Letter 3598a

Date 20 June/2 July 1888
Addressed to Léonce Détroyat
Where written Frolovskoye
Language French
Autograph Location Paris (France): Private collection [1]
Publication Čajkovskijs Homosexualität und sein Tod. Legenden und Wirklichkeit (1998), p. 239–242 (includes facsimile of last page, p. 243, and German translation, p. 244–248)

Text and Translation

French text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
20 Juin/2 Juillet 1888
Kline, pres Moscou

Cher et très respecté Monsieur!

J'ai reçu Vos deux lettres et les manuscripts de Marion et de Méfistofela. Pourquoi faut-il que pour la troisième fois je me mette à Vous écrire le coeur tout plein d'angoisse et torturé par le remord? Pourquoi faut-il qu'au lieu d'exprimer un vif contentement et la joie d'avoir à collaborer avec Vous, — je dois me confondre en excuses et chercher à me disculper devant Vous? Cela est bien triste, — mais toute la faute en est à moi. Mû par le plus noble des sentiments, Vous me tendez la main, Vous Vous donnez la peine de chercher à m'ètre utile, — et chaque fois, au lieu de m'empresser de profiter de Vos bontés je ne Vous adresse que des expressions de gratitude dont Vous n'avez que faire. Pourquoi tout cela? Parceque il y a une espèce de malentendu entre nous; parceque Vous paraissez ne pas tout à fait comprendre ce à quoi j'aspire et tout en me comblant de Vos bontés, Vous me rendez des services, qui me touchent infiniment, qui m'inspirent pour Vous un vif et sincère sentiment d'admiration et de reconnaissance—mais dont je ne profite pas. Il faut préciser la situation, il faut que je Vous dise nettement ce que je désire, ce que je puis faire et comment je puis me rendre effectivement digne de l'attention et des témoignages d'amitié que Vous me prodiguez.

Cher Monsieur! J'ai 48 ans; j'ai fait une grande quantité de simphonies et 9 opéras, dont six sont plus ou moins sur le repertoire courant des Théatres Impériaux de Russie. Je suis un grand travailleur et je ne demande qu'à ètre cloué à ma table de travail, — mais je ne suis pas à l'âge où l'on est tellement avide d'écrire pour le Théatre, que l'on se contente de chaque sujet pourvu qu'il y ait quelques situations dramatiques, de l'amour et des effets de scène à profusion. Je sais ce qui convient à mes facultés, l'expérience m'a appris de bien discerner ce qui est dans la limite de mes forces; enfin je suis très difficile pour le choix du poème. En ce moment (loin d'avoir des loisirs comme Vous le supposez) je suis accablé de travail. Je dois faire une simphonie pour la Société Philharmonique de Hambourg; je dois faire l'ouverture et les entr-actes pour la Tragédie Hamlet de Shakespeare, car elle est promise depuis longtemps à la Direction de nos Théatres; je dois faire pour cette même Direction la musique d'un ballet intitulé l'Ondine, qui doit passer dans la saison 1889-1890 à Pétersbourg; j'ai promis des concertos de piano, de violon, de violoncelle, de flûte etc. à plusieurs artistes célèbres (entre autres deux de Paris, Diémer et Taffannel); j'ai une grande quantité de commandes à remplir (de la part de mon éditeur Moscovite; ce sont des chœurs d'hommes, des chœurs de femmes, des pièces de piano, etc; j'ai promis positivement à la Société de musique de chambre de Pétersbourg un sextuor pour instruments à cordes; une simphonie pour la grande Societé de musique symphonique de Prague etc. etc. etc. etc. Et puis j'ai au moins une dizaine de poèmes d'opera russes à ma disposition, dont deux me tentent fort (La fille du Capitaine de Pouschekine et la Bayadere de Goethe). Le premier de ses poèmes a été fait par le plus renommé de nos dramaturges dans l'intention de complaire à Sa Majesté l'Empereur, qui depuis longtemps a exprimé le désir que je mette en musique ce sujet, et chaque fois que j'ai l'honneur de me présenter à lui, Il me demande si je vais bientot me mettre au travail.

