Chapter

Chaikovsky and the Literary Folk

Richard Taruskin

in On Russian Music

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249790
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942806 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520249790.003.0008
Chaikovsky and the Literary Folk

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This chapter discusses the story of the opera Yevgeny Onegin. Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, which was just coming into its own as an object of canonical veneration around the time Chaikovsky and his poet friend Konstantin Shilovsky dared to adapt it, is beloved not for its plot or for its characters. Rather, it is adored for what Nabokov called “the divine details,” the verbal dazzle, the wry social commentary, the perfectly exact descriptions, the endlessly subtle and nuanced characterizations, the interrelationship of literary and social conventions, all conveyed by a famously intrusive narrator's voice. Eugene Onegin calls such delightful attention to itself as a work of art, and as a specifically verbal construction containing so many verbal pleasures of an absolutely unparaphrasable kind, that it is small wonder it has been declared sacrosanct by the scholars who earn their livelihoods by dissecting those aspects of it which are beyond the reach of music.

Keywords: Yevgeny Onegin; Pushkin; Konstantin Shilovsky; Nabokov; divine details

Chapter.  4455 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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