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The Stone Guest (Каменный гость in Cyrillic, Kamennyj gost' in transliteration) is an opera in three acts by Alexander Dargomyzhsky. The libretto was taken almost verbatim from Alexander Pushkin's like-named play in blank verse (part of his collection Little Tragedies), with slight changes in wording and the interpolation of two songs indicated in the play. It was first performed at the Maryinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg, 16 February 1872 (Old Style).

According to the composer's wishes, the last few lines of Tableau 1 were composed by César Cui, and the whole was orchestrated by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Many years later, Rimsky-Korsakov revised his own orchestration of the opera, rewrote a few of Dargomyzhsky's own original passages, and added an orchestral prelude. This version, completed in 1903 and first performed in 1907 at the Bolshoi Theatre, is now considered the standard version.

Contents

Style

As an opera, The Stone Guest is notable for having its text taken almost exactly from the literary stage work which inspired it, rather than relying on a libretto adapted from the source in order to accommodate expectations of opera audiences for arias, duets, choruses, etc. Consequently, the resulting musical drama consists almost entirely of solo speeches by characters sung in turn, as in a spoken play. This procedure amounted to a radical statement about the demands of spoken and musical drama and was seen by some as a devaluation of the musical genre of opera distinct from the literary genre of spoken drama. Tchaikovsky in particular was critical of the idea; in response to Dargomizhky's statement that "I want sound directly to express the word; I want truth", Tchaikovsky wrote in his private correspondence that nothing could be so "hateful and false" as the attempt to present as musical drama something that was not.

Consequently, certain musical novelties of The Stone Guest stem from the above basic premise of composition. For instance, there is little recurrence of whole sections of music in the course of the work; like the verse itself, the resulting music is primarily through-composed. (Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral introduction to the opera, however, draws on themes from the music that Dargomyzhsky composed.) As if to emphasize this feature, the composer wrote the entire opera without key signatures, even though it would be possible (and practical) to re-notate the work with key signatures to reflect the various tonalities through which it passes.

In addition, the opera was novel for its time in its use of dissonance and whole-tone scales. Dargomizhky's attempts at realism and faithfulness to the text resulted in what has been referred to as a "studied ugliness" in the music, apparently intended to reflect the actual ugliness in the story. Cui termed the stylistic practice of the work as "melodic recitative" for its balance between the lyric and the naturalistic.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere Cast
16 February 1872 (Old Style)
(Conductor: Eduard Nápravník)
Don Juan tenor Fyodor Komissarzhevsky
Leporello, his servant bass Osip Petrov
Donna Anna soprano Yuliya Platonova
Don Carlos baritone Ivan Melnikov
Laura mezzo-soprano Ilyina
A Monk bass Sobolev
First Guest tenor Vasily Vasilyev (Vasilyev II)
Second Guest bass Mikhail Sariotti
Statue of the Commander bass Sobolev

Synopsis

Place: Spain
Time: 17th century

Further reading

External links

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