Voilà, Monsieur, sans exagération aucune ce que j'ai devant moi. Très souvent je me demande: comment ferai-je pour parvenir à remplir toutes les obligations que j'ai contractées? J'ai dépassé depuis longtemps la moyenne de la vie; je suis sur le retour, sur la pente fatale qui aboutit à la tombe et, en supposant que le Bon Dieu me prete une vingtaines d'années encore (ce qui deja est très respectable), mes facultés productrices diminuent necessairement à mesure que je vieillirai et cependant il faudra travailler car je ne conçois pas la vie autrement

Si je n'avais qu'à consulter mes penchants naturels, je n'aurais maintenant qu'à faire tout mon possible pour tâcher de m'acquitter de mes dettes simphoniques et ensuite de me mettre à ecrire un opera, peut être le dernier et, j'ose esperer, le meilleur. Naturellement c'est un de ces deux poèmes russes que je choisirais, car, n'ayant jamais ecrit que sur des textes russes, ce serait plus facile, ce serait rester dans mon élément naturel; et puis, comme je Vous l'ai dit, je n'ai que l'embarras du choix et me sens tout pret à commencer, sûr que le resultat serait bon car ces deux sujets (un surtout), ont le don de m'émouvoir, d'activer mon inspiration, de me réchauffer au degré voulu.

Voilà donc, cher et bon Monsieur Détroyat, comment la ligne de conduite que j'ai à suivre est deja toute tracée.

Mais!... Paris vaut bien une messe! Je confesse que mon ambition de faire un opera français, pour un théatre de Paris est bien grande. Je n'ai pas besoin de Vous dire, car Vous le savez fort bien, que tous les artistes ambitieux (et je n'en conçois pas d'autres) aspirent à la publicité parisienne et que pour un faiseur d'opera, Paris a toujours été et toujours sera la Terre promise, le lieu de prédilection où il rève parfois de gagner sa petite place, d'y prendre racines, de s'y implanter d'une manière stable. Et c'est très naturel, car Paris seul donne la consécration de la vraie célebrité. Ajoutez à cela la simpathie passionée que personnellement je nourris dans mon coeur pour la France, les Français et Paris, — et Vous comprendrez que je suis capable à bien de sacrifices pour réaliser un rève ambitieux et depuis longtemps tendrement carressé!

Aussi, quand on m'ouvre la perspective d'un opera à moi fait pour Paris, monté à Paris, suis-je très agréablement ému et plein d'energie et de bonne volonté. Mais encore faut-il que ce soit quelque chose de sûr!!! Vous me parlez par exemple de faire Marion et de la représenter à Pétersbourg, se régalant de l'espoir que peut-être après le succès Pétersbourgeois mon opera sera donné en France. Mais alors, cher Monsieur Détroyat, pourquoi ne monte t'on pas à Paris un de mes 6 operas déjà representés à Pétersbourg, et dont quelques uns (surtout un, Eugène Onéguine) a eu un succès retentissant? Si c'est de Pétersbourg qu'il s'agit, — je préfère ecrire un opera russe, me conformant aux exigences du génie national, ne faisant aucune violence sur ma manière naturelle de travailler et surtout continuant à mettre en musique de la poésie russe, — comme je l'ai toujours fait. Non! Que l'on me promette une scène lirique Parisienen, que l'on me donne un poème d'opera capable de reveiller en moi la vraie inspiration, et alors je suis capable de tout oublier, de tout remettre au calendes grecques, de m'enchainer à ma table de travail et de prodiguer tout ce qu'il y a en moi de facultés, de savoir faire, d'experience, de science musicale pour faire un opera français digne de Paris et de ma chère patrie que j'ambitionnerai de bien représenter auprès du public Parisien.

Voilà ce que j'ai dû Vous dire depuis longtemps, cher Monsieur, et ce qui aurait evité l'ennui que je Vous ai deja fait eprouver et que je Vous fais eprouver en ce moment

