Fair at Sorochintsï

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Opera, left incomplete, in three acts by Modest Petrovich Musorgsky to his own libretto (with Arseny Golenishchev‐Kutuzov) after the story in Nikolay Vasil'yevich Gogol's collection Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka (i, 1831); Moscow, Free Theatre, 8/21 October 1913.Musorgsky conceived the opera in 1874; it remained incomplete on his death in 1881. Three numbers appeared in vocal score in 1886, and three were orchestrated by Anatoly Lyadov and published in 1904. Various fragments, edited by Vyacheslav Karatïgin, were performed in concert form with piano and spoken continuity at St Petersburg on 16/29 March 1911 (to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Musorgsky's death); Act 2, completed by Karatïgin, with the Introduction and Fair from Act 1, orchestrated by Lyadov, were given at the Comedia Theatre, St Petersburg, on 17/30 December 1911.

There have been four stage versions. (1): with Musorgsky's completed numbers revised and orchestrated by Lyadov and Karatïgin, incorporating Rimsky‐Korsakov's version of A Night on Bald Mountain with a little supplementary music by Yury Sergeyevich Sakhnovsky (1866–1930) and the musical numbers connected by dialogue drawn from Gogol's text; this was the version first performed in Moscow in 1913, under Konstantin Saradzhev. Later, Sakhnovsky completed the work in continuous music, in which form it was given at the Bol'shoy Theatre, Moscow, under Nikolay Golovanov on 10 January 1925. (2): completed and orchestrated by César Cui, 1915–16, using Golenishchev‐Kutuzov's supplementary text; it was published in 1916 and given under Grzegorz Fitelberg at the Theatre of Musical Drama, St Petersburg, on 13/26 October 1917. (3): as a pastiche, by Nikolay Tcherepnin, incorporating items from (1) and (2) with other music by Musorgsky; it was given at the Monte Carlo Opera House on 27 March 1923 and published the same year. (4): edited by Pavel Lamm, completed and orchestrated by Vissarion Shebalin; it was first performed under Grigory Stolyarov at the Nemirovich‐Danchenko Musical Theatre, Moscow, on 12 January 1932 (this was a revision of a version prepared by Shebalin in 1930 and given at the Malïy Opera Theatre, Leningrad, 21 December 1931). This, published in Lamm's critical edition of Musorgsky's works (1933), has become the standard performing version and the only one to have been recorded.

The Fair at Sorochintsï is generally regarded as the third and last of the Musorgsky operas in repertory today. Although it was composed alongside Khovanshchina, it was started later and was much further from completion at the composer's death. The idea for the opera – originally intended as a vehicle for the great bass Osip Petrov and his wife, the contralto Anna Vorob'yova (as Cherevik and Khivrya) – came to Musorgsky in 1874. After a period of doubt as to a Russian composer's ability to manage Ukrainian speech patterns in recitative, he began composing in July 1876. As was his occasional habit, he worked at the initial stage without a libretto or even a scenario. The first music to be written was the little chorus for girls in Act 1 (fig. 26 in the Lamm‐Shebalin score), but Musorgsky probably already intended to link that chorus up with one he had written four years earlier for an abandoned group project, Mlada: a market scene, it is now the opera's opening number. Also recycled from Mlada was the choral ballet in Act 3, itself a recycling of the tone poem St John's Eve on Bald Mountain (1867), arbitrarily inserted into the action of the new opera in the guise of a dream vision. (The familiar concert number A Night on Bald Mountain is Rimsky‐Korsakov's free adaptation, without voices, of the version in The Fair at Sorochintsï, the last of its several incarnations in Musorgsky's work.)


Subjects: Opera.

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