Recognized as the first Russian epic opera and linked with nationalist repertoire that came afterwards, Ruslan and Liudmila is rarely viewed in relation to preceding literary and operatic works. However, the title heroine and her story of Russified Psyche strongly resemble Bogdanovich’s Dushen’ka, a poem dedicated to and depicting the idyllic image of Catherine II. The poetic expressions identified with Liudmila also echo the mocking poems of Krylov. Details of a magic garden in the poem are reminiscent of a historical event, Potemkin’s fête, and its description by Derzhavin. Glinka’s Liudmila is a curious musical persona whose identity floats in the discursive space between the lyrics and her flirtatious floral Italianate (foreign) vocals. The composer subverted the power of his other female character, the mighty witch Naina, whose appearance on the stage is associated with a limping dotted gesture, downward falls, and her mumbling of a single-pitch melody. Based on Pushkin’s playful tale and recognized as a native epic opera, Ruslan and Liudmila presents an anthology of otherness that embraces ethnicity and the supernatural and toys with the otherness of recent historical figures, multiple identities, operatic masquerade.
Keywords: metaphor; fête; Dushen’ka; Naina; multiple identities; otherness; Derzhavin; Krylov
Chapter. 11502 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Musicology and Music History
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