Nicolas de Benardaky

Tchaikovsky Research

Russian state councillor and writer (b. 1838; d. in Paris on 17/30 September 1909), born Nikolay Dmitriyevich Benardaki (Николай Дмитриевич Бенардаки).

He was the youngest son of the army contractor and tax-farmer Dmitry Yegorovich Benardaki (1799–1870), one of Russia's first millionaires. Thanks to his studies and travels in Europe in connection with his father's business enterprises, he acquired an excellent command of various languages. Among other things, he translated Aleksandr Griboyedov's famous comedy Woe from Wit (Горе от ума; 1825) into English, and this translation was published in London in 1857. On 13/25 July 1873, he married Mariya Pavlovna Leybrok (1855–1913) in Saint Petersburg, and they would shortly afterwards settle in Paris. The salon of Nicolas and Marie de Benardaky at their house on No. 65, Rue de Chaillot, became a magnet of Parisian high society. The couple's elder daughter, also called Marie (1874–1949), was later immortalised as the object of Marcel Proust's affections. Marie and Nicolas also had a younger daughter, Hélène (b. 1875).

Tchaikovsky conducted a concert in the Benardakys' salon in Paris on 16/28 February 1888, in which Marie de Benardaky herself sang in an orchestral arrangement of the song Does the Day Reign? — No. 6 of the Seven Romances, Op. 47 — which had been made specially by the composer at her request. At this same soirée, the tenor Edouard de Reszke performed Don Juan's Serenade — No. 1 of the Six Romances, Op. 38 — in a French translation by Nicolas de Benardaky, of which Tchaikovsky thought very highly. During the composer's stay in Paris on that occasion he was often invited to dinner by the Benardakys, and at one such dinner Nicolas introduced him to the famous political cartoonist Caran d'Ache (the pseudonym of Emmanuel Poiré).

Nicolas de Benardaky was the author of a number of comedies, both in French and Russian, and he also wrote some humoristic albums which were illustrated by Caran d'Ache. He was a member of the Anglo-Russian Literary Society.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

One letter from Tchaikovsky to Nicolas de Benardaky has survived, dating from 1888: