Reference Entry

Tolstoy, Lev [Leo] Nikolayevich (opera)

Richard Taruskin

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print December 1992 |
Published online January 2002 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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(b Yasnaya Polyana, 28 Aug/Sept 9, 1828; d Astapovo railway station, 7/Nov 20, 1910). Russian writer, distinguished hater of opera. He had some musical education: he could play the piano after a fashion and even composed waltzes. Sensitive not only to the pleasures of music but also to its ‘hypnotic’ influence and hence its power to uplift or corrupt, he maintained that there could be no aesthetic judgment without an ethical component. Good art was art that communicated simple ideas and emotions directly and intelligibly, uniting artist and audience in accord with Christian teachings. For Tolstoy opera, with its mongrel mixture of media, its needless complexity, its irreality and its reliance on flamboyant convention, epitomized the falsity of art at its most debased and stood as metaphor for falsity in social relations. The scene of Natasha Rostova’s moral downfall in his novel Voyna i mir...

Reference Entry.  1038 words. 

Subjects: Opera

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