take place in this city. The opera had been translated into Italian by the Russian soprano Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Gorchakova (stage name in Italy: Santagano; 1841–1913), who also funded out of her own pocket the production at the Teatro Dal Verme. Tchaikovsky, who had arrived in Venice from Saint Petersburg on the day that he wrote this letter, was keen to attend this production not just because he hoped for a triumph of his favourite Russian opera in Italy, but also because he had undertaken to write about it for the journal Russian Register. Shchurovsky had evidently sent him a telegram (which has not survived) giving the expected date of the premiere in Milan — note based partly on information provided by Vasily Kiselev in Чайковский на московской сцене (1940), p. 457.
  2. The Italian premiere of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar took place in the Teatro Dal Verme, Milan, on 8/20 May 1874, conducted by Francesco Antonio Faccio and featuring Jean-Baptiste Merly (Susanin), Aleksandra Menshikova (Antonida) and Eufemia Martella Barlani-Dini (Vania). Tchaikovsky decided not to attend this performance (see Note 3 below) and returned to Moscow by early/mid-May. However, Vladimir Kashperov, his colleague at the Moscow Conservatory, was in Milan at the time and he forwarded a newspaper cutting with an Italian critic's review of the opera to Tchaikovsky, which the latter translated into Russian as the basis of his article "A Life for the Tsar" on the Milan Stage, published in the Russian Register on 25 May/6 June 1874. It is worth noting here that Hans von Bülow attended two performances of A Life for the Tsar during his stay in Milan in May, and in the article entitled 'Musikalisches aus Italien' which he wrote for the Allgemeine Zeitung he would praise Tchaikovsky as one of the most promising successors to Glinka.
  3. Shchurovsky wrote a letter to Tchaikovsky from Milan on 19 April/1 May, in which he explained that the opinion of the largely non-Russian cast, and in particular that of the conductor Francesco Faccio, was that Glinka's music would have to be adapted to the tastes of the Milanese public if the opera was to have any chance of success. For example, the contralto Eufemia Martella Barlani-Dini wanted to introduce some fiorituras of her own invention into the part of Vanya. After reading Shchurovsky's letter, Tchaikovsky decided not to go to Milan, because he realised that he would have to intervene and protest against this tampering with Glinka's music, but that his comments would probably fall on deaf ears (see Letter 351 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 27 April/9 May 1874). Shchurovsky's letter was included (in abridged form) by Modest Tchaikovsky in the first volume of his biography of the composer—see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 409—and was published in full in Чайковский на московской сцене (1940), p. 457–459. It is not known whether Tchaikovsky replied to this letter; certainly, no more correspondence between the two men has survived — note based partly on information provided by Vasily Kiselev in Чайковский на московской сцене (1940), p. 459.
  4. Aleksandra Menshikova (1840–1902), Russian soprano, sang at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre from 1867 to 1869, and subsequently (until 1880) appeared mainly at the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre. In the premiere of Tchaikovsky's opera The Voyevoda at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre on 30 January/11 February 1869, she had created the role of Maria Vlasyevna. In the Milan production of A Life for the Tsar, she sang Antonida — note based partly on information provided by Vasily Kiselev in Чайковский на московской сцене (1940), p. 457.
  5. Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Lavrov (d. 1906) was a bass singer at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre who in 1869 created the minor role of the Jester at the premiere of The Voyevoda. It seems that he was also taking part in the Milan production of A Life for the Tsar.