Letter 103

Date by 20 September/2 October 1867
Addressed to Aleksandr Ostrovsky
Where written Moscow
Language Russian
Autograph Location Moscow: Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum (Ostrovsky collection)
Publication А. Н. Островский и русские композиторы. Письма (1937), p. 160 (" before 28 September 1867")[1]
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 122.

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Добрейший Александр Николаевич!

Знаю, что Вы заняты, знаю, что Вам надоел наш брат композитор, — и тем не менее решаюсь обеспокоить Вас своею просьбою. Ради всего святого, — найдите свободную минутку для меня и окончите обещанное. Я убиваюсь без недостающих мне сцен 2-го действия.

Ехать к Вам не решаюсь, боюсь своим посещением отнять у Вас хотя бы частичку времени. Когда дело будет кончено, потрудитесь дать мне знать.

Душевно преданный Вам,

П. Чайковский

I know that you are busy, I know that you must be fed up with the likes of us composers [2], and yet I have nevertheless resolved to trouble you with my request. For the sake of all that's holy — find a spare moment and finish off what you promised me. I am quite forlorn without the missing scenes from the second act [3].

I cannot make my mind up to call on you as I am afraid lest my visit should rob you of even just a tiny speck of your time. When you have completed your job, be so kind as to let me know.

Your wholeheartedly devoted,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The musicologist Sergey Popov suggested the above date for this letter (which bears no date or year) on the following grounds: "(a) Tchaikovsky says in it that he doesn't have the libretto of the last scenes of Act II of The Voyevoda, which he had started composing in early/mid August 1867 after returning to Moscow from Hapsal; (b) Tchaikovsky received a portion of the libretto, "half of one old act" [i.e. the libretto for Act I which he had lost in late April/early May], from Ostrovsky when he called on the playwright on 31 August/12 September 1867 (see Letter 102 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 31 August/12 September 1867); (c) on 28 September/10 October 1867 Tchaikovsky wrote to Anatoly: "The opera is gradually taking shape; Ostrovsky has gone to Petersburg for a while; when he comes back from there I shall pounce on him" (Letter 104). Tchaikovsky could only have been able to continue working on his opera if he had received part of the libretto of Act II, which means that he must received this before Ostrovsky's departure. From this it follows that before 28 September/10 October 1867 Ostrovsky provided Tchaikovsky with the libretto of scene 1 of Act II, since we know that the playwright wrote only "the first act and the first scene of the second act" himself (see Letter 2148 to Sergey Taneyev, 29 October/10 November 1882)". Quoted from А. Н. Островский и П. И. Чайковский (1937), p. 161.
  2. Tchaikovsky knew that Ostrovsky had previously adapted his tragedy The Storm into a libretto for the composer Vladimir Kashperov, and that at the same time as writing the libretto for The Voyevoda he was working on the libretto for Aleksandr Serov's opera The Power of Evil — note by Sergey Popov in А. Н. Островский и П. И. Чайковский (1937), p. 160.
  3. After his meeting with Ostrovsky on 31 August/12 September 1867 it seems that Tchaikovsky had abandoned his "new plan for the second act" of which he had informed the playwright during his stay at Hapsal that summer (see Letter 99 to Ostrovsky, 10/22 June 1867), and Act II was to consist of two scenes as before — note by Sergey Popov in А. Н. Островский и П. И. Чайковский (1937), p. 160-161.