Maintenant, pour en revenir à Marion, je Vous dirai, que ce sujet la m'est souverainement antipathique. Certainement Vous avez magistralement arrangé en vue d'opera le drame de Hugo. Mais c'est le drame lui mème qui me déplait. Je ne suis pas un Hugolâtre; loin de là! Et parmi touts ses drames, Marion est celui que j'aime le moins. Je ne comprends pas comment Didier ait put si longtemps croire qu'il avait affaire à une vierge, quand son instinct devait lui suggérer la supposition du contraire, outre que Marion devait ètre montrée au doigt—tellement sa triste celebrité etait grande. J'aime infiniment mieux l'amour d'Armand Duval pour Margurite, dont il connaissait les antécedents. Certes[,] le dévouement d'une femme qui aime est bien touchant, mais encore faut-il qu'il se manifeste non par un couchage avec l'immonde Laffemas, mais par un acte héroique quelconque. Je veux bien excuser et pardonner Marion, mais je ne puis vaincre le dégout qu'elle m'inspire. Et puis cet homme rouge qui passe! Il m'inspire de la haine et c'est le seul sentiment qui reste vers la fin de la pièce dans mon coeur; la haine et l'horreur l'emportent sur la compassion. Encore si Saverny et Didier mourraient pour une grande cause? Mais pour un duel? C'est trop mesquin. Ce tyran d'homme rouge, persécutant la noblesse française et versant son sang pour abattre sa fierté, — ce motif purement politique, n'est pas, selon moi[,] la donnée d'un opéra. Que c'est stupide de faire mourir deux hommes de distinction pour avoir tiré l'epée l'un contre l'autre, que son Eminence etait cruelle, combien l'arbitraire est odieux, combien cette malheureuse Marion a dû souffrir dans les bras de l'exécrable Laffemas, combien c'est heureux de vivre dans un temps meilleur, combien Didier était naïf, etc. etc.—voilà les pensees et les sensations que l'on éprouve en sortant de la lecture ou de l'audition de ce drame. Ce n'est pas cela qu'on doit sentir à la fin d'un opéra. La vie est une chose bien triste, l'homme est un ètre à plaindre, — mais il y a quelquechose qui peut nous faire oublier les misères de la vie humaines: ce sont l'amour, la foi, la patrie, les grandes idées, les grands dévouements etc. etc. Voici à peu près ce qu'on doit ressentir en sortant d'un Théatre lirique

Mais je m'aperçois que j'ai deja trop longtemps parlé et que je Vous fatigue par cette longue lettre. Résumons

1) Et d'abord je dois dire encore et encore que Vous ètes bon, que je Vous admire et que je Vous aime de tout mon coeur

2) Que j'ai eu tort de ne pas Vous dire dès le commencement tout ce que je Vous ai dit aujourd'hui

3) Que je veux bien ecrire un opera français, que je désire de tout mon coeur que ce soit Vous qui soyez mon poète, mais que pour cela il faut: a) que j'aie un sujet parfaitement conforme à la nature et à la mesure de mes moyens[;] b) que j'aie en vue une scène Parisienne, mais non d'une manière vague, — au contraire, d'une manière très positive (que ce soit l'Opera Comique, un nouveau Théatre lirique—cela m'est égal, mais que ce soit un vrai Théatre, existant deja. NB. Je n'ose même pas songer au Grand Opera, car je sais combien c'est impossible

Voilà, cher et bon Monsieur[,] ce que je tenais à Vous dire et maintenant j'espère qu'il n'y aura plus de malentendus entre nous et que je n'aurai plus le chagrin de dire non quand de tout mon coeur je voudrais dire oui

Je Vous remercie pour toutes Vos bontés et je Vous supplie de ne pas m'en vouloir

Recevez l'assurance de mes sentiments les plus cordiaux,

P. Tchaïkovsky

P. S. Je Vous expédie les deux manuscripts; quant à la Georgienne, j'espère que bientot Vous l'aurez reçu. Pardon!

20 June/2 July 1888
Klin, near Moscow

Dear and most respected Sir!

I have received your two letters and the manuscripts of Marion [2] and Mefistofela [3]. Why must I for the third time write to you with my heart all full of anguish and tortured by remorse? Why must it be so that, instead of expressing my keen satisfaction and joy at working with you, I have to surpass myself in finding excuses and try to apologise to you? It is very sad, but the blame is entirely mine. Stirred by the noblest of feelings, you extend your hand to me, you give yourself the trouble of seeking to be of service to me—and each time, instead of hastening to make use of your kindness, I merely express to you my gratitude, which you have no need of. Why is all this so? Because there is a sort of misunderstanding between us; because you seem not to fully understand what I am striving for. You overwhelm me with your kindness and render me services which touch me infinitely, which inspire in me a keen and sincere feeling of admiration and gratitude towards you, but which I cannot take advantage of. It is necessary to clarify the situation, I have to tell you clearly what it is I desire, what I am capable of doing, and how I can truly show myself to be worthy of the attention and tokens of friendship which you lavish upon me.

