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The Great Russian Operas: Glinka to Prokofiev

Session 2 of 6-Session Daytime Course

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2962B
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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"Boris Godunov", by Modest Mussorgsky, at the Mariinsky Opera (Mariinsky Theatre)

Beginning in the 1830s, a century of unforgettable operatic masterpieces were created, born out of the struggles to define a Russian musical identity distinct from predominant European styles—and beloved ever since throughout the world. Following the lead of Mikhail Glinka, who urged Russian music away from the West, a second generation of composers (Borodin, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov) continued this new tradition by presenting Russian history on the stage, bathed in exotic melody and spectacular visual color. 

The ideals of these musicians were countered by Tchaikovsky, who gained enormous popularity by combining Western traditions with an undeniably Russian flavor. The fruit of those competing visions has left us a thrilling repertoire, extending into the early years of the 20th century with Prokofiev’s War and Peace. In a stimulating series, Saul Lilienstein explores this rich artistic heritage. Sessions are highlighted by musical and video recordings of great performances at the Bolshoi and the Metropolitan Opera.

Lilienstein, a scholar of classical music and opera, has produced more than 90 CDs for Washington National Opera in which he analyzes the works in the company’s repertoire.


Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1891)

Mussorgsky’s epic Boris Godunov delves into the treacherous history and reign of the 16th-century tsar. Critically derided at its inception, his visionary achievement is revered by many today as the finest example of Russian theatre.

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