Undina (projected opera)

Tchaikovsky Research

In 1869, Tchaikovsky wrote his opera Undina (Ундина) to a libretto by Vladimir Sollogub, which was not sanctioned for performance, and which the composer later destroyed. However, in 1878 he once again considered the story as the subject for an opera, with completely new music and libretto (TH 214 ; ČW 455) [1].

On 30 April/12 May 1878 the composer told Nadezhda von Meck: "I intend to spend the whole of July resting thoroughly, and in August to start work on something large-scale. I want to write an opera. Rummaging through my sister's library, I came across Zhukovsky's Undina, and re-read this tale, which I loved terribly in my youth. I should tell you that in 1869 I wrote an opera on this subject and submitted it to the theatre directorate. The directorate rejected it... Now once again I am taken by this subject and I have asked my brother Modest to compile a scenario for me" [2].

Yet within a month he had abandoned Undina in favour of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. "Undina has ceased to interest me", he informed Nadezhda von Meck on 23 May/4 June [3], and two days later he told Modest that in comparison with Romeo and Juliet, "Undina, Berthalda and Huldbrandt appear to be supremely infantile and silly" [4].

It is not known how much work Modest did on the libretto in 1878, but in 1893 he provided Sergei Rachmaninoff with a scenario on the same subject. At around this time Modest tried to persuade his brother to take up the idea once more, and although Tchaikovsky refused [5], he noted down a short sketch (D-flat major, 10 bars) to words from Modest's libretto.

In 1886, Tchaikovsky also considered Undina as a possible subject for a ballet.

Notes and References

  1. Entitled Undine in ČW.
  2. Letter 820 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 April/12 May 1878.
  3. Letter 840 to Nadezhda von Meck, 23 May/4 June 1878.
  4. Letter 842 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 25 May/6 June 1878.
  5. Letter 4919 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 17/29 April 1893.