Dear Monsieur! I am 48 years old; I have written a large number of symphonies [4] and nine operas [5], of which six are more or less on the current repertory of the Imperial Theatres in Russia. I am a hard worker and I ask for nothing more than to be shackled to my writing-desk, but I have reached an age when one is no longer so keen to write for the theatre that one is content to take any subject as long as it contains a few dramatic situations, and plenty of love and stage effects. I know what is suited to my abilities; experience has taught me to discern well what lies within the boundaries of my capacity; finally, I am very fastidious as regards the choice of subject. At this moment (far from being unoccupied as you imagine) I am swamped with work. I have to write a symphony for the Hamburg Philharmonic Society [6]; I have to compose the overture and entr'actes for Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, because I promised these to the Directorate of our theatres long ago [7]; for this same Directorate I have to write the music for a ballet entitled Undina, which is to be staged in Petersburg during the 1889/90 season [8]; I have promised to write concertos for piano, violin, cello, flute etc. for various renowned artists (among these two from Paris: Diémer and Taffanel) [9]; I have a large amount of commissions to carry out (from my Moscow publisher); these include choruses for men's voices, choruses for women's voices, piano pieces etc.; I have given a firm promise to write a string sextet for the Chamber Music Society in Petersburg [10]; a symphony for the Grand Society of Symphonic Music in Prague [11] etc., etc., etc. And then I have at least ten Russian opera libretti at my disposal, two of which appeal to me very much (Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter and Goethe's The Bayadere) [12]. The first of these libretti has been written by the most distinguished of our dramatists with a view to pleasing His Majesty the Emperor, who for a long time has been expressing the wish that I should set this subject to music, and each time I have the honour of an audience with him, he asks me whether I will soon start work on this.

This, Monsieur, is, without any exaggeration, what I have in front of me. Very often I ask myself: how shall I get round to fulfil all the obligations I have undertaken? I have long passed the middle of my life; I am on the threshold of old age, on that fateful slope which descends into the grave, and, supposing that God in His goodness grants me twenty more years (which would be quite considerable), my creative faculties must necessarily diminish as I get older, and yet I shall have to work because I cannot conceive of life otherwise

If I had only my natural inclinations to go by, I would now just do all that I can in order to try to discharge my symphonic debts and afterwards set about writing an opera, perhaps my last and, I dare to hope, my best one. Of course it would be one of these two Russian libretti which I would choose, since, given that I have always composed to Russian texts, this would be much easier, it would mean staying in my natural element; and, besides, as I have already told you, I am spoilt for choice and feel quite ready to begin, certain as I am that the result will be good because these two subjects (one especially) are able to move me, to stoke my inspiration, to fire me up as required.

So there, dear and kind Monsieur Détroyat, you can see how the line of conduct which I am to follow has already been traced in its entirety.

But! ... Paris is well worth a mass![13] I confess that I have a very great ambition to write a French opera for a Parisian theatre. I have no need to tell you, since you know it perfectly well, that all ambitious artists (and I cannot conceive of any other kind) strive for Parisian publicity, and that for an opera composer Paris has always been and will always be the Promised Land, the place where such a composer most of all likes to dream of winning his little niche, of taking root and establishing himself there firmly. And this is very natural, since Paris alone can bestow true fame on one. Add to this the passionate sympathy which I personally nourish in my heart for France, the French, and Paris—and you will understand that I am capable of many sacrifices in order to fulfil an ambitious dream which I have affectionately cherished for such a long time!

Also, when I am presented with the prospect of writing an opera for Paris and seeing it staged in Paris, I am moved very agreeably and am filled with energy and purposefulness. But, again, it must be something which is certain!!! You say, for example, that I should write Marion and have it staged in Petersburg, indulging in the hope that after achieving success in Petersburg my opera might perhaps be produced in France. But in that case, dear Monsieur Détroyat, why not stage in Paris one of my six operas which have already been staged in Petersburg, and of which some (especially one of them: Yevgeny Onegin) have had a resounding success. If it is a question of Petersburg, then I prefer to write a Russian opera, complying with the demands of the Russian national genius, without doing any violence to my natural way of working, and, above all, continuing to set Russian poetry to music, as I have always done [14]. No! Let me have the promise of a Parisian opera stage, let me have an opera subject capable of awakening true inspiration in me, and then I shall be able to forget everything, to postpone everything else indefinitely, to chain myself to my writing-desk and to deploy all the faculties, know-how, experience, and musical knowledge that I have within me in order to compose a French opera worthy of Paris and of my dear fatherland, and which I would truly aspire to present to the Parisian public.

