The contribution of the composer Mikhail Glinka to the Russian music is enormous, because real, truly Russian music was born together with the opera “A Life for the Tsar”. “A Life for the Tsar” (“Ivan Susanin”) – is a classic, in which the musical culture of 3 most prominent opera nations intertwined – France, Italy and Germany, – and traditional Russian melodies – soulful and meaningful.
Amazing Facts of Creating the First Russian Opera “A Life for the Tsar”
- The plot of the opera is a real historical event. In 1613, after the liberation of Moscow, the troops, in hopes to steer the course of the war in the right direction, decided to capture a Russian tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov. In those circumstances, a great feat was accomplished which was described in the Russian opera “A Life for the Tsar”. The heroic act was carried out by an ordinary Russian peasant Ivan Susanin, who took the invaders that wanted to kill the tsar deep into the forest. Enemies died, but he died as well.
- It should be noted that originally Glinka wanted to build the plot of the opera based on the story “Marjina Grove”. The poet Vasily Zhukovsky offered to use instead the story about Ivan Susanin. Mikhail Glinka agreed with the proposal of Zhukovsky.
- For the first time the opera “A Life for the Tsar” (“Ivan Susanin”) was presented at the Bolshoi Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1836. During the rehearsal period the opera was referred to as “Ivan Susanin”. Just a week before the premiere of the opera, it was renamed at the request of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I.
- It is interesting that the opera had another unofficial name: “A Death for the Tsar.”
Mikhail Glinka. Opera “A Life for the Tsar” (“Ivan Susanin”)
Difficult Recognition of the Opera “A Life for the Tsar”
While critics admired the beauty of the music and the sound of Russian opera, the aristocracy took Glinka’s work with notable dislike and preferred listening to the music by Italian authors. But the situation got quickly straightened out. With the aid of Emperor Nicholas I, the opera “A Life for the Tsar” for almost 80 yearswas the first official opera of the Russian monarchy.
During the beginning of the February Revolution of 1917 the opera was removed from the repertoire, because the main idea of the opera was at that time not very popular.
During Soviet times, there were attempts to revive the opera by adapting it to the characteristics of that era. Thus, Ivan Susanin became a devoted farmer who was ready to give his life for the Soviet motherland. However, this version was soon forgotten.
All subsequent attempts to revive the opera did not bring back its former glory.
Thanks to the opera “A Life for the Tsar”, the story about the heroic act by Ivan Susanin did not simply become known – the name “Ivan Susanin” became a household name.
Today, the opera “A Life for the Tsar” still attracts viewers with the beauty of genial Russian music and the story describing a conscious sacrifice.