Mamontov's Private Opera
The Search for Modernism in Russian Theater
Publication Year: 2010
The Moscow Private Opera, founded, sponsored, and directed by Savva Mamontov (1841--1918), was one of Russia's most important theatrical institutions at the dawn of the age of modernism. It presented the Moscow premieres of Lohengrin, La Bohčme, and Khovanshchina, among others; launched the career of Feodor Chaliapin; gave Sergei Rachmaninov his first conducting job; employed Vasily Polenov, Victor Vasnetsov, Valentin Serov, Konstantin Korovin, and Mikhail Vrubel as set designers; and served as a model for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Part commercial enterprise, part experimental studio, Mamontov's company revolutionized opera directing and design, and trained a generation of opera singers. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished primary sources and evidence from art and theater history, Olga Haldey paints a fascinating portrait of a railway tycoon turned artiste and his pioneering opera company.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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This book is the culmination of a long road of scholarly pursuit that started almost a dozen years agoâ€”ever since Savva Mamontov had materialized in my head, quite unexpectedly, one memorable October afternoon. I would like to note a few individuals who helped me along on that journey. ...
Note on Transliteration and Translation
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List of Abbreviations
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Russian musical modernism has long been seen as an oxymoron in musicological discourse, and perhaps understandably so. After all, the adventurous idiosyncrasies of late Scriabin filled barely half a decade; the iconoclastic genius of Stravinsky, albeit fueled by his heritage, flourished far away from his native soil under the fashionable spotlights of Paris; and the youthful futurism ...
1 The Silver Age and the Legacy of the 1860s
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From the early days of the Moscow Private Opera through the present day, Mamontovâ€™s supporters and his detractors, his contemporaries and modern scholars have all identified one characteristic of his company that made it unique. The artistic policies, internal structure, and daily operations of Mamontovâ€™s enterprise were to a large extent driven by ...
2 Serving the Beautiful
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Growing up in his fatherâ€™s house, Savva Mamontov was exposed to the Slavophile ideology on a daily basis. His youthful diaries reveal that he was well versed in their politics, and clearly admired Kokorev and Pogodin.1 Savva was evidently an avid reader; copies of Vremya, Moskvityanin, and Russkaya Beseda (another Slavophile publication), as well as books ...
3 Echoes of Abramtsevo
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The best-known aspect of Savva Mamontovâ€™s colorful career is undoubtedly his role as a Maecenas.1 The tradition of sharing a part of oneâ€™s wealth with oneâ€™s countrymen while exalting oneâ€™s own name through charity work or art patronage had deep roots in Russiaâ€™s business circles, to which the Mamontov family belonged.2 In the late ...
4 Visual Impressions
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In retrospect, Mamontovâ€™s decision to commission easel painters to design his operatic productions seems natural: he had access to Russiaâ€™s premier artistic forces and would certainly want to benefit from it. In reality, the idea was unprecedented, at least in the Russia of Mamontovâ€™s time. There, easel and design were viewed as two professions no less ...
5 Opera as Drama
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As we have seen, Savva Mamontovâ€™s name virtually never graced the Moscow Private Operaâ€™s playbills. As founder and patron of the company, he was certainly never on its payroll; indeed, he had no official job description within â€śMrs. Winterâ€™s private operatic enterprise.â€ť1 In the memoir literature, we see many references to Mamontov as â€śthe ...
6 From Meiningen to Mey
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It is clear, I hope, from the discussion above that Mamontovâ€™s enterprise was run in many ways like a drama theater, with acting and stage directing concerns being equal to and occasionally superseding purely musical, vocal considerations. Despite the fact that acting was Mamontovâ€™s passion, and directing his favorite pastime, one cannot explain such a ...
7 Politics, Repertory, and the Market
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Throughout this book, we have discussed Mamontovâ€™s aesthetic principles and their application to his innovative approach to the operatic genre, as staged drama realized through visual spectacle. Mamontov had a well-deserved reputation as a fountain of creative ideas, ranging from the reasonable and practical all the way to the wild, unachievable, ...
8 Faces of the Enterprise
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Throughout this book, it has become evident that Mamontovâ€™s Private Opera embodied a bewildering array of contradictions. Ideologically, realist trends, modernist innovations, radical nationalism, and operatic tradition battled each other in the minds of the troupe, its leaders, and its audiences. In each production, an elusive balance of visual spectacle, ...
Appendix A. Brief Chronology of Savva Mamontovâ€™s Life and Career
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Appendix B. Selected Premieres and Revivals at the Moscow Private Opera
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Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 45 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Russian Music Studies