This is what I ought to have told you a long time ago, dear Monsieur, as it would have spared you the trouble which I have already caused you and which I am causing you at present.

Now, to return to Marion [15], I must tell you that this subject displeases me tremendously. Of course, you have adapted Hugo's drama in a masterly way for the opera stage. But it is the drama itself which displeases me. I am not an admirer of Hugo—quite on the contrary! And among all his dramas it is "Marion" which I like the least. I cannot understand how Didier could for such a long time believe that he was adoring a virgin, since his instinct should have led him to suppose the opposite, not to mention the fact that people would have been pointing their fingers at Marion—so great was her sad notoriety. I like infinitely more the love of Armand Duval for Marguerite [16], of whose past he was aware. Certainly, the devotion of a loving woman is very touching—it should, though, manifest itself not in her sleeping with the vile Laffemas [17], but in some heroic act. I am quite willing to excuse and forgive Marion, but I cannot overcome the disgust which she awakens in me. And then that red man who walks past! He provokes my hatred, and this is the only feeling which remains in my heart towards the end of the play. Hatred and horror get the better of compassion. Also, if only Saverny and Didier were to die for a great cause! But for the sake of a duel? That is too mean. And that tyrannical red man who pursues the French nobility and sheds its blood in order to check its pride—this purely political motif has in my view no place in an opera. How silly it is to have two high-ranking men killed just because they had drawn their swords against one another, how cruel was His Eminence, how hateful arbitrariness is, how much this poor Marion must have suffered in the arms of the repulsive Laffemas, what good fortune it is to be living in better times, how naïve Didier was, etc. etc.—these are the thoughts and feelings one has after reading or sitting through a performance of this drama. It is not what one should feel at the end of an opera. Life is a very sad affair, man is a creature to be deplored, but there are things which can cause us to forget the miseries of human existence. I mean such things as love, faith, one's fatherland, lofty ideas, strong devotions etc. etc. It is something like this that one should feel when walking out of an opera-house.

However, I realise that I have been going on for too long already and that I am tiring you with this long letter. Let us sum up:

1) and first of all I must say again and again that you are kind, that I admire you, and that I love you with all my heart.

2) that I was wrong not to tell you from the very start everything that I have said to you today.

3) that I very much want to write a French opera, that with all my heart I wish you might be my poet, but that for this to be so it is necessary: a) that I have a subject which suits perfectly the nature and extent of my capacities; b) that I have a Parisian stage in mind, but not in a vague way—on the contrary, it must be a quite specific one (whether it is the Opéra-Comique or a new opera-house, that doesn't matter to me, but it must be a real, already existing theatre). NB. I do not dare even just to dream of the Grand Opéra, since I know how impossible that is.

This, dear and kind Monsieur, is what I had to say to you, and now I hope that there will be no more misunderstandings between us and that I shall no longer be in the unpleasant situation of saying "no" when with all my heart I would like to say "yes".

I thank you for all your kindness and beg you not to be angry with me.

Please accept my most cordial wishes,

P. Tchaikovsky

P. S. I am returning to you the two manuscripts [18]. As for the Géorgienne [19], hopefully you will soon have received it. I am sorry!

Notes and References

  1. The autograph was auctioned in 1992 in Paris in 1992 — see Vente à Paris – Drouot-Richelieu. Mercredi 8 avril 1992, salle no. 7 (Paris, 1992), lot no. 129. A scan from this auction catalogue was kindly provided by Lucinde Braun. The above transcription of the French text and indication of errors by Thomas Kohlhase was published in Талантливый зачин (1998), p. 243–248, and the notes below are also based on Professor Kohlhase's commentary in this publication.
  2. Détroyat had based his libretto on Victor Hugo's drama in verse Marion Delorme (1829), which is set in the France of Cardinal Richelieu and deals with the life and adventures of the famous courtesan Marion Delorme.
  3. This libretto for a ballet in five acts with vocal numbers was based on Heinrich Heine's Der Doktor Faust. Ein Tanzpoem in fünf Akten (1847), in which Mephistopheles is represented by a ballerina, hence "Mefistofela".
  4. Symphonies Nos. 1 to 5 and the Manfred symphony.
  5. The Voyevoda (1867–68), Undina (1869, almost fully destroyed by the composer), The Oprichnik (1870–72), Vakula the Smith (1874), Yevgeny Onegin (1877–78), The Maid of Orleans (1878–79), Mazepa (1881–83), Cherevichki (1885; new version of Vakula the Smith), and The Enchantress (1885–87).
  6. At the time of this letter Tchaikovsky was working on his Symphony No. 5, which was to be dedicated to Theodor Avé-Lallemant, chairman of the Hamburg Philharmonic Society.
  7. The French actor Lucien Guitry, who was based in Saint Petersburg at the time, had asked Tchaikovsky to compose an overture and some entr'actes for a production of Hamlet in late March/early April 1888. Although the production did not go ahead, Tchaikovsky continued working on his overture-fantasia Hamlet that summer and completed the instrumentation on 7/19 October 1888.
  8. In November 1886, Ivan Vsevolozhsky had commissioned Tchaikovsky to write the music for a ballet Undina for the next season. The composer asked his brother Modest to provide the libretto, and the project was again discussed in October 1887, but it was eventually abandoned, since neither Tchaikovsky nor the designated choreographer Marius Petipa were satisfied with the libretto.
  9. The Piano Concerto No. 3 (dedicated to Louis Diémer) was a reworking of the unfinished Symphony in E-flat major. Tchaikovsky eventually decided to make this concerto a one-movement work, completing it on 3/15 October 1893. It was not until October 1893 that Tchaikovsky apparently started making some sketches for a Flute Concerto, which was intended for the virtuoso Claude Paul Taffanel. In 1893 he also made some sketches for a Cello Concerto, which his friends the cellists Anatoly Brandukov and Yulian Poplavsky had for a long time been urging him to write. Nothing is known of Tchaikovsky's plans for a second violin concerto.
  10. Tchaikovsky had already begun sketches for a string sextet in June and July 1887, but it was only in the summer of 1890 that he resumed work on what was to become the Souvenir de Florence.
  11. This seems again to refer to the Symphony No. 5, which earlier in the letter Tchaikovsky had described as intended for the Hamburg Philharmonic Society. On 18/30 November that year Tchaikovsky would in fact conduct his new symphony in Prague, just thirteen days after the premiere in Saint Petersburg.
  12. Both of these libretti were prepared for Tchaikovsky by Ippolit Shpazhinsky, his librettist on the recently completed opera The Enchantress. However, both The Captain's Daughter (based on Pushkin's novel of 1836) and The Bayadere (based on Goethe's ballad Der Gott und die Bajadere) remained unrealised projects.
  13. The famous phrase attributed to Henri de Navarre, when shortly before his coronation as Henri IV he renounced Protestantism in order to secure the allegiance of his Catholic subjects.
  14. Undina and The Maid of Orleans were of course based on foreign subjects, but the librettos for these two operas were drawn largely from, or inspired by, translations by Vasily Zhukovsky, whose renderings of German poems and other works into Russian in the early nineteenth century came to be seen very much as an organic part of Russian literature.
  15. Here is a brief summary of the plot of Victor Hugo's verse drama: At the start of the play, La Courtisane Marion, who has assumed the name Marie, is shown leading a very secluded life, encouraged by the devoted and chaste love of Didier, a mysterious nobleman who is always dressed in black. A duel takes place between Didier, a man of morose temperament, and the Marquis de Saverny, a spurned former lover of La Courtisane, but in the middle of the fighting the two rivals are arrested by the guards of Cardinal Richelieu and condemned to death. Marion is able to help Didier to escape. Eventually Didier (who is arrested again) finds out that his beloved Marie is in fact Marion Delorme, and he curses her for her immoral ways. Before his execution, however, Didier recognises Marion's willingness to sacrifice herself for him.
  16. The leading characters in Alexandre Dumas (fils)'s successful novel La Dame aux Camélias (1848), which he later adapted into the even more famous play (1852). The latter served as the basis for the libretto of Verdi's opera La Traviata, whose passionate sincerity Tchaikovsky praised (despite his reservations about Verdi's musical style).
  17. A spy in the service of Cardinal Richelieu.
  18. The libretti for Marion and Mefistofela.
  19. Another libretto or scenario which Détroyat had sent Tchaikovsky earlier that year, and which was based on Chateaubriand's novel Les amours du Cosaque et de la Géorgienne. In Letter 3563b to Détroyat, 10/22 May 1888, Tchaikovsky explains why he could not warm to this subject either.